Yes, I'm talking about blogging again this week. Partly because I've reached my one year anniversary of blogging and am taking stock of what has ended up becoming an integral and enjoyable part of my writing career. But also because I want to understand what truly makes blogging work.
I've pondered three questions recently. And I figured if I was wondering about these few issues, then surely others must be too. Here they are:
1. How can we know whether our blogs are really good or not?
2. How important are blog followers?
3. Will blogging really help me sell more books?
I'm planning to tackle each of these questions this week and wanted to start today's discussion with the first question: How can we tell whether our blog is reaching some level of success?
First, let me start by acknowledging that not everyone blogs for the same reason. In fact, that's one of the best things about blogging--viewing all of the incredibly diverse ways people express themselves. And I'm sure there are some who don't care if others think their blog posts are good or not.
Yet, let's admit it. Most of us want people to regularly read our blogs. It has to do with a previous post Do Blog Comments Really Matter in which I said: The blogging experience is an extension of who we are at our deepest part. We pour our souls into our posts, baring ourselves, sharing about the things closest to us. . .and we don't want to throw our words out to utter nothingness.
All that to say, the majority of us want our blogs to develop into something meaningful. We would like people to read and enjoy our blogs time and time again. We'd much rather have our blog on the "must read" list versus the "I'll get to it only if I have time" list. (Sounds a lot like what we want from our books too, doesn't it?)
What are reliable ways, if any, to judge whether we're growing into a "must read" blog? Here are the typical standards we use:
1. Numbers: We check our stat counters to see how many people are visiting each day. And often we look at how many followers, comments, or tweets we have. If we have a steady increase, surely we're succeeding. Right?
Could the growth have to do with the nature of the ever-widening writing community we're forming? If we visit or follow a hundred blogs, we're likely to get reciprocal followings or visits. So can the numbers tell us more about how active we are in blogging, rather than how effective our posts truly are?
2.Connections: Perhaps we look more at the friendships we've formed through blogging and gauge our success based on the number of genuine relationships we've made. We figure if we have a growing circle of friends, then we must be doing something right.
But if we stopped visiting blogs, how many would continue to take the time read ours? Would our stats fizzle? Or does our blog hold enough weight to draw people because of the quality of our posts?
3. Feedback: Maybe we believe we're successful when we read the glowing comments people leave us, telling us how great we write or how they can't wait until we're published.
The only problem with this standard is that as far as I can tell, everyone usually gives and gets positive feedback. While blog comments are encouraging for all of us, can they measure our blogging success?
When everyone is increasing in numbers, making connections, and getting such glowing feedback, what does the information really tell us? Are these standards reliable enough to show us whether we're on our way to developing a sturdy platform through our blogging or not?
We can all benefit from objective, truthful feedback--maybe from a relative, friend, or agent--someone willing to tell us the truth. Are our blogs worth reading? What can we do to improve? We need objective feedback on our blogs just as we do on our books.
But perhaps subjectivity comes into play too. Not everyone will like every book. And not everyone will like every blog. What's helpful and enjoyable to one blog reader, may not be to another.
And yet, that brings me back to my original question. Should we aim to have our blogs (and books) stand apart from the rest? Obviously certain books rise to the best seller list. And certain blogs will rise to the "must read" list.
There are no set formulas for making books and blogs succeed. Of course there are "rules" and ingredients that that can help us. And it certainly doesn't hurt if you're an agent, editor, or CEO of a publishing house. But for the average blogger, true success is often allusive.
What's your opinion? Do you think the typical ways to measure blogging success are reliable or are you cynical of them? And in your opinion, what makes a "must read" blog?