Bad news for publishers who make use of the social sharing platform Sharethis, as those publishers who often rely on the social proof provided by their share counters may be in a big surprise.
I woke up today to the rude awakening that tens of thousands of shares from the counters of this very site's Sharethis social buttons have simply vanished into thin air! Individual articles that once had counts of 500, a 1,000, or better shares, now read a big fat zero! While the average web publisher doesn't use counters at all, we've long prided ourselves on our social proof, which helps to distinguish our authority and influence across the social web. Despite being a smaller publisher, our social reach has always been in line with the major players, often beating out the largest publishers on the web, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, NBC News, and others in terms of our social reach and authority. While many would argue that social counters are mere vanity metrics, I have to beg the differ, as I've long seen them as our reward for a job well done, and the fact they often provide publishers like myself with important clues about the audiences we serve across social networks.
One might think, you're just overreacting, but I feel as if someone has stolen my Cadillac and stripped it down for parts, lit my house on fire, killed my pets, and is now holding my beloved XBOX for ransom. As far as I'm concerned, tens of thousands of hours of hard work deserves to be acknowledged!
While the unexplained issues stemming from Sharethis have only caused problems to a smaller number of pages on this site, it's still a cause for concern. At present, nothing has been stated on their site regarding the issues either. Besides the issues plaguing Sharethis, it also appears Google has been having problems with counters not working properly as well.
For me, social proof, the art of signaling to the world the level of authority and influence a publisher has upon the web's vast digital audiences sends a strong signal to the public regarding the usefulness and value a publisher offers its visitors.
Besides share counters being a visible metric of influence and authority, they also provide web publishers with valuable clues about their audiences. I know firsthand from viewing my own counters that my largest social audience exists on Google+, followed by Twitter, and then Facebook. What publisher doesn't want to know who their audience is, and where they're coming from for that matter? Publishers can also use social sharing data in order to determine what types of content perform the best with a particular audience. This is all valuable data I often use to help determine my overall current and future web publishing strategies. Without this data, web publishers are literally left being blinded to their audience's wants and needs.
While many in the web publishing world have long argued that social proof is a metric that doesn't matter, the reason they often disclaim it is simply because the world has always ignored their worthless ideas and useless content anyway, and they have nothing to be honored for to begin with, and it shows in their work.
After all, let's face it, the average site is usually publishing content in hopes of getting you to spend your hard earned money on their worthless affiliate nonsense. Every other article on the web is literally penned for the sole purpose of another affiliate marketer spreading another rave review of a product or service they've never even used themselves, yet they spend the entire article begging you to buy!
Believe it or not, some of us actually have a purpose on the web, we actually take pride in the content we produce, and our efforts aren't geared solely upon making the next buck, but rather sharing with the world what inspires us the most. In fact, the revenue earned from this site comes nowhere near to covering its operating costs. I consistently lose money on it, yet I and many others who support it have fought many battles to preserve its legacy.
For those who claim social proof is nonsense, I say it's because they're just butt hurt that no one cares for what they have to offer, and they're just pissed they're being ignored. So of course they aren't concerned about share counters, as no one's ever shared anything they've published anyway.
I've received a response back from Sharethis (2/22/16), in which they've stated they did in fact accidentally delete my shares! They stated they recently migrated to new servers, and in the process many shares were deleted from their platform. My 60,000+ missing shares are now gone for good! On the other hand, I do appreciate their honesty concerning the matter, and I'm willing to accept the shares are permanently lost and move on. Many of you may want to know how these changes affect your site as well, and you probably should check your site's to evaluate the damage just so you're aware of what's missing, and what isn't.
I'm responding to Sharethis by making a recommendation for the platform to start doing a better job of backing up their accounts data in case of a future potential failure of migration problems. We should all understand what's done is done, and hopefully this will be a learning lesson for Sharethis as to take better care with our accounts. Thanks for reading!