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How Important Are Blog Followers?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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?

57 comments:

  1. I totally agree with your sentiments. I think the number just makes you feel whether you're headed in the right direction or not. If I have a dry spell of a few weeks where I get NO new followers, I'm start to wonder... what I am doing that is NOT attracting new people... or what can I do TO attract them? It kinda gives me direction a bit.

    At the moment, I'm 2 from my 100 milestone (so if you read this and don't follow me... FEEL FREE! ha!) Okay, shameless goofy plug aside, I'm happy with my almost 100. It's not as many as some, but given them time I have devote to it, again, I'm satisfied with it, as long as it keeps growing a little at a time:-)

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  2. Jody,
    I get a SiteMeter report every week that tells me how many visitors I've had and how many page hits for that particular time period. I'm pleased, because I see the number climb, but I don't obsess over it.
    As for actual "followers," I honestly would have to look to see how many I have.
    I've become comfortable posting twice a week, because to devote more time to the blog would take away from writing time and that thing called "life." I try to make my posts about writing and life in general, and my aim is to make those who read my posts say, "Okay, I can identify with that." If that happens, I guess I've succeeded.
    As for whether blog followers translate into book sales, I guess time will give us the answer there.
    Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

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  3. I enjoy the new followers because it gives me a new person to maybe have the opportunity to connect with and share and learn from them as well.
    I don't watch the numbers. Like you said, I'm sure many don't even follow but it is a good tool to use so if they want to find you, they can, as I read my blog list every morning.
    What attracts me to sign into a blog is the first few lines of the post--like a book--it needs to pull me in enough to read it all. So it gives us good practice in working on our hooks:)

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  4. First - ever since I've been following your blog, I do read every post! : ) I may not comment every time, but I do read the posts.

    Second - I love my followers. There's a sense of doing something right, that my writing impacts someone, somewhere, enough so that they are following me.

    In some ways, the followers are an ego boost. I mean, wow, someone wants to read something I wrote. So, minimally at least, followers amp up self-esteem just a bit and that, in many ways, is a part of success.

    As for more followers . . . geesh, the pressure, the angst, to have to come up with something brilliant to say at least three times per week. I'm pretty content with my follower base. I've met some great people, and learned tons of stuff. If my followers grow, then great. If not, well, then great also, because I happen to have a bang-up group of followers right now.

    S

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  5. I agree that blog followers are kind of a "thumbs up." Whether they continue to read or not, or comment or not, something initially made them click that follower button. I wrote for a long time with a handful of followers and no comments...at that point I had to keep the faith with myself that somehow what I was doing was worth it. Then people finally began reading and commenting and now I think to myself that they wouldn't waste the time if I wasn't touching them somehow. I do feel you have to draw the line between running a popularity contest and attracting readers who follow because they truly want to read your writing. My own my stats are on the lower side I suppose, growing in baby steps. I guess if I was all over FaceBook and Twitter, I'd have more. But the pace right now works. I am grateful for all my followers, and especially those who make a point of leaving a constructive comment.

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  6. Like you, I long for my words to make an impact on lives. Sometimes the more concentrated I become on followers and social networking the easier it is to be distracted from my ultimate vision--God, family, writing (books first, short stories, articles, posts somewhere further down on the list).

    I'm thankful to have the followers I do, but I never want to define my value/worth by that.

    I appreciate how we've "met" through blogging!
    ~ Wendy

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  7. I agree that a "follow" is like a thumbs-up. (Or it means that I followed them first and they followed back, which is nice, too.) I get more of a thrill out of comments that show that someone really got value from a post of mine, but they all come back to the same thing: a little thumbs-up that the blog writing is worth checking out once in a while.

    As for blogging-as-marketing, I don't think followers mean much in that area until you've got thousands... but I like to think that those of us in the hundreds have a sign that it's a "healthy" blog. It's not a platform by itself, but it is a good starting point for the official author website. It means we're in the game.

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  8. I like your summation of how important blog followers are and totally agree with the "thumbs up" idea.

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  9. This makes perfect sense to me, Jody. Indicator is a really good way to define the meaning of followers.

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  10. I'm mixed on the followers thing. I was reluctant to put it on my blog initially, but I get a little zing whenever I see a new follower has found me. I try to write consistently strong posts but I've seen other bloggers rise much more quickly in follower numbers than my own (obviously I pay attention to numbers to some degree). I don't think that's an indication of whether my writing is good or I'm hitting it with my readers, though. Like Scott, I feel pretty good with the reader bunch I've got going right now, I've loved the connections, and if I continue to grow, even if it's slow and steady, I'll feel like my words are making an impact. At the end of the day, Jody, that's really it, isn't it? You are so right about that. Good thoughts! And yours is a blog I do follow consistently, so thanks. And responding to your comment on my blog this morning, I do consider you a friend, even if it's just online for now. :) I hope we have a chance to meet IRL someday like I did with a couple other blogger friends over the weekend. :) We moms of five need to stay connected.

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  11. I just do my thing and am amazed that ANYone would want to peek in.

    But, I am grateful for their input. My favorite part of blogging is what I learn from others. It never ends...which is a cool thing.

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  12. I agree with you about followers. That's why I added a site meter at the bottom of my page. It privately tracks how many people view my pages and for how long. Then, I can compare week-to-week or even month-to-month to make sure I'm on the right track. Obviously, there are times when I expect readership to be lower like over the holidays or when I've been sick and haven't posted for a couple of days. No matter what though, those numbers don't make all that much of a difference. I blog to force myself to write every day and keep in touch with other writers. I suppose if nobody read my blog, I'd be discouraged though.

    Look at me, going on and on... must be the caffeine I just inhaled. LOL

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  13. We are so on the same page, Jody. All we can do is write words that we hope will touch people and let go of the result. Can't control who finds our blogs, whether they read them, whether they comment on them, etc. You're doing everything right, my friend. No worries.
    karen

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  14. Thank God for "thumbs up!" I give my girls the sign whenever they rise to meet a goal, for our family it means to keep looking up.

    I appreciate everyone who follows my blog, and it never stops making me smile to see a new reader on the sidebar. To God be the glory!

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  15. The follower number is not the end goal, but it sure helps make the journey feel a lot less lonely. It feels good to know people connected with something - anything - enough to click the follow button. Like good coffee shops, we all have our regulars and our sometimes visitors, but it's up to us to make sure the coffee is ready when they come! Ha ha. (I have no idea where that came from) :-)

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  16. Great thoughts, Jody. And thanks for answering my question. I've always wondered with all the platform talk how much it applies in practice. Especially in fiction, it sounds like a blog can't hurt but that the story is still king.

    As I'm figuring out what topics are most popular on my blog, it's been interesting to see the statistics on statcounter. The ones that interest me the most are the hits that came from Google because it shows what the person searched for. Hands down, the most Google traffic I've gotten has been related to searches about short pregnant woman's clothing. So apparently I need to turn my blog into "Petite Pregnant Women Unite". LOL

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  17. I love your posts this week.

    I actually think it DOES make a difference on the book deal part. Now that I have an agent, we've been talking marketing. She was thrilled that I "seem" to have a lot of people reading my blog. She asked me how many people had subscribed to it through feedburner. We talked about the QT blog and how many people read/follow/subscribe to it.

    It's all about reaching people at the ground level -- something authors are expected to do these days. So while I totally agree that not every follower comes and reads every time I post (my site meter stats show that), at least it shows that I'm running a reputable blog with SOME readership. Comments show that too.

    And as Maggie S (author of SHIVER) said, this can help get more money/a better deal when your book goes out on submission. Like the book is good enough to buy but maybe you'll get MORE than you would have if you didn't have quite the online presence through your blog. Does that make sense?

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  18. I agree with you as much as I can. Since I haven't gone out on submission yet, I don't know if my blog will have any effect. My blog did help land me an agent, however. She loved me on Twitter and visited my blog. When she loved that as well, she invited me to query her directly. I already had and received a form rejection. The combination of Twitter and my blog opened the door back up for me, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    As a writer, you can never take any writing/marketing things you do for granted. I get a smile on my face every time I have a new follower on my blog. I hope my words inspire and make people laugh.

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  19. Wordpress doesn't have a follow me button, so I don't know how many I have (or if I even have any).

    Having a few followers is nice, I like the answers to questions I ask or the advice given.

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  20. Good post! I'm not a blogging expert, but I agree with you. I would like to see more followers on my blog because I like to meet new people, follow and support their blogs if I can, and perhaps be a blessing to them. My current blogging gang is a wonderful, supportive bunch! It is such a blessing.
    Happy writing:)

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  21. Jody,
    these thoughts are great. I love blogging and I would probably do it even if no one read mine. However, it does encourage me to continue writing when someone says they enjoy what I do. The most impactful comments for me are the ones in which someone states that I've encouraged them or made them think. That's what I want to do with my writing. I look at blogging as a practice run. I am building a writing practice and I'm gaining backbone with every positive comment. I know, most people always comment positively, but there's nothing wrong with that! I don't expect a professional critique with my posts. And that positivity trickles into my books and gives me the courage to submit those queries!

    Jen

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  22. I abide by your rules as well. If someone follows me I follow back and I always respond to commenters blogs. I use to respond to each reply but it soon became too much. I'm very humbled by the fact anyone would follow me or leave a comment. All is appreciated!

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  23. I agree, Jody. They won't sell your book. I think it's great for instant gratification and motivation, though. On the days I moan that I'll never get published or that my writing is crap, all I have to do is click on my blog and see that someone does like my writing after all. Inspiring!

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  24. Elana,
    Thanks for your input! I think what we both agree on is that the BOOK is the key for fiction writers. Without a saleable book, we got nothin'. Right? But if we do have a good book, then a successful blog *could* act as a bonus. It might not, but it sounds like in some cases it could.

    When I got my agent last spring, my blog was still very small. And likewise, when I got my book contract, my blog was too small to make any difference. My book alone clinched the deal.

    I think those writers who are gaining a web presence and developing successful blogs, might have an advantage in getting an agent or editor to take a second look at them. But ulitmately, it's the story that get the deal done.

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  25. This statement
    "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."

    hits the nail on the head. I never thought about it but it's so true.

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  26. I'm torn over this. Ultimately, I'd love for lots and lots of people to read what I've written.

    However, I do treasure the relationships, and that part is so much easier when there aren't a ton of people.

    Hmmm...

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  27. I enjoy blogging, and making dear bloggy friends, and thanks for this post.
    I do smile when I gain a new follower, and will celebrate when I reach 100 followers. But, as you say, it probably has no effect on getting my next book published.
    Unless I had 10,000 followers and that really is not my goal.
    I like blogging cuz it expands my circle of friends and acquaintances, worldwide.

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  28. I started blogging mostly for myself - to impose the discipline of (near) daily writing, and also to chronicle my journey of "becoming a writer." My only rule of blog posts is to write about subjects that matter to me and/or reflect a personal truth. I don't write a post just to boost my numbers (because yes, the more you post the more viewers you get), but I've found it's so rewarding to make connections with readers that it motivates me to write more.

    As a yet unpublished writer, anything that boosts self-esteem and fosters the love of writing is a boon. I don't have too many followers yet, but I love the ones I have! If my words inspire even one person, that's a success in my mind. That means the words were better put on the page than kept inside my head! :-)

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  29. I think it's the if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it.

    Comments and followers make yu feel like someones listening.

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  30. Of course any number that others might have more or less of gives us a sense of success or failure. It's all relative, and we like to consider ourselves in relation to others.

    I have followers. I follow. Not much. I read a large number of blogs primarily through Google Reader. This does not require me to follow anyone. The blogs I follow are primarily because, like you, I chose to reciprocate when others decided to follow me. Actually, screwed things up in GR because then I had duplication with my blog subscriptions.

    Rarely a week goes by that someone I've never met or heard from doesn't comment on a blog post of mine or said me an email. Just one. They are not followers but I'm glad they're reading as I suspect the writers of the many I read are.

    I don't put much stock in the whole following thing.

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  31. I appreciate this post, as after almost two years of blogging, and hardly any followers, I've wondered about many of the points you pondered.

    In the end, I'm having some good success as a playwright, and my blog is where I visit, ponder things and wonder & wander around cyberworld.

    But, I sure WOULD LOVE to have more followers and a lot more comments! They are important to me, like friends, I like logging on and being greeted by them.

    Insightful post - thanks!

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  32. I am more delighted with faithful followers than just a number. When I changed from blogger to wordpress my number of followers dropped by half and that showed me how many were true blue to my blog. It is interesting. I am thankful for each one. :O)

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  33. Good post! At this early stage, I just enjoy connecting with soulmate writers and hope that God uses something I say to help another at an earlier stage.

    I don't even know how to count the blog appearances other than visits to the website in general!!!!
    LOL!
    Patti
    www.pattilacy.com/blog

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  34. Hi Jody -

    I look at Followers as another opportunity to connect with fellow bloggers. Their posts inspire me, bring me up short, teach me, and cheer me when I'm down. Hopefully, I do the same for them. :)

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  35. Interesting post.

    Yes, I've been curious when I get a slew of new followers and wonder what specially drew them to my blog.

    I will say this: Your blog is in my "Favorites" blog folder, which I read through daily, if not weekly. (Translated: Your posts are useful, spot on regarding publishing and the art of writing. Write on, girl!)

    :)

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  36. I'm with you on the importance of "followers" on my blog.

    I enjoy many blogs that I don't follow or comment on. Also I'm sure it's the same for those who follow mine.

    What's important, more than the numbers, is what I learn from other bloggers and some of the great friends I've made along my writing journey.

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  37. I love having followers but at times it feels a bit like a popularity contest.. more important to me though is having commenters. I like to hear what people thought of what I wrote, even if it's a few words, even if they don't agree. It's always amazing to me how many people read a blog and don't comment. Much the same way they read a magazine or book I suppose?

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  38. Your blog is definitely one I always read, though I may not always comment. Sometimes everyone before me says all that I want to say. (I will say I have thought about just writing "ditto" as my reply!)

    I'm always shocked that there are people who sign up to follow my blog. Seriously, my blog is just a fluffy blog, not much to it but a little bit of everything. As I grow as a writer, I hope to have more to offer, but right now, I'm not fixated on followers. I just want to connect in some way.

    FYI...I am unplugged this week, but had to check you out! :)

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  39. I would love more followers, because I think it makes my blog look like it has more traffic. However, like Richard, I also have site meter to measure visits. My parenting blog will generate a steady stream of people each week. My football blog will generate more hits in September than the other 11 months of the year combined. Steady is good.

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  40. I, like you, am unable to read every blog from everyone I follow. I wish I had the time. I am following them because they give something to my life.
    I would like to have more people following me, don't we all. My desire is to give something to their lives, the same reason I read blogs.
    Thanks for bringing this up.
    Diane

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  41. Like you Jody, I long to make a positive difference in peoples' lives. The more who follow my blog, the more opportunity I have to do that. But...

    I try not to let the numbers mean too much to me. I want this to be a ministry, not an addiction.

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  42. Insightful post. It's grand fun to watch the follower numbers climb, but you have to realize that only a small number of those followers will actually become regular visitors. It's my policy to reciprocate to my most of my followers as well, but I try to keep my blog roll list culled to only those I will actually be able to read and respond to. If I'm not regularly reading a blog, I won't be following it.

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  43. I love writing my blog. I feel so great, so satisfied when I post, then the followers, all those beautiful encouraging faces smile at me, and some of them stop by and leave a comment which gives me the spark to write more.

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  44. I do not like this side of blogging. I always feel like it's a popularity contest. I mean, if I compare myself to you (just as an example), you have WAAAY more followers than me and people actually comment, like a lot, on your blog. And you've only been blogging a year? Wow. I have been blogging for a really long time and have yet to reach 50 followers. I've pledged to blog at least three times a week this year, and while I see people reading, I don't get many comments, so it's hard to know if it's worth it. I enjoy it, but I always get this feeling I'm doing it wrong.
    Or maybe I'm just really boring. :0)

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  45. Every follower, every reader, represents a life, someone who could reflect the God of the Universe and spend eternity in His presence and glory. Eternity!

    Do blog followers and readers matter? You bet they do! I like to think of how they matter to the One who created them. I like to think of each blog post as a chance to impact a life, forever.

    Because that's what it is.

    My natural tendency, which I have to watch carefully, is to go through my blogging activities numb and blind. Not seeing, not feeling, the privilege handed to me each time someone visits my pages and ponders my words.

    It's not about numbers. It's about the conversations. Are we having a conversation that matters, that helps and encourages and informs people even in a small way?

    That's success.

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  46. Your posts are always so helpful and honest.

    I love the connections and the community of blogging.
    It has changed me for the better.
    And there are bloggers that are part of my day.
    But I haven't added the following thing yet, I'm not so sure that I like all the little faces . It looks like facebook.

    See... you made me be honest.

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  47. I do get a smile when I see that Follower number tick slowly upward, but I also realize that most of my "followers" don't really read that often and comment even less frequently. I've been wondering lately how much it even matters. Besides, you know, inflating my ego.

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  48. I will have to take this into account if I am entertaining enough to have as many followers as you are!

    I am the same as you I write to inspire, and through the followers hope to get advice and inspiration :)

    Love your blog! And I am excited to see all of your future posts!

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  49. As another Wordpress blogger I don't have access to a Follower button but there is a subscriber option. I have daily stats available so I can see basic numbers increasing. Will it mean anything in the long run? I don't know, but what I find valuable right now is the interaction with those who leave comments. From them I gain what I hope is mutual benefit, information and encouragement. For all the other silent followers, I can only hope my words are meaningful and relevant, but I'll never know.

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  50. Hi, Jody. I like these posts this week. (I'm a little behind) I don't really look at the follower gadget very much except to check out who new has stopped by and is following. I like to say hello to those people to invite them to join in the conversation.

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  51. I don't know that having a lot of followers is a bad thing. I'm not sure how good it is, either. I think you're doing well to have so many comments to your post.

    I tend to follow blogs that give good advice about blogging, book promo, and writing. If a blog is new to me, I'll read several posts before I decide to follow or not. I tend not to follow blogs when it's all or almost all book reviews or promo posts of the author's own books. I want to read interesting, helpful articles. An occasional promo post, however, is fine.

    What do you think about the number of Twitter followers? Same as the number of blog followers?

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  53. Great post, and yes I totally agree. I like to see the numbers slowly rise. It says I'm doing something right and am connecting with readers. Wonderful.

    What's surprising is twice this month I lost a follower. I was devastated. Who would go to all the trouble of actually unfollowing? The effort alone stumped me. Had I done something? Said something?

    I could drive myself crazy worrying about it. I know I'm doing the best blogging I can possibly do, so I'm sticking with it no matter what.

    Great to meet you, Jody.

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  54. Just reading this now. Karen Lange referenced it. Good thoughts. Hope your books continue to do well. Looks/sounds like they are!

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  55. Hi Jody .. I've seen you around and via Karen have eventually joined up! and came by to read this post .. it's just great to be part of a wonderful blogging community that's the main thing.

    Cheers Hilary

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  56. Hi Warren, Glad you found this post through Karen L.! I always appreciate you stopping by!

    And greetings to you too, Hilary! Glad you stopped by via Karen L. too!

    Blessings to you both!

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