I’m pretty sure that since I started blogging again more regularly – or at least trying to – I’ve steadily lost followers.
It’s tempting to see that as a sign that I should give up on flatlays and keep my thoughts on beauty to myself, but since changing my focus, I’m happy to say that I couldn’t care less. And that makes blogging a whole lot more fun.
As teens and twenty-somethings, social media is a huge part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Of course, a lot of us use it for personal reasons and don’t get hung up on the numbers. But for influencers and those operating in the Big Bad Blogosphere, we’re conditioned to think that more followers and bigger numbers equals greater influence, healthier paycheques and even more fulfilling lives (which, deep down, we know is bullshit, but it’s hard not to be fooled now and then).
The number of followers a blogger or influencer has is used to determine whether they’re a micro, mid-sized or mega influencer, and that in turn seems to determine how much they can charge when working with brands. Of course, brands are interested in follower counts as they determine how many potential connections could be made with an audience. But those connections are not guaranteed. Really, follower counts are meaningless without proof that those people actually care about and engage with the content. So why do we still place so much value on this number alone?
“What you track determines your lens” (Seth Godin)
As a blogger, when you place too much emphasis on tracking followers, your “lens” is essentially skewed by “vanity metrics”. “Vanity metrics” is more of a business term (Eric Ries discusses it in his book, The Lean Startup), which refers to numbers that are easily manipulated and don’t necessarily correlate to what actually matters. In other words, they’re good for feeling great, but not necessarily helpful.
I believe the term applies to blogging and social media, too. Tracking followers is undoubtedly helpful to bloggers looking to grow their blog or social media presence, but becoming fixated on these “surface numbers” can make you lose sight of how your content is actually being received. It’s also, as many of us know, not good for your mental health (if gaining followers makes you feel good, losing them is likely to do the opposite).
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate when someone chooses to follow me, I absolutely do; it’s just that I no longer see that count as the be-all and end-all. Raising that number is not the reason I give up my free time to write about my favourite lipsticks, and certainly not the reason I set my alarm earlier than necessary to photograph my makeup in an aesthetically pleasing way before work (when you’re a UK-based blogger with a full time job, you know that natural light is in short supply). There’s plenty of easier ways to “gain followers” than that.
Instead, we should be focusing on the corresponding actionable metric that really tells us something important.
For instance, instead of followers, track engagement. Great, you’ve gained a follower, but is it the right follower? Do they like your content enough to stick around and join the discussion? If not, how do you find the people that will engage with what you put out?
I’d even go so far as to say that losing followers can be a good thing. Those people might not be keen on your content and would never engage with it anyway. By reducing your follower count, they could be improving your “engagement rate”. I hate to use such fluffy terms, but if your blogging goal is to work with brands and get paid (and there is absolutely no shame in that – it’s a career path after all), this is largely what matters to brands. I know this because I’ve been on the “brand side” myself. Having a small amount of followers but an active and engaged community is much more attractive to a brand than having 50k followers with an engagement rate that’s expected at 5k.
Brands are becoming savvy to the idea that micro influencers, in particular, are a better bet than mega influencers. Bloggers with smaller followings often have higher engagement rates, because their communities are close-knit and their content tends to be more authentic. If you can demonstrate that your audience is a brand’s target market, and that they listen to what you have to say, it doesn’t matter that your follower count isn’t sky rocketing.
What’s important to me is knowing that someone has enjoyed my writing or trusted me enough to follow one of my product recommendations. Even better, they’ve had a good experience with the product and told me about it. That reminds me why I blog – I have an unhealthy makeup addiction and a compulsion to share it with others.
What are your actionable metrics? Do you agree that we shouldn’t place so much value on followers? I would love to hear your thoughts.