Back in March the social networking site Facebook insisted that I change my personal FB profile to a promotional Facebook Page on the spurious grounds that I was a product rather than a person (in the words of Frank Spencer, I’m a man!). Bizarrely this necessitated setting up a new personal profile on the website in order to administer a page which up to then had been my personal profile. Go figure!
With the loss of numerous accrued Facebook friends and followers down through the years my referrals (“visits”) to An Sionnach Fionn from FB dropped into the double digits. I quickly discovered that the page was a far cruder – and unsurprisingly, impersonal – mechanism for engaging with readers of ASF than my previous presence on the Facebook platform (and one with numerous, unexpected technical glitches as automated communications between my WordPress-based website and FB went awry). Simply put, for a blog or similar online forum Facebook Pages do not work as a means of communicating with existing or potential followers. For existing “friends” they actively discourage participation as most FB users filter out posts from page-like profiles they previously permitted in their newsfeeds when they were “personal”, opting instead for “real people” engagements. For new “fans” there is little to be recommended in the Facebook Page of a small website when even major global news publications struggle to attract “likes” to their official pages.
My referrals or visitors through links from Twitter have always been rather limited, which simply reflected my own levels of engagement with the medium. Or rather lack thereof. I am one of those who questions the value of character-restricted declarations in what tends to be an echo-chamber of like-minded tweeters. However, despite my obvious lack of regular participation, it is somewhat ironic that FB’s insistence on changing my personal profile to an impersonal page has increased the importance of its social networking rival to An Sionnach Fionn. Twitter has now become the major referrer to ASF, followed by Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and few others (I’m excluding search engines like Google and Bing, which of course far surpass any one site). This has led me to reassess the importance of Twitter as means of communicating and examine it more closely.
Since most of my Facebook Page followers are former Facebook Profile friends I’m fairly sure that the majority are “real” people (concerns about Catfish-prone individuals and GCHQ auto-spooks to one side). But what of Twitter? The claims of “fake” Twitter followers are commonplace and numerous celebrities, both “A” list and “Z”, have been discovered to be the masters (or victims) of vast legions of twitter-bots. So what of my own sub-1000 followers? Thanks to a handy webtool called the Fakers App I was able to discover that, yes indeed, the vast majority of them (of you!) are real people. Over 70% of the followers of @ansionnachfionn are active Twitter users, while just 4% are marked as fake.
So what of the major whales in the sea where this minuscule minnow now swims? I thought I’d try out that personification of the “new” media in Ireland and all things social, thejournal.ie, by testing its Twitter followers for fake versus real. Oh dear… oh dearie, dearie me… It seems that just 23% of the people following @thejournal_ie are active users of Twitter, while 16% are fake. A huge chunk, 61%, fall into the category of inactive. Apparently even one of the most popular Twitter users in the country, sports’ journalist George Hook, falls at the testing hurdle, with just 21% of the 144,000 followers of @ghook being active, while 51% are inactive and 28% are fake. Of course there are some caveats with these results, and you should read this explanation here of how the analysis can be skewed, so perhaps the reports aren’t as bad as they seem. Perhaps…
For those who care about such things I think the real lesson from the above analyses is the importance of your own website and the work that you put into it if you wish to attract readers, both existing and new. No amount of self-promotion on social networks will substitute for the enjoyable day-to-day graft of writing. However if it’s not enjoyable, and all you’re interested in is an online ego-trip, then posting pics of cats an’ celebs is still the way to go. Or you can simply buy a few thousand fans for the cost of a handful of euros or dollars.