What do big variances in the number of your RSS subscribers mean?

rss-feedDo your RSS subscribers vary radically from one day to another? Does a sudden surge in subscribers indicate your blog posts are perfectly aligned with your community? Does a decline mean you are hopelessly mistaken in what you do ?

If your answer to the first is yes, the answers to the other questions are no and no.

Let me explain

I’ve only recently worked out how to manage my daily reading through RSS feeds. As a result, my former, half-hearted encouragement to sign up to my blog’s own RSS feed has been transformed. I have moved the RSS feed subscription icon to a far more prominent position.

Immediately subscriber numbers began to rise. Slowly, at first.

Then I wrote a post about six types of Tweets if you Twitter every day, my traffic shot up. At the same time, my subscribers doubled almost overnight.

Within a day or two, the subscribers numbers had halved. That’s it, halved!

What did it all mean?

At first, I told myself that there must have been a technical problem.

That was dumb.

My new habit of using RSS to suppply my daily reading has taught me just how easy it is to subscribe to AND unsubscribe from other people’s blogs. It also shows me that, however good one post might be, I just cannot sign up to every blog. If the next post is not for me, I quickly unsubscribe. I can only manage my reading if I keep the number of subscriptions to a minimum. Why would my blog perform any differently?

My blog’s post about Tweets obviously appealed.  People subscribed. But, presumably, the majority of new subscribers were those interested in Twitter. When my next post arrived through RSS – a more general one about not overlooking the social network your community is already in – it did not meet their expectations. Those who only wanted to read about Twitter unsubscribed.

Why the surprise?

I am not sure why I was surprised. I have spent the last two months exploring the ways Twitter can help you to develop skills to cultivate a community. Twitter teaches you that the more narrowly you can identify your community and cultivate it with appropriate and quality Tweets, the faster your community will grow.

And my Twitter community has never been so robust. The number of my Twitter followers used to vary widely. Now the numbers continue to rise steadily. And only one person in the last month has decided to stop following me. 

Like Twitter, like RSS feeds

My conclusion is this.

  • Do not be delighted or impressed by a sudden upswing in subscribers – they will only drop off.
  • Do not be put off if your subscribers suddenly decline – it does not mean your blog is no good.
  • Do realise that there is no short cut to a decent following on any social media.
  • Do focus your content on your community – the more you do so, the more your community will grow.
  • Do craft your content  for steady, robust growth rather than flashy leaps.

I will be using the number of my RSS subscribers in a far more sensitive manner from now on. No more rush for glory. Rather, I will look at it as a hypersensitive response mechanism influencing my posts from day to day.

By the way, my subscriber base has begun to go up again. Slowly, but surely!

 If you think your followers/community on Twitter would be interested in this post, show them your value by reTweeting it to them!

 Photo credit: Pandemia

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4 Responses to What do big variances in the number of your RSS subscribers mean?

  1. Martin Belam says:

    There are also another couple of things to consider depending on what type of site you have and how you are gathering the stats. If people have your site as a ‘live bookmark’ in the browser on their office computer for example, it probably never gets booted up over the weekend to check for updates. It will look like a regular unsubscribe on a Friday and a re-subscribe on a Monday every week.

  2. Technical aside. Feedburner is being ported over to Google at the moment resulting in a huge drop in subscribers. I went from a steady 570 to 300 for a few days, now it’s gone back up again.

  3. John Welsh says:

    Thanks both for your comments.

    @Martin Belam It sounds more and more complex. To keep my numbers up/stable, I would therefore have to write posts that focused on a community that read only at home.

    @Richard Millington And good to hear that others are affected (though obviously not pleased your numbers have dropped!).

    Perhaps I should just stop looking at the RSS subscriber numbers and get on with my life!

  4. John, stop looking at the number of subscribers for any of your personal media :o)

    It’s a useful exercise to do every three months or so, or after a change in direction / campaign, but obsessing over them doesn’t add much value.

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