The True Value of a Follower on Medium
There’s a practice here on Medium that I absolutely despise.
I’ve made some reference to this practice in previous articles, but have never written an article that addresses it fully. Bear in mind that I have no ill will towards the people that engage in this practice, merely a resentment for the practice itself.
The practice to which I am referring is the technique of following thousands of people to artificially inflate your own following.
The reason I can’t stand this practice is because it reveals that the person taking part in this practice doesn’t understand the value of having followers, possibly because they’re either new to Medium or new to the internet.
The people actually taking part in the practice are relatively faultless. In my opinion, the ones that carry the blame are the ones preaching the message.
I naively paid money for a self-published book last year that promised to teach winning strategies that winners use to win.
The book was written by someone who has a lot of followers and appears to make good money on the platform.
I was new at the time and wanted her opinion. Losing that money was a fitting punishment for trying to buy some secret answer or winning strategy.
“A fool and his money are soon parted” as the good book says.
This self-published book actually taught this ridiculous strategy as a good idea, and something everyone should be doing. It told readers to max out their following limits each day because according to the book, roughly 12% of the people you mindlessly follow will follow you back.
In case you’re someone who’s confused by my feelings, let me make them really clear.
If someone is following you out of some feeling of politeness or obligation, they’re not a follower at all. They are not reading your work, they don’t trawl your profile, and if you stopped writing tomorrow, they’d never notice.
A True Follower
A true follower is basically a subscriber. A subscriber is someone who’s tuned in to your channel; they want to know what’s next and they’re excited about what you have to say.
You’ve subscribed to someone if you’ve ever trawled down that person’s profile looking for more. Regardless of whether you love their writing, or you’re reading ironically, you’re subscribed.
*Ironic reading is the term I use when people follow other writers who are awful at writing.
Reading the work of those who are awful at words is a joy to some people, and hey, I’m not judging. It reminds me of other people who get some weird joy out of squeezing other peoples zits.
This platform is for entertainment, so whatever generates joy for you is cool with me.
Except for the ‘follow you, follow me’ strategy. That’s not fine.
Not Who But Why
I think people who take part in this madness do it because they feel that a large follower count looks spectacular, either to other writers or the industry itself.
Maybe they’re hoping a publisher will notice, and that it’ll be the push that publisher needed to give the writers manuscript one more flick through.
Of course, for this to work, the publisher would have to not glance an inch to the left and see that you’re following 10x more people than follow you back — a small detail.
What I’ve learned from writing on the platform is that there is no winning strategy and that a follower count is no measure of “success” whatever that means.
My measure for success is the same as it is for a lot of other people; I want to make as much money as I can and use that money for investment and savings.
Other people have different goals, such as building community, skill improvement, and luring the attention of a publisher.
Whatever success looks like for you; it can’t be achieved with 2,000 “followers” who’ll forget your name the second after they politely follow you back.
Real Followers Have a Lot of Value
I personally know a couple of people who’ve tried this “strategy” hoping it would achieve the monetary goal, but of course, it failed.
Royalties aren’t paid based on how many people follow you; they’re paid (these days) based on reading time.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t finish most of the articles I read on the site. I understood the point the writer was trying to make within the first minute then moved on.
There are only a few writers for whom I can read all the way to the end, and those are the people I’m truly following.
True followers are the ones paying all the royalties, and it’s on these kinds of readers that each writer should be placing their focus.
Every month or so I’m blessed when one or two of my articles blow up and becoming ‘juggernauts’, these articles usually carry the bulk of my royalties.
But I know I can’t write less or take my writing any less seriously just because a juggernaut is decimating all the other stories in earnings.
I know that when the juggernaut dies and all the temporary readers have forgotten me, my real readership will be all that’s left.
Anyone that’s been writing for more than nine months will have built a readership that pays them their base royalty cheque every month.
(Thanks guys, I’m confident you’re the only ones still reading this article at this point).
I consider the true subscribers to be like residents in my house, everyone else who’s just here for the moment are guests.
I want the guests to feel happy, and I’m thrilled when a few move-in; but my true focus is on the ones that live here.
So I guess I was lying earlier when I said that there’s no strategy to winning on this platform when of course there is.
Keep writing, show respect for your readers, and don’t try any stupid tricks that make you look like a clown to potential readers who may have otherwise taken you seriously.
But most of all, be patient.
Whatever looks like success for you is going to arrive eventually, and you’ll never see that day coming.
All you can do is keep writing until that day comes. If you give up early, you only guarantee that the day will never come. Stay patient, keep writing, and stay open to new ideas and inspiration.
Unless that new idea is to follow 10,000 people so that 1,200 people follow you back, that’s hot nonsense.