How Important Are Blog Followers?

So, what's the big deal about gaining new followers to our blogs?

Some bloggers have celebration posts when they reach a certain milestone of followers--like 100 or 200. Others take the time to recognize new followers in posts. I've even seen blog contests with rewards for the specific purpose of boosting their following.

Obviously, we're paying close attention to those who follow our blogs. But why? And how important are those followers anyway?

Most of us have a "Follower Gadget" on our blogs. This allows people to sign up to get a feed of our posts in their blogger dashboard, google reader, or even on the blog itself. It's an easy way to make our blogs more accessible to readers and show support to one another.

My follower policy has always been fairly straightforward. If someone signs up to follow my blog, I almost always reciprocate. Of course I can't read and comment on the blogs of everyone I follow. I wouldn't have a life if I did. And I'm sure many of my followers don't read my blog every time I post either.

So, why do we pay such close attention to how many people follow us? Can we really use the number of followers as a reliable method for knowing whether our blogs are successful (as we alluded to in the last post)? And what is the definition of "success" anyway?

It's clear from the last post that everyone defines success differently. Here's how I personally define blogging success: I long for my words to make an impact on lives--whether to encourage, instruct, or enlighten. I want readers to connect with what I'm writing, in my blog and books. When my words make a difference, I'm satisfied.

Can the number of our followers help us determine whether our posts are doing what we intend? Here's my opinion: No and Yes. Helpful, aren't I? Let me explain.

No, we can't rely upon the number of followers to define success.

Because I've been blogging for over a year, I've noticed an interesting phenomenon. Many of our followers fall by the wayside. They may read and comment on our posts for a while, then for whatever reason they stop or grow very sporadic.

In other words, some "followers" don't technically stop following our blogs--their pictures and numbers are still in our gadgets. But for whatever reason, they no longer read our posts, if they ever did to begin with. We just can't stay connected with everyone no matter how hard we try.

How many of my 300 followers read my blog regularly or even on a semi-regular basis? I have no way of tracking that. So, what does the number really stand for? If only a quarter of my followers are actually reading my blog, that doesn't give me a very big platform, does it?

And then, what about those who read my blog, but aren't signed up? Some of them might be more faithful than than those in my follower gadget (hi mom!).

If the numbers aren't reliable, then why bother to have a follower gadget at all? Well, because. . .

Yes, the numbers of followers give us an indication we're doing something right.

In some ways, I look at the follower gadget as one way people give me a "thumbs up." When they click to follow they're saying, "Hey, I like something about you, your blog or what you wrote."

It's one small way to know if I'm meeting the needs of readers, that something I'm saying is resonating with others--especially because not everyone who signs up to follow leaves a comment. In fact I have plenty of followers who never leave comments.

I usually get a few new followers per week. I'm always curious which blog topics seem to elicit the most interest. I'm not sure if I have a scientific grasp yet (or if I ever will!) on which topics are hottest. But when I have a slew of new followers on a specific post, I take note of it.

Do agents and editors put stock in blog popularity? Sarah Forgrave asked this great question in the last post. In other words, would the number of followers make a difference in landing an agent or book deal?

I can only answer from my experience, and I would have to give a resounding NO. It made absolutely NO difference in my efforts to acquire an agent and it made even less difference in getting my book deal.

Realize I'm speaking from a fiction writer perspective. This is completely different for non-fiction in which platform is one hundred times more important. For fiction writers, we could have 1000 followers, but if we don't have a well-written, saleable book, the number of followers won't do us a lick of good.

In summary, I would have to say this: Blog followers can be a helpful indicator that we're on track with blogging, but certainly don't tell the whole story.

What's your opinion? How important are blog followers to you? Do you want more followers? Why or why not?

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