How are Followers Measured? And What the Heck is RSS?

How are followers measured? Which followers actually matter? How do you decide what your "follower" number is?

How are Followers Measured?

Last week I asked how do you follow non-blogger blogs? There are so many ways to follow a blog: GFC, Linky, NetworkedBlogs, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail subscriptions, RSS, you name it! So when we have so many different ways to be followed, how the heck do we measure how many followers we have? A BookNook reader submitted this question:

How are followers measured, especially on WordPress which doesn’t have a nifty GFC? Do you just add the Networked Blogs and Linky Followers together? Do Facebook/Twitter followers count?

As a general rule, I would say that Facebook and Twitter do not count.

The main reason is because Twitter and Facebook are dedicated social media sites and ways of communicating, so most of your followers will follow your blog AND follow you on Twitter/Facebook to stay connected to you. So if you count your Twitter/Facebook followers with your ‘normal’ blog count, you’re essentially counting everyone twice!

If we’re not counting RSS/e-mail in the equation (since it wasn’t mentioned in the question), then yes, I would just add my Linky and NetworkedBlogs followers together. The reason for that is because I assume my followers will follow me on EITHER Linky OR NetworkedBlogs—not both. People tend to pick one and stick with it.

But, if we do count RSS/e-mail, then it gets even more confusing! I think people are more likely to double up. Someone might follow you on NetworkedBlogs AND have an e-mail subscription.

So what the heck do we do?

I think at the end of the day, it’s up to you. Whenever someone asks me how many followers I have (like in a blog tour sign up or on my NetGalley profile), I always give them the individual numbers. I would say something like:

  • 533 RSS/e-mail subscribers
  • 829 Linky/NetworkedBlogs followers
  • 1447 Twitter followers
  • 809 Facebook fans

That way, there’s no confusion, and the person on the receiving end can decide for themselves how many ‘total’ followers you have.

Side note about followers…

After last week’s discussion, I decided that for my own blog, I was going to stop measuring ‘followers’ and start measuring ‘subscribers’. It became extremely clear to me that if someone wants to actually FOLLOW your blog and keep updated with new posts, they will subscribe to you through RSS or e-mail. Most (but not all) of your NetworkedBlogs and Linky followers are only ‘following’ you to enter into a giveaway. They don’t actually keep coming back for your posts.

How do you count your number of followers?


What the Heck is RSS?

While we’re on the subject of followers and RSS, here is another reader-submitted question:

If it is not a CDC-certified syndrome, then what is it? I am familiar with RSS-driven emails, but what about all that Google Reader stuff? How do bloggers even know people are reading their blog via RSS feeds?

Okay, I’ll break this into two parts: what is RSS, and what’s the deal with RSS readers.

What is RSS?

RSS (“Rich Site Summary”) is essentially a plain text feed of your blog. It’s a ‘plainly’ formatted list of all your posts. Because RSS feeds are in a plain text XML format, they can then be fed into a variety of third party applications, such as an RSS Reader.

What’s the deal with RSS readers?

An RSS reader is an application that allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds. In all honesty, it’s not much different from an e-mail subscription. You have a reader homepage and then a feed of all the new posts from the sites you’ve subscribed to. You can mark posts as ‘read’, scroll through them, unsubscribe, etc.

The only real difference between an RSS reader and an e-mail subscription, is that your RSS subscription doesn’t get sent to your e-mail. Instead, everything just gets funnelled through your RSS reader dashboard. This is good for people who like to separate their site subscriptions from their personal e-mail accounts. If you already get 100 e-mails a day, you don’t want to be boggled down with an additional 20 e-mails from blogs you’ve subscribed to.

And finally, the only real way you can see that people are reading your blog via an RSS feed is by seeing your subscription counter. If you channel your RSS feed through a site like FeedBurner, you can see a tally of how many subscribers you have.

FeedBurner Subscribers Count

This number is the combined total of RSS subscribers and e-mail subscribers. FeedBurner also allows you to see a more specific break down, which divides up the RSS subscribers and the e-mail subscribers. Other than seeing “I have x amount of Google Reader subscribers”, you don’t really know much more about who your RSS subscribers are. However, you can usually see a few other statistics, such as your “reach”.

You may have 500 subscribers, but odds are not all of them are actually reading your posts in their RSS reader regularly. In fact, what if they subscribe to you (like, for a giveaway) but NEVER check their RSS reader? This is where the reach comes in. The reach gives you an estimate of how many people have viewed or clicked on the content of your feed. This number is usually significantly lower than your subscriber number.

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I'm a 28 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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16 comments

  1. Well, I stopped measuring Followers because it really gets confusing very fast. People follow a blog differently as there are many different options. I always give all my stats.
    Especially these Linky Followers mean nothing in my opinion. Those are just numbers, this doesn’t mean someone truly reads your blog.
    That’s why I don’t have my stats right on the sidebar anymore. It’s in our About Me Page, and only those who are interested will find them and look at them.

    Also, when I contact a Publisher I give them all statistics together.
    More meaningful than Follower numbers are Page Views.

    1. Yep I completely agree with you Danny! I just recently removed Linky and NB from my blog because I realized… those are just numbers. They mean nothing. They don’t represent who’s actually reading your blog.

      So I agree that it’s best to give the publisher/tour host/etc. EVERYTHING. Then they can decide for themselves what’s important to them.

  2. This is so confusing for me too. For me, if I like a blog then I book mark it and check it every day. I also follow via GFC (if they have one) cause I know they are important to bloggers but I hardly ever check my feed cause I follow WAY too many blogs.
    I follow some blogs on my RSS but I never check my RSS reader either. Again, if I like your blog then I will save it to my favorites. Out of all the blogs I follow, I only check about 20 every other day (I used to check every day but can’t anymore because of wok). The rest I check them when I see one of their feeds on.

    I think to me what matters the most is how many page views a blog has (depending on how long they have been blogging).
    Great post!

    1. Yep, page views are probably the most important thing! I think the only area where they’re ‘weak’ is when counting people who subscribe to your blog but don’t visit it. For example, you might have a lot of e-mail/RSS subscribers, but those don’t get you any page views if the person reads your posts in their e-mail/reader but doesn’t visit the physical post.

      SO MUCH CONFUSION!!!

  3. I love RSS, it keeps all my blogs in one place, and I normally check it at least once a day. I especially like that it keeps track of what I’ve read/not read without me having to do anything other than scroll my mouse wheel.

    Now I’m wondering, does viewing a post via RSS count as a pageview for that blog?

    I should say, I also follow the blogs on my RSS via whatever following thing the blog has, if only to provide a +1 to their followers list in case someone is looking. And then, of course, I follow via Twitter. Long story short: I agree with keeping stats separate, as mentioned above.

    Lindie Dagenhart recently posted: Stacking the Shelves #3
    1. Unfortunately viewing a post via RSS does not count as a page view! In order for a page view to count, you have to be on their web address (like http://booknook.me). But if you’re on google.com/reader looking at a post from BookNook on your RSS feed, then that doesn’t get counted as a page view since you’re not on this domain.

      I think that’s the one downfall with RSS readers. Unfortunately we don’t have one “universal” statistic/following method that will take everything into account. There will always be one or two things that get left out. 🙁

  4. Just checked my rss stats for the first time and it turns out that I have over 17k followers there, the real question for me is, how many of those followers are “real” people. The only stats that I rely on are page hits as it doesn’t really matter how many followers we have outside of our sites if they don’t visit it.

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