It’s all about the likes

I guess I should have understood this a while ago, but there are times where I’m a bit slow on the uptake 1.

I set out on this discipline of blogging every day simply because I thought it would be a healthy outlet for my wandering mind. To that end, this discipline has far exceeded my expectations. Thus far in 2015 I have been able to explore a wide swath of my interests and musings. Perhaps the most enjoyable has been scheduling a regular time to sit down to write fiction.

Even though Painfully Hopeful is a personal exercise, however, it is nice to know someone is reading. This is why I’ve found WordPress stats so difficult to comprehend.

Over the months of 2015 I’ve not really seen a huge uptick in page views from past years. Also, while Painfully Hopeful is going to blow by the number of yearly visitors to the site, the average number of visitors per month has actually been going down since March. Really, despite a spike in the early part of the year, the number of people coming here to read my thoughts hasn’t grown at all over 2014 – a year in which I authored mere seven posts. This, however, didn’t mesh with my experience of how Painfully Hopeful is doing. I’ve gotten a distinct sense people were interested in what’s being written, but if that’s the case why didn’t the stats show this?

Then it dawned on me. I’ve been using Facebook and Google+ and twitter for years, but I never really applied the lesson of the “like” 2 button to what I write here. As it turns out, I should have.

The more I ponder my stats page, the more I understand the most valuable piece of data on it is the number of “likes” the site is getting. I don’t say this because I’m desperate for affirmation, or am somehow channeling a 14 year-old instagram user. I have come to perceive a “like” 3 as a sign of reader engagement. A bot can crawl the site and set an article as link-bait, and anyone can stumble over a post and then stumble away – but people need to take an active step to “like” a post. Something in a piece had to have led them to think, “You know, I think this is worth affirming.”

showing the number of "likes' in 2015 as opposed to prior yearsAs it turns out, the only data point in my WordPress stats which has been consistently above previous years is the number of “likes” I receive. These come mainly from people who have stumbled on to a post and found in engaging enough to affirm. Many who like posts have subscribed to this feed and have come back to like follow up entries. I used to be confused when I received a “[so and so] likes [post]” email in my inbox. Being an introvert, I have a rather tight circle of friends – so being “liked” by strangers was on the other side of my social comprehension. Now I accept them as the signals of engagement they are, and have formed a genuine appreciation for every “like” a post receives 4.

When it comes taking a sounding of reader engagement, the likes really are, “where it’s at.”

  1. That’s really my normal state of being, but I like to pretend otherwise. 
  2. Or +1, or retweet, or pin, or reblog, or whatever comes along next. 
  3. In all of it’s forms, not just those build into WordPress, though those are helpful. 
  4. Nope, that’s not “like bait.” Is that even a thing? Did I just invent a thing? That would be cool.