Goodhart’s law is stated as “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”. It was originally articulated in the context of British monetary policy but has become universal. For faculty at universities, metrics that measure the impact of research, then used for hiring and promotion decisions, are quickly gamed and become useless.
Writers’ social media reach has become such a target. Billie Eilish and Justin Timberlake got generous book deals that were, in part, justified by their instagram and twitter follower counts. In the end, their sales underperformed what publishers had expected.
This has led to social media metrics being given less weight when publishers consider acquisitions.
For years now, writers have been staging “writer’s lifts” on twitter. The idea is that writers join the lift then everyone who joins follows everyone else. This gives everyone a boost to their twitter follower count. This should then be helpful in any context that relies on having more twitter followers. Textbook Goodhart’s law. The twitter count has become a target and it’s no longer a good measure.
In the absence of people gaming the system, followers on social media could be viewed as a proxy for popularity and how many people might buy someone’s first book. Now that people buy followers from bots and join writer’s lifts, it’s a mostly meaningless number.
Writers can’t pretend to be an audience for one another’s work and hope to accomplish anything. We need to find real readers, which could be other writers but can’t be gained in a “quid pro quo” manner like lifts. I’m a bit embarrassed whenever I see someone suggesting a writers’ lift and lose a bit of respect for anyone who participates in one.