On March 3, I went viral. My “About.me” page was featured on that website’s “popular” list, and my page, which usually receives about 150 views per day, was seen by 3051 other About.me users, 2000 within the first hour of being listed. Another 1300 visited the next day.
It was like being famous, minus the fame or anything fame-like.
According to its own publicity, About.me profiles are viewed 150 million times per month, which sounds an awful lot like publicity. The online identity service has about five million official, registered users, most of whom, like me, use it for free. In 2010, AOL purchased the site, and in 2012, its founders purchased it back from AOL, when AOL discovered (faster than it usually does) that it was not going to become bigger than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined just by adding free subscribers.
Even the founders of About.me (the link is to the company’s WordPress blog) do not seem to harbor ambitions for it to be all of those websites rolled into one; instead, it is intended to be an online identity website. It’s a virtual business card service. As you can see from my personal page, it is the only location where one can find a connection to all of my pages (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), and—in several places, at the top of the page, at the bottom of the page, and twice in between—to my blog. The blog you are reading. It has a nice spooky photo that I took at Olana last year and a selfie I took with the laptop I am using right now.
Now, as far as I can see, there is no reason for anyone who is already reading this website right here—my chief means of expression in the whole, wide world—to visit my About.me virtual business card, and I am not advertising for the company here. But what happened on March 3, when I went viral, told me a lot about social media and online expectations. Since I launched this website in January, the number of direct visits from About.me to this blog is 22. Total. This includes that momentous day when thousands viewed my page and saw my links and (mostly) ignored my hints to check out “The Gad About Town.”
There is a show business saying that if a performer is a great enough talent, “you could put him (or her) behind a brick wall and he will still find a way to entertain.” While I believe this to be true in idealistic theory, I also think that not putting him behind a brick wall would be very very helpful. If a website is going to be worth a visit, publicity is going to help get that visit.
When an About.me user visits one’s page, their page appears on yours. I started to see a few users re-appear and then three-appear on mine. About.me added features such as a “Like Your Photo” button, and some of these individuals became correspondents. A few dozen correspondents became Twitter acquaintances. And a handful now communicate with me via “The Gad About Town” and their own blogs. So those 22 visits out of 49,000 views (my total so far since November) are very valuable, as they resulted in real readers who are becoming that rarest of thing: real, online friends.
One of these real, online friends, Tazein Mirza Saad, lives in Singapore and maintains a very energetic, inspiration-filled website with about 3000 followers. She awarded me the fireworks trophy seen at the top of this post, the “Wonderful Team Membership Award,” a name that is a mouthful. But I still accept it.
As with all of these WordPress awards, there are rules, which include: “1. The Nominee shall display the logo on their post/page/sidebar. 2. The Nominee shall nominate several best team members. 3. The Nominee shall make these rules, or amend rules keeping to the spirit of the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award. 4. The Nominee must finish this sentence and post: ‘A great reader is …'”
Among the readers whom I met first via About.me, then Twitter, and with whom I now communicate via our blogs, I am grateful to have “met” Tazein; Terry Irving, who gave me a big boost on his great website about writing and journalism within a couple weeks of my WordPress debut, and whose first novel “Courier” is due out in April; and Catherine Townsend-Lyon, who has created two huge and hugely helpful websites dedicated to helping people in recovery (“Recovery Ramblings” and “Just a Recovery Author Learning to Be a Better Writer“), and who has shared encouragement with me several times. All three are “great readers,” active readers who generously give other writers encouragement. My thanking them here does not require them to do anything. How’s that for an award?
There are several other writers with whom I communicate via our WordPress blogs, and I only hope both lists continue to grow. We aren’t behind any brick walls here.