In Late February WordPress.com Staff implemented brilliant little change at the bottom of our posts. They introduced nesting of the gravatars of “like” button clickers behind a link that we bloggers can click to see them all. I am happy the big blocks of gravatars which are not representative of actual page view stats are now nicely tucked away. But there were bloggers who are not and they posted to the support forums to say so. They wanted to see the gravatars for all their “friends”.
The reasons why I like the change Staff made follows:
1. Gravatars aren’t linked to blogs; they are linked to Gravatar profile pages. They drive traffic to the Gravatar profile pages not to blogs and many bloggers don’t even enter their blog links on those profile pages.
2. I am an introvert who is not comfortable in large groups. I have always been deterred from subscribing to blogs that have high number counts displayed.That’s why I’ve never felt an inclination to brag by displaying number counts for followers, likes, subscribers, etc. on my blogs.
That said, I love getting page view stats and comments, and I’m keenly aware that likes and shares are misleading when you are talking about page view stats. In fact our followers and anyone with a WordPress.com blog, who is logged into WordPress.com can “like” and “share” our posts in several locations such as the Reader, without ever clicking into our blog and creating a single page view stat.
3. When it comes to aesthetics, my readers are well aware that I am a minimalist inclined to strip more and more off of my blogs. I’m currently welcoming discussion about which widgets are essential and preparing to remove some from my sidebar. I also want my blogs to load quickly, so I think it’s a good thing that the big blocks of gravatars are now nicely tucked away, rather than increasing page loading time on my blogs.
The Fear of Losing Followers
The reason some bloggers did not like the change was because they feared they would lose friends if like button clickers could not see their gravatars as they had previously.
I wondered who it was that they thought they would lose and what exactly they thought they would be losing.
I don’t believe the number of likes on any post is an accurate reflection of the number of true followers any blogger has. Do you?
Even if the likes were equivalent to followers ask yourself this: “How many people can one blogger become close enough to in the online only context to become friends with?”
That question prompted me to recall that Facebook did a survey of its accounts in 2011 which found that the average number of “friends” there was between 120 and 130. How Many “Friends” Can You Really Have? But surely we recognize that most of those contacts are not close friends, don’t we? At most, most Facebook “friends” that aren’t family members and face-to-face friends offline are online acquaintances.
Dunbar’s Number: Why We Can’t Have More Than 150 Friends
Can social networks expand the evolutionary limit on how many people anyone can truly be close to?
Across the primate order as a whole, here is a general relationship between the size of the brain’s neocortex and the size of the average social group, and this relationship predicts a group size for humans of 150. This value is now known as Dunbar’s Number, because I was the first to point it out, in 1992. –Robin Dunbar in How Many “Friends” Can You Really Have?
Can we connect with more than 150? Of course, at varying levels of closeness we can connect, but it takes more than hanging out now and then and being in touch irregularly to establish a true friendship. There’s also a quality factor that has to do with depth of communication. We have to get together face to face and invest time in being together and in doing together to establish the relationship bond that creates a close and long lasting friendship. Beyond that Dunbar defined ‘maintained’ friends as those you care enough about to contact at least once each year.
‘Does digital technology in general allow you to retain the old friends as well as the new ones and therefore increase the size of your social circle?’ The answer seems to be a resounding no, at least for the moment. — The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks
Bean Counting and Social Networking
Clearly, for some bloggers social networking is a numbers game. They believe that the more likes, followers and friends they have the better so they accept all friend requests and reciprocate. Authors among them have been told by publishers that they must acquire ever increasing numbers of followers to market their books to. Business bloggers and those who make money by blogging get the same advice. Well, I disagree.
Never lose site of the fact that it is content that attracts readers to your site and keeps them coming back – high quality, original content. It’s the blogger’s ability to promote their content that creates traffic flow, and it’s their ability to initiate and sustain discussion that leads to building a blog centered community. — Blogging and Community Building
Of course social media numbers have value, but it’s foolish to believe those who click like buttons and share links to your posts on sites like Facebook are truly your friends. Don’t kid yourself. There’s a reason why Twitter disabled the ability to automatically reciprocate when followed. Anyone can buy followers and those who can be bought and sold aren’t friends. Very few of the followers you acquire naturally will actually become close enough to you to become your friend.
No one in everyday life can be a good friend to hundreds and thousands of people and the same goes for cyber space. The value of the friendships you make is based in the quality time you spend with friends both online and offline. — How to form blog centered relationships
I think we each measure blogging success in accord with our own goals and measurement system. Next to securing traffic from search engines, it is relationships you create with other bloggers that is where your blog traffic will come from.
I’m not a social networking maven nor am I, a thought leader. As I said here Promoting Blog Posts on Social Media: Does It Work Anymore? I’m not convinced the time I spend on Twitter is productive in terms of attracting and new followers and retaining the ones I have. I’d rather be creating content than social networking. However, if you are willing to accept some tips from a blogger who is less than a success at social networking here are mine:
- Create a gravatar for global recognition, complete all profile fields to reveal your interests and where you are active online.
- Don’t seek followers; seek connection and engagement.
- Search for people with common interests and follow them.
- Be responsive. Be curious – ask questions.
- Provide valuable content.
- Invite discussion.
- Don’t post too frequently.
- Be authentic. Be helpful. Be friendly.
- Don’t feel obligated to follow all followers back.
- Promote as if you’re at a cocktail party. Keep it light.
- Promote others.
- Give credit (links) and thanks where they are due.
As much as I do care for every one of you readers, I don’t equate blog followers with face-to-face friends. Maybe this is because my friendships predate the advent of email. You see, my friends and I have been there for each other in sickness and health, through good jobs and bad ones, through home building or purchasing, through relocation to other places and spaces, through marriages and divorces, through miscarriages, births, and deaths, and we have never shared any of that ie. our personal business online.
Do you fear losing followers if their gravatars are not prominently showcased on your blog?
How many of your blog followers have become your friends?
How do you define and measure your own social networking success?
- Getting to know Dunbar’s Number (elladeewords.wordpress.com)
- Blogs Outrank Social Networks for Consumer Influence: New Research (socialmediaexaminer.com)