Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Trouble with Social Media Stats

Yet another blog I enjoyed reading has recently been discontinued. Sadly, I've seen it happen far more than just once. Enthusiastic bloggers and Instagrammers who seem to be going great suddenly announce their farewell. The main reason they give often amounts to the fact that they don't have as many followers as they'd like, no matter how hard they try to raise their numbers. So they can't see much point in continuing to flog a dead horse. Especially when there are always others with huge followings to compare themselves to. Oh man, I so get where they're coming from, I'm writing this blog post to convince myself as well as everyone else.

Life is too short to get hung up over the sight of numerals beside our names on a screen, because they distort our thinking and make us form crazy priorities. It's all because of what they seem to signify. When we see a tally of likes beside a social media post, it's easy to invest that number with personality or character. Here's an example to show what I mean.

5000 is like a VIP or member of royalty awarding you a knighthood.

500 is like proud parents giving you a thumbs up. You're gratified, although you wish more people would jump on board.

50 is like Oliver Twist. 'Please Sir, can I have some more?'

And 5 is like an arid landscape. Those few must surely be desert animals who don't really count. They are relegated to the 'nobody' we think of when we declare, 'Nobody reads my blog.'

This is disturbing on so many levels. To start with, it's all completely arbitrary and relative, varying from one individual to another. Some celebrity would most likely consider 5000 their Oliver Twist, while it looms as my unattainable award. (Just imagine 5000 followers or likes!!) However many likes we get, it'll always be easy to find somebody with more, keeping our discontentment stoked high. Whenever we get more likes, we probably crank our 'enough' level higher too. It's so easy to distort the sight of a numeral into something that reflects our worth, and forget that it simply indicates random individuals, many of them strangers to us, making clicks that take a second. Why are we inclined to let the sight of these numbers make or break our day?

There's the old lie that the more attention we and our contributions receive from others, the more valuable we must be. No way, the world is full of hidden gems, and that's what keeps it so interesting. (See this post about books and doughnuts) Besides, if we love the content we're sharing, that's the main thing, and any other attention is just a bonus.

I think I'm happier when I remind myself to keep things in perspective. We've got to challenge ourselves, 'Am I so easily crushed just because people I barely know don't see my feed or decide not to click a button? Or am I so easily elated when they do?' Why waste all this angst when we have real people in our lives; spouses, kids, parents, siblings and friends, to spend time with and rack up actual experiences? It's time to stop diminishing our true lives, or taking genuine loved ones for granted, while we let button-clicking strangers determine our worth. Sure, it's nice to get online recognition, but honestly, if we deleted all our social media accounts, for how long would these followers and fans care? The real people who matter are the ones who would come and cry at our funerals, or at least pay their genuine respects :)

The lady who pulled the plug on her blog and social media accounts had a most understandable reason. We book bloggers put so much passion and time into maintaining them, for so little return. And what's more, we provide this service for free, and it's so disheartening to get nowhere. A giver can only give so much. Yes, I can feel and echo her pain! (And I must add, the number of comments her goodbye post received indicated that she probably had more followers than I do.)

But do you think this sort of heartfelt statement reveals our own skewed priorities to us, at least on some level? Why do we do what we do? Is it for financial return, notoriety, recognition, or just having fun? I've worked on my blog with the 'What am I getting back from others?' attitude. It makes me feel really depressed. When we say, 'I do so much for little return,' the best solution may be to change what we consider our return.

The return has to be our fascination for the things we write about. If my blog isn't based on pure enjoyment, my energy for it will sap in no time. I can't be sidetracked by thoughts about money or popularity, or I'll certainly throw in the towel. I have to keep reminding myself what provides my drive. It must be the interesting nature of my reviews, lists, reflections and discussions, and the challenge of expressing them as well as I can, because that's the only true fuel to keep me going.

You might like this related post, Why don't we leave comments on blogs? which ironically got more comments than any other single blog post I've ever written.

Have you been challenged in this area of closely watching your social media stats too?


  1. Hi Paula - I hear you! I've had a couple of weeks' break from my blog, but my next few are going to be around the theme of why authors abandon blogs and what to do about it. Discouragement is definitely one of the biggest reasons. I'm usually happy if I get any comments on my blog, but there have been times when I've especially slaved over a post and then no-one seems to read it. However, there are a couple of things that keep me going.

    First, I've been using Google Analytics to check traffic and as you'd expect, many more people read each blog post than comment. So no or few comments doesn't mean people haven't read it. Not everyone who is touched, challenged or entertained by a blog will take the time to comment, so your reach is far more than you expect. I also heard a blogging expert recently say that you really should be checking on posts six months down the track. If you've written content that doesn't readily date, it will still be relevant long after you write it and people will still find it. You can also back link to earlier posts to send more traffic their way.

    I also went to a seminar recently on 'repurposing your content' and the presenter gave lots of great tips for reusing material for different purposes. Since mine is a writing tips blog, I had already been thinking I could turn some of it into teaching materials. So even if a post didn't get a lot of comments at the time, the research and effort isn't wasted if you can use it in another way. For example, some of your reviews could end up in your blog and vice versa; or researching material for the blog may prompt some ideas for stories.

    I appreciate the effort you put into your blog, Paula. It's always entertaining. I'm bookmarking this post for future reference :)

    1. Hi Nola,
      That sounds like an interesting and informative seminar. I'll look forward to catching the tips on your blog, because it's a topic that impacts everyone. I too have come across references to 'evergreen blog posts' which don't date, and re-sharing things in different form or down the track is an exciting thought. Someday I'd like to work on putting my lists together in some bigger form 😊 And yes, my views are almost much higher than my comments too. It's part of the territory, and they definitely do mount up over the months. A good blog post is never wasted.

  2. What a great reminder to keep our focus on what's important, and remember Who we serve, Whose we are, and why we're doing these things. God bless you, Paula. I appreciate your blog posts, even if i don't always comment! :)

    1. Thanks Carolyn, we really have to remember to do this, don't you think? It's so easy to get swept along in the tide when we don't remember. Thanks for the thumbs up too 👍

  3. If I was blogging for other people, to please other people, I probably would have burned out long, long ago :) It is frustrating at times to know that you can spend hours writing a review, pouring your heart and soul into it--your passion, and then have "no one" read it. But you don't always know the impact or influence you could be having. Commenters are rare these days.

    1. Hi Becky, hear, hear! Bloggers like yourself are a great example, who persevere for 10+ years driven by passion, when we have no guarantee that any given post will generate much interest. But what a great resource for all times, which people may latch onto even years down the track. Yours is one of blogs I've returned to to search the archives and see if you've ever reviewed such and such a classic 😊 Thank you for keeping on.

  4. Blogging doesn't generally work as a great way of attracting attention, and I'm guilty of not paying much attention to my blogging stats. But I do check my stats on sites like Facebook and Twitter, to see if the posts I'm sharing are connecting with my audience. And I'll often find people will comment on the Facebook link, but not on the actual blog post.

    There are many reasons blog stats might not be right (e.g. I read a lot of blogs via Feedly, so Google Analytics probably won't show that as a read). And I usually only get comments on "blog hop" posts, where a group of bloggers are posting to a theme and we each comment on other blogs in the hop.

    I do try and write evergreen posts. As Nola says, these can gain traction months or even years after posting. Many can be revised, updated, and reposted.

    In 2018 I'm planning to revise and repost several of the articles I've posted at Australasian Christian Writers on my own site (and vice versa). I recently heard a blogging expert say that Google sees that as new content if you use a different image, and change the first two paragraphs. That's doable :)

    1. Hi Iola,
      Yes, I've found the same with facebook links, especially since several people say they find it tricky to leave comments on blogs.

      I do like evergreen posts, because they're always relevant and good to re-share. Thanks for the tips on getting Google to see it as new content. It's doable indeed :) I've done similar things myself by changing the title and image, and tweaking words a little bit, but re-writing the first two paragraphs makes a lot of sense.

  5. Interesting. I don't tend to check my stats, except now Blogger puts them on the published posts page, so it's definitely more noticeable. My own reasons for not posting so much lately have more to do with being overwhelmed by responsibilities and also some burnout. I've done this for at least ten years, and I feel my niche of homeschooling fade as my youngest finishes this final year of official homeschooling. I've also had a couple of toxic comments (I moderate, but I see them even if no one else does) which makes me more hesitant to write anything of substance unless I have time to really read over and edit my work so that it will not be misinterpreted. I miss the writing and I hope I have time in the future for it, but honestly, I don't miss the worries every time I hit publish.

    1. Hi Cristina,
      I do miss your posts, but guessed that might be the reason 😊 I've never tracked my views until they started showing up beside the published posts. We can see whether we choose to or not. I've had to moderate comments over the past year too, as some bot latched onto my blog and kept spamming. But I'm sorry to hear about your toxic comments 😢 It seems there are always mean folk ready to criticize when anybody has something the least bit thought provoking, original or alternative to say. So this is your final homeschooling year? Next year will be ours with youngest son, and it feels sad and nostalgic. The end of an era for your family and ours. I'm glad to be able to keep up on FB with what's going in the lives of older kids, and look forward to any future writing and art of yours.