It is one of those alluring what-if scenarios.
What if – as a blog owner – you could have some sort of immediate statistics. You’d do that through collecting likes and shares from any online tool or network your service uses. And then display those numbers – pretty much and preferably live – directly on your website. So, everyone will know if the website is worth its salt – or just simply sucks.
And you will have immediate confirmation on how your posts are doing. And immediate admiration from your glowing fanbase. But then again, perhaps not. Right?
This is commonly called Social Proof.
Let’s be clear. There are many different forms of social proof all over the industry. Restaurants – for instance – will rely on reviews and the infamous star ratings, whereas product owners will seek that positive remark on their wares.
In this article, we talk about social networking, likes and shares and their impact on blogs like RockmusicRaider. Plus one or two additional ones.
For a long time, this kind of ubiquitous indicator existed pretty much on every website. You know, the colorful bars that hung somewhere about the webpage and annoyed you. With live counters whose numbers – hopefully – constantly increased to insane values. This would show the visitor if or if not the website or service was viable.
And still to this day, many a manager will look at the likes and shares first to determine if the bride is beautiful enough to go any further. And the ubiquitous comments that (are supposed to) prove that your article is cool and connects to the audience. So, it seems that you do need (or needed) some sort of social proof when you run a blog.
Everybody did, pretty much. And yours truly and the RMR deck crew at large are guilty too, of course. After posting an article to the blog, we would return to check the stats a felt every five minutes. And feel good if the numbers were significant in any way. After all, it is a one-way street. Much in the image of Facebook and their ilk. Only positives are shown, we live in a happy world. Negatives cannot be accepted.
And with reason: A user would have to get on your site, click on the button and give you endorsement with a like. Or better still, a share.
And what is that?
Let’s take Twitter for instance, and how they handle social proof.
If you like what you see, you hit that little heart that turns red once you click on it. That means you just told the author that you appreciate the post with a like. This action adds to a statistic that will show the account’s value to whoever cares to look. But it is kind of a minor signal.
Much more important are the shares. And as the name implies, it means that someone decides to share your post with their own following. At Twitter, they call that retweets, at Facebook – well – shares. So, whilst the like is a one-off, shares will increase your reach to an important extent. And – more importantly – with users you are not usually connected to.
Now, even better still, if your fans will back all that up with abundant comments. Hopefully praising your wares, that is – of course.
Only that – in the meantime – social networks decided to stop playing along and feed their fans with, what they call, false statistics.
Immediate metrics, an evolution.
In the not so distant past, you could extract a reasonable picture of how your posts would embed with your audience. And share this snapshot with that same audience directly. Social Networks graciously provided APIs to count your social proof, so that you could jazz up your stats straight on your site.
Plugins like Social Warfare made a mint with your likes and shares. And for cause. APIs were (and still are) forever different by provider and getting buttons aligned and the stats straight became a nightmare to get worse every friggin’ day. Plus a few more technicalities that would haunt you. So, using such a service was like a jump into cool water on a hot summer day.
Life is good. So, why the hype?
It is a different world. In 2015 Twitter decided not to disclose shares for websites anymore. The company basically told their customers to take a hike and do the counting themselves, if they would feel so inclined.
Free Twitter count services by the score appeared and were full of promises, but never quite delivered the goods. Not necessarily because they were useless little tools, but because Twitter really gave them a hard time.
Then Google+ followed by just discontinuing the like count. And went ahead to close the network later in 2019.
Now back to Twitter again, the service currently embarks on some dark scheme to hide (or get rid of) likes altogether. In actual fact, the easily visible stats on likes have disappeared, and we don’t know if that will be permanent. You can still see some, but they’re somewhat difficult to get by.
In addition, Facebook and its related services like Instagram made it forever more difficult to collect statistics directly. And then recently, totally different services – like Tik Tok – appeared on the scene for which no stats are available. So, in essence, we have ever limited immediate stats for some, none for others.
So, some dark reasoning abounds.
The purists out there shrilly scream that those immediate stats are skewed. Not a real number that can be trusted. You should only look at Google Analytics, because those numbers are the only true faith.
Right. As if we can ever trust a company like Google, the Kraken.
The smooth talkers – often paid by social networks or on a mission otherwise – will use many a wordy post to convince the mean masses that this is so.
And the answer to that thorny question is yes – and no. Clear as mud, right?
You see, likes were a ranking factor for SEO – and still are to an extent. So – lo and behold – all sorts of scams popped up. Like buying likes and shares on the net. So, you could easily turn the tides, depending on the depth of your purse – and live your very own lie. You can still buy likes and shares by the way, but I would really not recommend it.
But the real truth behind this is a bit more mundane. Facebook – for instance – became a paid service overnight. They want you to spend your advertising budget on useless boosts and ads. So that THEY can generate the likes and shares for you.
Get the scheme?
Instead of buying your likes through Black Hat services, hey why not pay Facebook directly. The knight in shining armor will then provide, and open the floodgates of social proof to you. But beware, it is a very greedy knight who demands constant payment.
Same goes with Twitter, and Instagram, and – well – anybody else. They all want your hard-earned dollars, the animals.
But there’s more.
Twitter, for instance, will try to curtail the stats, so that they can protect the bully accounts, like Trump’s, that drive traffic to them, but are 150% outside of their own guidelines. See, it’s getting pretty dark out there.
Ain’t it Jack Dorsey?
In other words, people like Jack will happily feed the Dark Lord, as long as it increases their revenue. Despite any other rule that might exist, on their very own papers. Because – hey – who cares about standards or principles, when a buck is to be had, right?
Our Jack there argues many things in his very own gibberish, also that thought leaders cannot be cut out, because the public has a right to know what they think. And debate it. Another very stable genius.
Meaning, more traffic, more tweets – more advertising revenue. At any cost, without any principle, ever more and ever greedier.
And don’t get me wrong, this is not a Twitter thing only. Any other of the big tech companies will go to great lengths to protect shareholder value – at any cost. And if that means muddying the waters on statistics for their customers, so be it. Apart from sucking your marketing budgets dry until your funding runs out.
And then, there’s the comments.
At the outset, comments were a laudable idea – and this actually still is the case. People were supposed to add thoughtful comments, enriching the content already available. A trve tool to obtain social proof. Right? In the eyes of the perfect world, this would indeed be so.
But – alas – no. Reality works differently.
As usual and again, the scammers arrived first. Linking schemes, pingbacks and trackbacks, spam comments to get attention quickly made their appearance. Hate messages galore with people hiding behind the doubtful anonymity of the internet. So, that proved and continues to be a failure right there.
In tandem, you saw the appearance of the echo chamber.
YouTube – for instance – is a prime example. Fans of bands seem to view that space as their own, where only positives can be posted. Trespassers are told to get the hell out of Dodge because this is a positive space. And only one side of the opinion score will be allowed. Then you get those ridiculous comments from bands, thanking everybody for all those positive comments that would confirm what they see.
I am still laughing.
Then, you get all sorts of sites that boast a lot of comments. But often you get disjointed – and again positive – banter that rides the waves of ever more commercial and increasingly useless sites like Disqus. So, some sites do impress with numbers, but would they also impress with quality? Less so.
And where does that all land us?
RockmusicRaider decided to halt publicly counting the likes and shares on posts and articles. At no point have we seen a spike in hits on any post that was directly attributable to this social proof thing.
The arrival of new and faster services that make outfits like Twitter look slow like grandma on a rollator do often not share those stats. So, any of that famed and immediate social proof goes out the window. And your likes and shares become meaningless because you only show a fraction of your involvement.
Services like the aforementioned Social Warfare lag behind. I see none of the new services appearing on their product, for instance. And to make matters worse, some still advertise services like Google+ that are currently so very dead. In other words, these sharing services can’t keep up and try to maintain their revenue stream by promoting a parallel reality. And who can blame them?
The comments section on the blog is currently still active. But it is likely to get on the chopping block, too. RockmusicRaider reviews music, so comments do have limited importance. And I don’t need yet another echo chamber that will confirm the confirmation if you get my drift. We also apply a pretty stern censorship policy. In other words, the banhammer will fall, if ever we do not like anything about a comment.
No Social Proof. Likes and Shares are dead?
Of course not. But the old and tired ways of counting them surely are. Services like Facebook are for old guys. Twitter becomes a bit dusty, even if they still make a killing. Instagram and WhatsApp will disappear into their owner’s greedy bellies. Because mother goose will not allow renegades and those must become part of the corporate mush.
So, doggedly recording likes and shares is like counting the dead. And only half of them too. And you can maintain those only by throwing your advertising budget at those networks. And hope for this stellar increase of social gratification. But, like any lottery, this will likely never come, so you will continue to feed the beast.
That sound like a good strategy?
Instead, build a good marketing strategy through solid stats. And then, play the future. Because what the young use today, others will use tomorrow.
And you should be already there, once those arrive. Because the burden of Social Proof is shifting. And those oldish likes and shares for sure are more of a bane than a blessing these days.