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My Secrets to Successfully Growing My Social Media Followings

Let’s be honest. All of us want to increase our numbers to one degree or another. When our followings go up, we gain satisfaction in knowing we’re connecting with others, that people are reading what we’re saying, and that we’re potentially growing our platforms (which is becoming increasingly important for modern authors).

But how do we grow our followings on various social media sites?

Gina Conroy, founder of Writer...Interrupted, recently sent me this email: How did you build your online presence, and did it grow after your book was published? It seems all my efforts don't generate enough traffic and follows. I took a blogging hiatus . . . and now I'm trying to build my web presence again. I don't want to keep trying and fail. What things were most successful for you?

Gina asked a lot of great questions. I’m going to break them down into bite-size portions:

Does a writer’s following grow after a book is published?

From time to time I hear people say that one of the reasons I’ve been able to develop large followings is because I landed a popular agent and got a three book deal with a major publisher.

And while having an agent and published book may give credibility to my writing advice, it’s a MYTH to think that it’s helped increase my numbers. If getting a great agent and book deal make any difference, then logically you’d expect all of Rachelle Gardner’s clients to have large blog followings, which is not the case. And logically, you’d expect all published authors with multi-book deals to have popular blogs, which is also not the case.

Sure, there may be a tiny spike in followers any time we make a big announcement, especially with an agent like Rachelle who does a great job promoting her clients on Twitter and Facebook. But . . . if we’re sitting back and waiting for an agent or book deal to give us a boost, we’ll end up disappointed.

In this business, we can’t ride coattails or expect an easy way to success. If we want to grow our followings, we just have to buckle down and do the hard work to make it happen.

What if all your efforts to grow your traffic aren’t paying off?

At first we may see our followings steadily increase. But at some point we may reach a plateau, where we don’t feel like we’re going anywhere anymore. We’re continuing to put forth the effort, but we’re not seeing the growth we’d like.

How do we push past that flat line and continue to climb?

Well, first, anytime we come back from an extended blogging hiatus, we’ll likely need to start rebuilding our following from the ground up. A faithful few friends may return, but we’ll have to work hard to regain most of our followers.

Second, if we hit a plateau, then it’s time to re-evaluate our strategies. We’ve obviously reached our potential with the audience we have, and we need to look for ways to move out of our comfort zones, shake things up a bit, think outside of the box, and be innovative.

What are some of the most successful strategies I’ve used to steadily increase my followings?

1. Provide quality content. Make each post relevant and interesting.

2. Meet reader needs. Put readers’ needs above our own.

3. Be real and open. Share personally. Be vulnerable.

4. Value followers. Interact. Answer questions. Be available.

5. Reach out. Don’t be shy. Make new friends. Follow & support others generously.

6. Be consistent. Post regularly. Be reliable.

7. Interweave all social media sites. Link to posts on Twitter and Facebook. But support others generously (and yes I mention this particular point again because it's SO important!).

8. Give it time. Don’t expect overnight success. It takes months, even years to grow followings.

9. Persevere. Keep at it regularly. Work even through dry spells.

10. Work hard. Realize it’s not easy. It won’t ever be. It’ll always be hard work.

There you have it—the secrets of my success. The bottom line is that there really aren’t any secret formulas to success. Growing our followings is a combination of a lot of factors, the most important being slow, steady, hard work.

Just like anything in this business, from getting an agent to book contract to making a best seller list, nothing comes easy.

Have you been looking for an easy way to grow your followings? Or are you willing to do the hard work that’s needed? And if so, what are some other things you’ve found helpful in gaining more followers?

45 comments:

  1. I look at my most popular posts and see what it is readers want. That's what has helped the most.

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  2. Great post. Something I still struggle with. My readership is growing, but very sloooowly. I think I'm still trying to find my niche. Figure out how to offer unique content that is true to who I am and what my passions are.

    One of the tips you've given in the past that has SO stuck with me is loving and caring for the readers we already have. Lots of wisdom there.

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  3. Gosh, I have to be honest, I really don't go looking for ways to grow my following. In the beginning I did, but almost two years in I blog because I enjoy it. The end. I like the connections I have. I enjoy making new ones. And I love to write. I stopped worrying about the numbers game a while back when I heard a HUGE author I respected say that statistically a blog is unlikely to make a massive difference to your book sales. After that I had to think about who I was blogging for and why. I realized that is was because of those dear connections with others and because I got to write. That was enough for me. The numbers ceased to have meaning.

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  4. Such an excellent post! It seems like sometimes bloggers don't like that list, and like you said, some bloggers want the easy way, but short of becoming a best seller or having some kind of special knowledge people are interested in, there's no other way other than what you've listed. Good stuff, Jody!! And you've done an incredible job with your blog. :-)

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  5. I have a following on Twitter but mostly fellow writers, some read my blog very few ever leave comments. I have a facebook page and that is the hardest to grow, I find. I think my problem is that I don't feel i can blog about writing as you successfully so its finding what readers want to read and respond to.
    This is an excellant post Jody, I guess I will keeping trying. Off to try to blog for Sloanwriter now.
    Many thanks, Lesley

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  6. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I'm always looking for ways to grow my blog followers. You are an inspiration!

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  7. Excellent advice - that I try valiantly to follow... It's just the time factor that's difficult. When you have a wip and a million other things to do in a day - it can be a bit of a problem to keep up! But I can only do my best...

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  8. The best way to invite others to your blog is tell everyone you know. It also helps to have guest bloggers since their followers will then click on your page and hopefully like what they see and read.
    Pray, at the end of the day it is all in God's hand.

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  9. Great comments today! I think too, it's not just the numbers (although that's what publishers want to see) but it's the interaction and how many people are actually reading our blogs. Does it matter if we have 500 followers if get only 100 hits a month? No. Like you said, we need to have good content to keep bringing people back.

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  10. If you think of your followers as friends, then it makes sense that developing a community of people online would take time and would be different for each person. Relationships are multi-faceted and complex.

    This is a very practical post, Jody. You have focused on being practical throughout your blogging experience. You found your niche and filled it well. I remember when you had just over 100 followers.

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  11. I love that your #1 is "Provide quality content." I just think that with blogs, Facebook status, Tweets, and especially the stories we write, it always comes back to "Provide quality contnet" if you want to attract and keep readers and followers.

    Now, I love visiting my friends' blogs, but the thing that will guarantee my stopping by, visiting new blogs, or picking that book up off the shelf is CONTENT! It's all about story and the writing!!

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  12. Thanks for sharing your "secrets," Jody. All of which make sense and most of which I've been doing. Bottom line for me is I'm not as concerned about the numbers like I used to be, but about the connection with others. I know if I'll be true to myself and my vision, then I'll reach those who God wants me to. And for me, that's the most important thing. I just have to remind myself every once and a while! ;)

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  13. I have to agree with Tabitha - I blog because I enjoy it and I like being part of the larger writer/reader community. Your points are well made. To have friends, you have to be a friend and reach out.

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  14. Just curious...how does one generously support over 1,200 followers? Are you able to personally connect with each one? Read all their blogs? Do you have a schedule you follow for when you pay them "visits?" Would love to know how you manage this.:-)

    ~ Betsy

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  15. I think you're spot on in saying that there is no real secret. And I agree that writing great content is the most important thing. I know that's whyI read your blog, your posts are wonderful and provide real added value. But like Katie, I still have to find my 'in' with my writing blog and that's not easy...

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  16. Tis good, Jody!

    I like how you pointed out it takes work. It's important to remember at every stage of this process.
    ~ Wendy

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  17. Great advice. For me, the bottom line is quality content and caring about my followers. I believe too, that the principle of sowing and reaping applies. And like you said, don't expect overnight success. There's nothing wrong with slow and steady!

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  18. Great points and it is such hard work but fun too:)

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  19. I don't overanalyze, because it kills the fun, and for me the fun is the most important factor - because it's what allows me to keep going. And it seems to keep the readers coming back as well.

    Great post! All of this road is tough, there's just no way around it.

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  20. Oohh! But I don't WANT to work that hard, Jody . . .

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  21. I totally agree. It's why writers need to develop their platform BEFORE they get an agent or get published. It's not just about numbers, it's about making connections with other people/writers.

    I had a small surge of followers when I announced my agent signing last week, but I've been networking away since last summer to grow my writerly connections. I enjoy the contact! It's a great community.

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  22. I think that when you have a measure of success and pass on what you have learned to help others...you get that back many times over.

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  23. Your experience is proof that following the steps you've outlined works. I'm watching, reading, and learning.

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  24. A very healthy perspective Jody. I think it really works for you because you are so personable, you acknowledge nearly every comment and poster on every medium. As for continuous growth, you should have a strategy in place for each medium and keep to that strategy until you plateau. Breaking the plateau you should reach outside your comfort zone to incorporate more into your strategy.

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  25. I think your #1 point is spot on. I follow Rachelle on Twitter and I've noticed she does do a good job of "promoting" her clients. But it seems like it's usually when you or another client has something with that content in it is when I notice a link to your post. If you weren't posting something worth tweeting about I don't think even having a popular agent tweet links to you daily would help.

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  26. 7 Eagles asked: "Just curious...how does one generously support over 1,200 followers? Are you able to personally connect with each one? Read all their blogs? Do you have a schedule you follow for when you pay them "visits?" Would love to know how you manage this.:-)"

    My Answer: Hi Betsy, I don't think that "generously support" necessarily means that you have to find a way to interact with every single follower. Obviously I can't reciprocate blog reading and following or even "chat" with everyone who stops by. But I do really try to support fellow writers by tweeting when good things happen to them, link to their posts or sites, answer questions/emails, and generally try to have an attitude of wanting to help and lift others up within the writing community.

    I emphasize "generously support" because I think so many writers use social media as a billboard to promote themselves and their books. I'm not saying that a writer should never tweet/blog about their book or themselves, but we need to keep it balanced--promoting others as much (if not more) than we promote ourselves.

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  27. Your timing is impeccable! I've been thinking about killing my blog because only the same handful of people read or post comments. Monday's post has NO comments at all. It's discouraging and then I remember I'm not in it just to rack up the comments.

    Thanks for giving me some things to consider.

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  28. Excellent post, Jody! I agree that getting an agent and a publishing contract may bring people to your site, but it's your content and the relationships that keep them coming back. You do such a great job with both!

    I'm curious...At what point did you see your blog traffic really grow at a quicker rate? How long had you been blogging? A few months? A few years? Did you change the course or focus of your blog before you saw an increase in numbers? Okay, so I just asked enough questions for you to write an entirely new post, LOL.

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  29. Great points.

    Yes, being published will attract some of the readers-fans, but if the social presence is not maintained, then not even the best agent can save it :). No interaction, no success in social presence.

    "generously support" > I agree with you. I don't think that all the 1200+ followers will interact at the same time. So it's enough to interact with those who interact with you at any given time. :D

    Thank you for the interesting post :)

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  30. Great post and comments! I too am struggling to get traffic to my blog. I've had some interesting posts, but very few followers and comments. It's discouraging, but I know I have to keep trying.

    I think finding your niche is important. I've been trying to find a mix between blogging about writing and fun things in general.

    I would also be interested to know when Jody (and anyone else happy with their traffic) started noticing a significant increase.

    Thanks!

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  31. I was totally with you up until the part where you said I need to work hard. Then I was all like, "pfft. I'll just post pictures of my biceps and then people will show up in droves."

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  32. Sarah Forgrave asked: At what point did you see your blog traffic really grow at a quicker rate? How long had you been blogging? A few months? A few years? Did you change the course or focus of your blog before you saw an increase in numbers?

    My Answer: Sarah (and Stacy), I haven't ever seen a dramatic increase in followers at one specific time or another. For example, around the debut of my book, I did NOT get droves of new followers compared to other times. In other words, readers didn't suddenly start flocking to my sight.

    I hate to say this, but my following increase has really been a slow, steady uphill climb over the two-plus years I've been blogging. I haven't really changed the course of my blog too much. I've always focused on my writing journey and what I've learned along the way.

    But since you're nailing me down on some more specifics :-) I'll try to give you a couple of things that *might* have helped.

    One, twitter. As my following on twitter has grown, I obviously have gotten more traffic coming over. Retweets and hashtags draw new people. Some newcomers will let me know they like my post and then start following me on twitter and my blog.

    Two, relevant posts. I see the most new followers after particularly popular posts.

    Hope that answers your questions a little!

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  33. Jody, one thing I thought you always did well, especially at first when you were starting to build your following (when we were both pre-published trying to enter Genesis contest!) was to comment a LOT on others blogs. I would always go around looking for blogs, and whenever I commented, I was almost always met by a comment of Jody's before mine on almost every blog I found. Not sure if you still keep up on your "visit a billion blogs" but I always admired you for that. I started to find the more I visited and commented on other's blogs, the more visits I got on my own too. It's a great way to start out...

    but as you've noted, once you get a few, you ahve to do more to keep them coming, to get them to recommend or tweet to others.

    Personally, I've gotten my followers (more aptly, visitors...) due to my sharing of Annabelle's story. My blog quickly became more of updating everyone on my daughter and sharing my struggles and journey with having a heart baby. I gained followers from other heart Mom's, and others put Annabelle's story on their blogs as a link to pray for her, including the lead singer of a well-known Christian band who had a baby with a heart defect similar to Annabelle's.

    I gotta be honest though. While I get 600 to 1000 hits a day now (vs my 500 hits a month before..) I would trade every single one of those for a healthy baby. It is no longer about building my platform or blog readers, but about prayers for Annabelle and about bringing God glory through our frustrations. Puts a ton of things into perspective!

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  34. All of your points are excellent, but the one that stands out the most (In the case of your blog)is your relevant content. You actually write what people want to read. Keep it up!

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  35. Thanks for this post, Jody -- it's exactly what I need to read right now. The process is very slow...I get frustrated because I do want to increase my numbers overnight, to "prove" to a publisher that I can sell books. But as you point out, it just doesn't work that way. Thanks for setting my head on straight again!

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  36. Krista brought up another great point--and that is reaching out to others particularly when you're new at blogging or twitter. When I first started my blog, before I had an agent or book contract, I made an effort to visit other blogs and get to know people. Those writers are now some of my closest friends. That's one of the best ways initally to start to meet other writers. Visit other blogs, introduce yourself, follow and befriend others generously, and you'll make a friend (or many) in return.

    Krista, unfortunately, I'm unable to visit other blogs on a regular basis now. My other writing responsiblities have escalated to the point where it's hard to keep up with the juggling of writing one book while editing another and making marketing plans for another! It was hard to let the blog-hopping go, but I know I can't do it and remain sane!

    So, I try to pop around when I have a quick minute here or there, but I just can't visit everyone. But I still love you all! :-)

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  37. These are some very good points.

    One thing I notice when I hear some bloggers express frustration over their lack of followers or comments or even just visits is that their blogs aren't the most accessible. Either there is a font that is difficult to read or content that isn't relevant or something else that is keeping readers away.

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  38. Jody, I totally understand, and I think that is normal and right! I think it's a good way to GAIN a following... but it is your good blog writing with awesome content that keeps people coming back to your blog. It's like a restaurant... you can get your name out there and give away coupons and market like crazy at first, and if you have good food, those people will keep coming back. If you have stinky food, eventually no amount of marketing will help! *grin*

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  39. I admit it: I want a magic pill. And while I'm at the drugstore, I'll also take some magic pills for thin thighs and bestselling novels.

    You think it's hard work,heh? Think I can get a pill for that too?

    :)

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  40. Great advice! I shall be back for more!

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  41. Another wonderful blog post, Jody! Now that my blog is off the ground (whew!), it's time to look at gaining an audience and you have fantastic timing as usual. I definitely think that you should take credit for the 95% of your blog's popularity and, for me, so much of it is because of your great content. Rachelle and other can point readers to your site, but the content keep them there and keeps them coming back for more. Thank you for sharing your personal strategies for growing your following and then keeping them; you've given us some solid advice here. And, as always, thank you for all that you do to help the writers in your community.

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  42. Terrific post. I especially agree with #10. It is hard work. But it's also fun work. I learn a lot about writing that I don't realize I already know until I'm suddenly blogging about it. And the connections I make are fantastic. I've never felt so immediately at home in a writing community. Thanks for your part in that as well. :-) Looking forward to reading your next post!

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  43. I enjoy reading your posts because of the content (I always learn something) and the sincerity that shines through. I'm still finding my way with my blog and the whole social media thing. I'm veering away from blog posts for authors and trying to make my blog more relevant to readers. I feel more comfortable there, perhaps because I've always been an avid reader but don't have any sense that I have to be an 'expert' reader whereas I do feel pressure to be an 'expert' when it comes to writing about writing.

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  44. Excellent advice as always--thanks for all that you do. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  45. Hi! I'm a new visitor to your blog. I am currently working on trying to better my blog and appreciate all you had to say along with everyone's comments. You have a lot of great information, thank you for sharing it with us.

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