How many followers?

Whether you use social media for fun or professionally it can be necessary to answer to the question: "How many followers do you have?"

Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook provide follower numbers which you can quote to your friends or your boss. Google+ does not. Google provides a mess of confusing numbers which leaves no straightforward answer to this common question.

As an example let's take Happening London which is a personal project of mine.

How many followers does Happening London have?

Twitter - 193

"How many followers does Happening London have on Twitter?"
Happening London has 193 followers on Twitter.

Instagram - 354

"How many followers does Happening London have on Instagram?"
Happening London has 354 followers on Instagram.

Facebook - 49

"How many followers does Happening London have on Facebook"?
Happening London has 49 "followers" on Facebook.

They are displayed as "Likes" logged out. Some people could "Like" the page but not be "following" updates from the page, but there's one outward facing number: 49.

Google+ - ?!??*!

"How many followers does Happening London have on Google+?"
There are 36,086 people "following" the Happening London profile. But ...
"But what?"
Well, there are a lot more people who will see some posts from Happening London.
"And they aren't shown in this number?"
"Happening London is a brand right?"
"So is there a way to see the total number of Google people who are interested in the Happening London brand?"
Well there's the brand's social score ..... but ....
"Is that a bigger number?"
"Great, show me that!"
Here you go. 😅

"95,993? Epic! That's a lot more than 36k. What does that mean?"
Well it used to work out as: your followers, plus people who "Like" your connected website, plus people who are members of a brand owned community. But ....
"But what? .... you don't know exactly what that 95k right?"
Yeah I'm not sure any more. 😕
"Ok, never mind, as that's a bigger number we'll use that."
It's not the biggest number .... 😐
"What?! How come?"
Well the Happening London profile uses Collections, it's the best way to improve the reach for the content posted by the profile. Some people might follow one or more of the profile's collections but not follow the profile.
"Ah Okay I get it ... they follow the profile if they want to see all the content the profile posts?"
Yes. Well no. If they follow the profile they won't see content the profile posts privately. Or if the profile has any collections which were not followed by default, then they would not see posts to those collections in their stream.
"So what's the profile follower number for then?"
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 😖
"What's the BIGGEST number?"
This is currently the most followed collection from the Happening London profile.

"114,630 Followers! That's a huge number. That has to be the biggest number right?"
Yes. Well .... no.
"What do you mean no?"
Well the biggest number would be the number of profiles who follow something from Happening London.
"But these people only follow something from Happening London?"
Yes, but there are other profiles who follow something else from Happening London.

Technically if we added those people to this number we would have the number of unique followers.
"Great can you add those people to this number so we can report back the total number of followers?"
"Why not?"
There is no way I can do that. If I added all the followers up from each collection I would be counting many of them twice, or more.
"But Google would know the total number of unique followers of Happening London's content?"
"Why don't Google display the total number of unique followers on the profile?"
"So Happening London has 193 Twitter followers, 354 Instagram followers, 49 Facebook followers and somewhere over 114k or more Google+ followers?" 

Happening London is my hobby page and I don't need to have this conversation with anyone. But lot's of people do need to have conversations like these with people who they report follower numbers to. Or they just don't bother because it's not clear.

How many followers does Ford Europe have?


What do I think Google should do?

Fix it. Show the number of unique followers. The number of people who have chosen to consume some (or all) of the profile's posts.

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