Do Claps Really Matter?
Do claps really matter?
This was the question ringing through my head on a lonely weekday afternoon as I scrolled through my Medium profile. I’d been reading some stories from the publications I follow and noticed that they had been getting literally thousands of claps. Feeling a little insecure, I started clicking on each one of my stories, trying to figure out what my average amount of claps was.
I’ve been on Medium for just shy of a year now, and I’ve only ever had one story go viral. Sure, I’ve had some other successful pieces — I’ve had ones with lots of comments, ones where I made a decent amount of money, and ones that got a ton of views and reads. Claps aside, I’ve had a pretty good year on Medium thus far, and it continues to get better and better. So why was I so preoccupied with the amount of claps I’m getting in general?
Claps don’t matter as much as you think they do.
I promise you, claps are not the be-all-end-all of your writing career, as I eventually learned. It’s fantastic to get lots of claps on one story, but a lack of claps is not a determinant that your story is bad or unappealing to readers. Let’s unpack this.
Sometimes people don’t think to clap.
Yes, I’m being serious. Sometimes people will go through and read a whole story, enjoy it thoroughly, and maybe even comment — without leaving so much as one clap behind. I know this because I’ve been this person before. When I was new to this platform, claps were not the first thing in my mind, and I was still getting the hang of how Medium worked. After I read an article, I might think the world of the author and want to share the piece with my whole friend group, but I’d still forget to give it a clap or two.
It’s not on everyone’s radar, and that’s OK. There are still plenty of readers that enjoy your story without showing proof of it, I promise.
There are a lot of other measures of success here on Medium.
Followers, daily reads, comments, fans, and total earnings, to name a few. These are five solid things that you can rely on besides claps to fairly evaluate your platform as a writer here. If you’re discouraged about your amount of claps, take a look at other things. Are you reaching a good audience? Do you have a reasonable amount of daily views? Do people actually spend a fair amount of time reading your articles instead of just scrolling through them (you can see this by the daily member reading time in Stats)?
Maybe you’re making a ton of money on Medium through these ways. Or maybe you don’t earn a lot, but you have a ton of loyal followers who read everything you post. Maybe you have a low amount of followers, but you get lots of comments on your posts asking for advice or complimenting your talent. The point is, there are plenty of things besides claps to help you feel good about your writing and your abilities.
People clap in different amounts.
The number of claps people choose to give is up to them, and not entirely based on their liking of the story. Some people will only give 5 claps to a story, even if they loved it and were impressed by it. Others (like me) like to go above and beyond and give 50 claps to all of the stories that they enjoy. Still others will read through a whole piece, like it, but only give one single clap.
Here’s why this matters: everyone’s distribution of claps is different. For instance, let’s say you saw an article on Medium that had 5K claps. Maybe you even got a little jealous of that author, wishing you could get that kind of publicity, because your highest number of claps is, say, 500. But that one story with 5K claps could have that amount of claps because each fan is giving it more claps than each of your fans tend to give. If every fan gave 50 claps, and there were 100 fans, then that would make a total of 5K claps on one story.
But let’s pretend that your story also had 100 fans — except each one only gave 5 claps. Theoretically, both you and the other author have the same amount of fans, but the luck of the draw was that their fans just left more claps, and yours did not leave quite as many. Therefore, there’s no need to feel self-conscious or insecure that your writing is not good enough, especially not based on claps.
People may disagree with your message, but react strongly to the article.
Suppose you wrote a really strong political piece (this has happened to me before) and thousands of people read it, but most of them disagreed with the message. Imagine that they left a bunch of comments on it, discussing your point of view, sharing theirs, and probably even criticizing your perspective. Now, obviously, it doesn’t feel good to be attacked. Negative comments are certainly difficult to receive because it can impact our confidence as writers. However, realize that this, too, is a measure of success. People are still reading your writing. They are digesting it, engaging with it. They are feeling strongly enough about it to reflect on it publicly. Instead of feeling offended, be honored! Even if they don’t like the article’s message and decide not to leave claps, that’s still another pair of eyes on your writing, and that’s pretty cool. Part of the beauty of the written word is that it’s all subjective, and it’s about being vulnerable with the world — not just being well-liked or finding people to agree with you.
Being a writer is hard, and as writers, we don’t often get the recognition that we crave. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t successful. It’s important to look holistically at your writing life. Be mindful of the the viewers, the followers, the minutes spent reading. Be excited when someone comments on your article and says I love it! with a heartfelt explanation. Our job is to share with the world and elicit emotion or opinions through our work. If we can accomplish that with even one reader, we’ve done something right.
Take pride in your work; confidence is key. The more confident you are about your writing, the farther it will go.
Always remember that we are all a work in progress, and it’s important to be forgiving of ourselves along the way, too.
And most of all, let’s get rid of the notion that claps determine our success as writers on this platform. There are so many other things at play, and it’s not fair to judge ourselves by that sole standard.
Good luck, writers!