The Pitfalls of Displaying Stats Publicly

You may have noticed some new functionality to blog posts and portfolio projects around here.  Yes, I added a “Tweet This” link.  This has become very popular on blogs over the past few years and increases the relationship between bloggers and their audience. The main point of adding a “Tweet This” button is to spread the word about articles and projects further than your direct audience. When your Twitter contacts re-tweet to their followers, the word is spread to an indirect audience, which will (hopefully) persuade them to visit your site and follow you. Here, for instance, the Tweet This function is simply a text-only link with an icon. There are a number of other feature-packed widgets and plugins that not only create a shortened URL link, but display how many times your post has been re-tweeted, digged (dugg?), linked, etc. Herein lies the issue.

Popularity vs. Credibility

Displaying re-tweet stats can be great when an article has seen a lot of action. I’ve seen articles that have been re-tweeted hundreds of times, some even thousands. It shows potential readers that a lot of people have felt this to be worthy of reposting and passing along to friends and colleagues. On the other hand, what if an article post isn’t re-tweeted? Is the big “ZERO TWEETS” image keeping the article from being re-tweeted?  I think it might.

Remember when a majority of websites had “hit counters” prominently displayed on each page (or at least the home page)? And that the counters were more often than not ridiculously low?  Should anyone be bragging that their website has received 38 visitors since 1999? Displaying a stat like that is rather pointless and only serves to show how few visitors the site had. Part of this could be poor counter development, not logging visits correctly, other sites simply suffered from lack of traffic. At least started the counter at higher arbitrary number, even if  just for show. That would potentially make people think the site is somewhat-established. I think the higher number of visitors, re-tweets, link-backs, etc has a subconscious effect on the reader’s perception. Does popularity have an effect on credibility?

Read, Comment, Re-Tweet, Repeat

It’s tough to get that first comment, re-tweet, etc. Seemingly, after someone has paved the way with a comment, rebuttal or response, others follow.  No matter how knowledgeable, important, or profound an article is, if it’s not circulated, it may as well have been a “Dear Diary” entry. This is why I say there is a relationship between popularity and (perception of) credibility. We all know that popularity has no real bearing on credibility, but information and ideas need room to spread their wings, and it’s not always the correct information that flies the furthest.

This leads me to why I placed the re-tweet button on my site in the first place.  I really would love to see my portfolio pieces and blog articles circulating furiously, while stretching to the far corners of the net. I’m not, however, displaying how many (or few) times my articles and projects are being re-tweeted, linked etc. I felt that until my numbers start increasing regularly, showing that stat would only inhibit interaction. Also, with Google Analytics and other statistical apps, content and traffic information can be monitored behind the scenes (where it should be). I am interested to hear your thoughts on this, because there is a lot I haven’t addressed.  Please share, re-tweet and respond in the comments. You can follow me on Twitter here, and comment below this article!

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