*Warning: Monster advice post ahead! If it was epic poetry, it would probably rival Beowulf.
Also, I’m on vacation right now, so I may not be quick to comment back.
Who wants more followers?
Sometimes, I feel like actively trying to gain followers is a blogger’s dirty little secret, carefully hidden. Perhaps the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy works for some blogs and they magically gain thousands of followers, but that’s not the case for most people, including me. In reality, gaining followers requires a lot of time and hard work. Since I’ve gained a pretty respectable amount of followers in the past year (Come on…just 21 till 1000!), I thought I would offer a little advice for those of you who are interested.
Why try to gain followers?
Those who dismiss the idea of actively working to increase a blog’s readership have valid reasons. Blogging is about the community and about quality reviews/discussion of books. If your blog only does things that are geared towards garnering followers like host giveaways or meme posts rather than substantive content, your readership will suffer. I don’t think having lots of followers is worth it if you aren’t saying anything of value.
On the other hand, do you need lots of followers? Of course not. You can have a fabulous blog with well-written, thoughtful reviews and only a small number of devoted fans. Your blog will be just as worthy as the bigger guys.
I’m trying (rightly or wrongly) to be one of the big guys – to have quality content and lots of followers. Partly because being larger garners more attention from authors and publishers, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like review copies. But mostly because it enables me to be a bigger part of the blogging community. I love that my reviews now regularly get 10+ comments. I love that a lot of bloggers know me and I know them. I feel like part of something. And feeling like you belong is just about the best feeling in the world.
Here are a few ideas I think will help to increase the number of followers for your blog:
1) Blog Hops: I participate in Parajunkee and Crazy for Books’ Hops every week. This is where I’ve found most of my followers (along with In My Mailbox). On weekends when I don’t have much to do (which is most of the time), I allocate several hours to commenting on almost all of the people in the hops. This is a great way to say hi to old friends and to find tons of new blogs. I don’t just copy and paste a generic comment on each blog – I read every single post and try to create a unique response. It’s a lot of work, but I appreciate people who take the time to thoughtfully respond to my hop posts and I assume other bloggers do as well. I have a system down where I can do all this pretty efficiently. I can’t recommend enough the value of the Blog Hops for exposing your blog to the wider community.
2) Memes: This is a huge category. There are so many memes out there that you could do multiple ones every day and your blog could consist of nothing but. Memes are one of the best ways to get your blog out there. I recommend picking a few that you like, but not so many that they dominate your blog. Try to visit as many other blogs participating in the same meme as you can and comment on their posts. Also, don’t just do a meme because everyone else does or because you think it’s necessary to gain followers. I recently dropped Waiting on Wednesday from my blog. It had become a chore that I only did, because it was “expected” of book bloggers. On the other hand, I love In My Mailbox and the Hops and look forward to reading people’s posts all week.
3) Comments: Another big one. The more you comment, the more people will return your visit. And I mean a substantive comment. Not just “Hi, my blog is…” or “Great review.” Something that shows you read the post. Honestly, commenting is something I still need to work on. I try to return comments and to comment on a variety of blogs, but I still don’t get to nearly enough. That’s due to both lack of time and laziness. Another note, some people really dislike it when bloggers leave a link to their blog in a comment – it’s viewed as spam. The blog hops and meme posts are an exception to this. I actually would prefer that you leave a link to your blog in a comment – as long as you aren’t only advertising your blog. It’s a lot easier for me to get to your blog quickly that way.
4) Content: If you want devoted followers, the content has to be there. Memes are fine, but the majority of your blog should be devoted to reviews and discussion posts. The reviews should be thorough and well-written. As you can tell from this post, I have a tendency to be overly wordy. My reviews might be too long sometimes, but I try give a lot of information to my readers.
5) Unique Voice: I’m plus/minus about this. Having a unique blogging approach can either really attract people or really turn them off. I think blogs that are extremely well-written or are extremely funny without being insulting are special and highly attractive. But I don’t think that’s necessary to have a large readership. In fact, some of the biggest blogs have (in my opinion) very ordinary writing styles. The only must-haves for me are correct grammar and spelling (for the most post) and reviews that are thorough enough to tell me whether I should read the book.
6) Consistency: This is somewhat subjective, but you should have enough posts that people remember you. I post 5-6 times per week. I think 3 would suffice. You can do whatever works for you of course, but to have a major blog, I think you should have at least 3 posts per week. If you’re busy, you can schedule posts. I’m actually on vacation right now, but I have posts scheduled all week.
7) Blog Design Make sure your blog is legible! Use a standard font. A light background and dark text is easier to read than the opposite. I don’t think a professionally designed blog is necessary, but it helps. My blog got more attention and was more memorable when I had it re-designed. On another note, please put the GFC Follower widget at the top of your page – right or left side. Don’t make me have to work to follow you. Also, please, please no music! I love reading people’s playlists, but I don’t want to be forced to listen to them or flip through the entire blog to turn off the sound on the widget. I’d prefer that people didn’t put up book widgets with sound either (I’m so glad the Crescendo widget is finally gone). Just a pet-peeve of mine.
8) Blog Name: This isn’t a big deal, but it’s something to think of. I’m a moderator at the Book Blogger Directory. I’ve entered dozens of blog names onto the list. There are so many blogs that start with “Books” or “Read(ing)” for pretty obvious reasons. Nothing wrong with that, but they do start to bleed together after awhile. I even found two blog using the same name. My blog name is nothing special (and it does contain the word “read”), but it has the advantage of starting with an “A,” putting it at the top of an alphabetical list. I’d recommend a blog name that stands out, although nothing so weird that it sounds ridiculous.
9) Giveaways: Everyone loves free stuff. As fun as giveaways are, I would not rely on them to increase my follower count. I’ve never gotten more than a handful of new followers from a giveaway. Perhaps it would be different if I gave away really high-demand books though. I would do giveaways if you want to do them, but don’t rely on them as your ticket toward blog growth.
10) Author Interviews/Tours: These are loads of fun. They’re a great way to get your name out there and have people visit your blog who normally wouldn’t. That being said, I’ve never gained more than a few followers from an author feature. Like giveaways, it’s worth doing, but not for the purpose of gaining followers.
11) Reciprocity: I follow you, you follow me. Some people carefully select the blogs they follow. I follow pretty much everyone. Then I choose more carefully with of those blogs I regularly read. No right or wrong – just a personal choice.
12) Time: This one is fairly obvious. You’re not going to become a large blog overnight. Most publishers and tours won’t take you seriously until 6 months, regardless of follower count. There are very few blogs that can hit 1000+ followers in less than a year. It happens, but I can only think of one offhand. I’ll probably be right around the 12 month mark when I hit 1000.
13) Work: Gaining followers is a lot of work. I spent a lot of time – hours and hours – every week commenting and networking. Plus writing reviews and blog posts. It takes up the majority of my free time, actually. Unless you’re really well-organized or lucky, it’s going to take many hours of labor to become a larger blog. It’s worth it to me and I have the time, but a lot of people just don’t have a huge amount of time to dedicate to blogging.
14) Have Fun!: Ultimately, you should blog your way. Definitely try to have a large readership if you want to, but don’t make it the be all-end all. No one makes much money from book blogging, so you should focus on the fun aspect rather than the marketing aspect. If the effort to gain followers has you changing your blog in ways you don’t like or spending too much time blogging, then don’t do it. If there’s something on your blog that you love that isn’t very popular, keep doing it. For example, my Manga Mondays has much lower traffic and comments than other posts, but I love doing it and will take a few less readers on Mondays. Also, I definitely spend a huge amount of time blogging, but I have a great time. When that changes, the blog will either disappear or change.
What are your thoughts? What have you done to increase your blog’s readership? Is it important to you?