Can we talk about our community of writers here on Medium?
I have something of a confession to make: I’m obsessed with my stats. I know, I know — the less time spent refreshing my stats, the more time that’s spent actually writing. It’s something I need to work on. But for the moment, I’m obsessed with stats.
This means I’m hyper-aware of every time someone claps or otherwise engages with one of my articles, or decides to follow me. Through all of this notification checking, I’ve noticed some curious things.
For starters, I’ve noticed several times that when people clap for my articles, the number of reads on the article doesn’t increase. And yes, I know sometimes it takes Medium a few minutes to update the stats, but recently, right after I published an article, I received claps from a fellow writer. Yet, hours later, the article still had zero reads.
Obviously, something isn’t adding up.
It’s not that hard to figure out what is happening. I am a member of a few Medium writer groups which have daily sharing threads where people post their new articles. Some people in these groups will just go down the list of articles, clapping for each one and moving on.
In some cases, these people will highlight the article and/or leave a response, which shows that they actually did read the article. Otherwise, probably not.
There’s even a way to check. When you click on someone’s profile on Medium, you can see a list of the articles they’ve clapped for. So whenever I see a recent notification and get a little suspicious, I’ll look at their claps.
If you clapped for my article eight minutes ago, and have since clapped for an additional 10 articles, there are only two possibilities: you are either the fastest reader in the world or a liar. My money’s on the latter, every time.
And for the record, in my experience, these people are most likely to be the ones clapping 50 times for your article. I also see it with a single clap and five claps, but 50 seems to be fake most often.
Sorry to spoil your “standing ovation”.
So, why do people do this? I’m sure if you asked them, it would have something to do with being supportive of the Medium community as a whole.
I don’t buy it.
Instead, these people are looking to put on an impression of kindness while really trying to draw attention to themselves and their writing. People like to reciprocate nice acts, so if someone claps for them, they are more likely to check out that writer.
Now, imagine if you saw someone gave you the full 50 claps. That would make you feel really good, wouldn’t it? You’d definitely want to give them a read. For fakers, the more people they give 50s to, the more people might read their own work.
I don’t want the claps from these people. I wish the B.S. would go away. If you really cared, you would actually read my article, instead of pretending to be supportive.
“But claps are worth money!” Hardly. You’re forgetting that a member’s $5 a month is divided amongst all the writers they’ve engaged with. 50 claps from a mass-clapper are unlikely to be worth more than a few pennies.
I’m equally wary of when I get new followers. If you’ve been on Medium for a bit, there’s no doubt you’ve experienced this scenario: you get a new follower from a name you don’t recognize, one who has never clapped for one of your stories.
Plain and simple, this person is almost definitely a “fake” follower. If you look at their profile, you’ll notice they follow an inordinate amount of people, probably around five times more people than those who follow them.
Just as with fake fans, fake followers are only looking to follow as many people as possible in hopes that people will be nice and participate in their follow-for-follow scheme.
I’ve already written about my distaste of follow-for-follow, but essentially, it’s just a cheap way to increase your numbers while not actually increasing the number of people who read your article, since follow-for-follow people never actually cared about you in the first place.
It can be annoying to see people with hundreds or even thousands of followers using this method despite only having written a few articles, but I’d much rather gain my followers naturally than try to game the system just to make myself seem more popular than I really am.
I don’t want fake claps, and I don’t want fake follows. I don’t need vanity metrics that don’t actually help me succeed on Medium. Instead, I want to know who’s actually reading and enjoying my work. But that’s difficult when you have to sort through the clutter.
Maybe that’s a hot take, and something the fake fans and fake followers won’t want to hear. But guess what? I’m not afraid of offending anyone — the people who don’t want to read this article won’t read it in the first place.
Connor Groel is a writer who studies sport management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as editor of the Top Level Sports publication on Medium, and the host of the Connor Groel Sports podcast. You can follow Connor on Medium, Facebook, and Twitter, and view his archives attoplevelsports.net.