If you’re a blogger, do you want to build your following?
I’m guessing that 99.9% of bloggers would answer that question with a resounding YES. Most of us check our stat counter and visitor statistics religiously. We keep track of every new follower and throw parties when we reach milestones (like 100 followers or 1000). And we have good or bad days depending upon the number of comments we get.
Okay, so maybe we’re not that bonkers over building our followings. But the fact is, whether we're a writer or not, we crave genuine connections on our blogs. We’re relational people. And so when we put ourselves out there, we long for a response, for someone to take notice, to care, to communicate back.
Recently I had a couple of emails asking me how I built my blog following, questions like:
“I hold your blog as one of the best examples out there. How do you do it? I find it extremely hard to generate content for my own blog. Do you have any advice for starting down the long road of building an online presence?”
“I hear people mention you and your success and how you had a built-in audience when you finally published your books. I was wondering if you had any tips for building a blog readership? How long had you been blogging before you got an agent and published your first books?”
So how did I do it? How did I build my blog following?
Of course, everyone’s blogging journey will be different (just like our writing journeys will be unique). But I think there are some basic principles that can help any blogger connect with other bloggers (and subsequently find more fulfillment in the blogging experience).
Here’s what I did early in my blogging career:
1. Start blogging well before publication. I began blogging months before I had an agent or book contract. Thus I had plenty of time to build genuine relationships. My followers didn’t have to worry that I was blogging to sell them anything.
2. Actively seek others out and mingle. I didn’t sit back and wait for people to come to me. I made a point of sticking out the hand of friendship to others. I followed the links of bloggers in comments of more popular blogs I was reading (especially people whose comments indicated they might be someone I’d like to get to know). I went to their sites, started reading their posts, and took the initiative.
3. Comment regularly. Whenever I visited a blog, I tried to leave a thoughtful comment that would let the person know I was genuinely interested in what they had to say. Over time, they would get to know me and often would come visit my blog in return.
4. Follow others generously. Most blogs I visited, I signed up to follow. I figured it was supportive to that blogger. And even if they didn’t follow me back, I still was getting my name and avatar into a variety of places where others might see me and follow the link back to my blog.
5. Schedule time for visiting other blogs. During my early blogging days, I’d allot 30 minutes to an hour for reading and commenting on other blogs. After I got busier, I’d usually try to reciprocate visits to those who regularly visited me, or new visitors, or hard core followers. The important thing was that I scheduled blog-hopping and made a point of keeping in contact with followers on a regular basis.
6. Post on your own blog consistently. I also tried to post interesting, thought-provoking, or helpful posts to my readers. I made sure people knew my schedule and I stayed consistent. I also have always kept my name, author photo, and contact information clearly visible. In other words, I’ve tried to maintain a professional but warm appeal to my blog.
So that’s my story for building my blog following. Of course, now that I’ve been blogging for a number of years and have built a solid foundation, the techniques I currently employ in my blogging are very different from when I first started (but that’s the making of a future post!).
How about you? What’s been the most difficult aspect for you as you’ve tried to build your blog following?