Friday, February 6th 2015
Looking at the matter of blog “subscribers” and “followers” a little more closely, I realized that I had missed a couple of points that are worth discussing. Please note, however, that this article is written from the point of view of a blogger using WordPress (and wordpress.com, not wordpress.org), though other platforms may have similar facilities.
In my original post (Are you following me?), I assumed that “followers” follow a blog by clicking the email subscription button on the blog and entering their email address, thereafter receiving email notifications of new posts. Some followers certainly do subscribe in this way but, on my blog at least, they represent a minority. So how do the other followers (in my case the majority) sign up? What follows may be familiar to you and if so, feel free to skip it.
When you log in to your WordPress blog’s dashboard (https://your-blog-name.wordpress.com/wp-admin) you see a menu sidebar on the left. The top of it looks like this:
If you click on the fourth item down, Site Stats, and look at the bottom left corner of the new screen, you will see a panel that looks like this:
If you click on Blog (bottom left) you are taken to a new screen that displays a list of followers with details that include blog name, email address and the date on which they signed up. Note another important detail: at the top and bottom of the list appears the caption “WordPress.com User”. In other words, these people have all signed up through their own WordPress blogs.
At the top of the page, you see this:
If you click on “Email-only followers”, you are shown a list of people who receive notifications of your new posts by email. Though they are in a minority in my case, your experience may be different. Email-only followers receive an email whenever you publish a new post and they either read it in their email client or click to visit your blog and read it there. What about the others?
The others use a facility called the WordPress.com Reader. To see this, return to the Dashboard and click, firstly on Blogs I Follow and, in the second screen, on WordPress.com Reader. This takes you to a screen that, in part, looks like this:
Here you can sign up to other people’s blogs (enter the URL and click Follow). If it is a WordPress blog, you can click on it in the list and you are taken to a display like the following:
There are a couple of features to point out here. Firstly, notice the “liked” button. As I explained in Why do you like me?, I have the “like” button turned off on my blog. People can “like” me all they wish but this will not show up on the blog. The fact that I have turned it off is not reflected here, however: as far as the reader knows s/he can click the “liked” button and see the number increase by one each time. That will exercise their forefinger but that is all.
The second thing to notice is the fourth item down on the left-hand side: “YOU MAY LIKE”. This item appears on other screens also. It shows you a random selection of WordPress.com blogs and beside each one, a button to use to follow that blog.
Discovering this lit up the proverbial light bulb in my mind: is this where all these new followers are coming from? I imagine that at least some of them arrive by this route. That would explain why their own blogs don’t seem to have anything in common with mine and why, once they have signed up, I never see them again.
Do these people have a long, long list of blogs in their reader which they have signed up to but never actually read? Do they hope, poor deluded dears, that I will reciprocate by following them, thus bumping up their own follower numbers?
To be honest, I do not know the answer. Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining the recent rush of followers but that other factors also play a part.
The mystery still remains to be solved.