Day 6 of the A-Z challenge.
F is for Followers
“How do I get other bloggers and readers to follow my site?” This is a question I get asked a lot.
It’s a burning issue for new bloggers like Amanda Llwyd, a crime fiction blogger at The Butler Did It (a clever blog title). Amanda responded to my Twitter question about the biggest challenges facing book bloggers.
Even seasoned bloggers sometimes get frustrated when they see other bloggers leap ahead with follower numbers in the thousands.
It’s understandable. You’ve spent hours carefully crafting that book review or a list of favourite books. But no-one seems to be listening.
I’ve asked myself the question about how to increase my following many times over in the eight years I’ve been blogging.
Today, I’m going to share with you some of the insights I’ve gathered about how to build a follower base.
1. Go Beyond Content
The answer is that it takes effort. Becoming a successful blogger with a substantial number of followers can take years.
You do need to offer interesting, informative and entertaining material otherwise there is no reason for anyone to visit your site. The more popular the genre you write about, the bigger your potential readership will be
But content alone isn’t going to get you very far.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking: “If I write it, then people will come and read it.” Potential readers won’t know you exist unless you tell them. You can’t rely on Google and other search engines to do the job for you – until you have developed a good readership, you won’t figure high enough up the search results pages to make any difference.
2. Engage, Engage, Engage
Readers don’t find you. You need to find them.
To gain a following it’s essential to engage extensively in the blogging community. Actively seek out bloggers who are in the same niche area and build up a relationship with them. Commenting on their blogs will bring you to the attention of the blogger and to their readers.
Make sure your comment has substance – simply clicking “like” won’t have any impact; nor will comment like “nice review” or “interesting”. You want to show in your comment that you’ve actually read the content of the post.
The more you comment, the more your visibility will grow. Over time you’ll find that the bloggers you are following, begin to follow you in return.
How much time should you allocate to engagement?
I’ve seen recommendations from some blogging experts that you should spend as much as a third of your available blogging time on engagement. The remaining time is then split equally between content creation and promotion via your chosen social media channels.
Christian Mikhail from The Art of Blogging, has a different recommendation. He suggests using the interval between blog posts to build your interaction levels. Let’s say you blog on alternate days. Christian’s advice would be to adopt this pattern:
Day 1 you create and publish new content
Day 2, you engage with other bloggers. not just a few people, but scores.
You repeat the sequence over again
This approach applies even if you are not publishing on alternate days. If you publish say every three days, you still use day 1 to create content but now you use days 2 and 3 to connect.
How do you find bloggers in your space?
Well you could do a Google search but you’re likely to get overwhelmed by the number of hits. Out of curiosity I did a search for “historical fiction book blogs” . Wading through all those 8,000 plus results would be an arduous task.
A search for “literary fiction book blogs” is slightly less daunting. But still represents a sizeable amount of effort.
An easier way to find like-minded bloggers would be to use the tools available in your blogging platform.
In WordPress for example the “Reader” screen gives you the ability to search for relevant blogs using “tags”. If you’re not sure what they are, think of them being like topics. This tutorial will explain them in more detail.
In the navigation bar on the left (shown below) click on ‘tags’ and then add the name of a topic.
It could be a tag that you use on your own blog. So for example, if you focus on historical fiction, put that into the “add a tag” box and click “add”. Your main screen will now be filled with blog posts where the blogger has used that tag.
It’s now a question of reviewing those suggested blogs and deciding which to follow.
3. Be Easy To Follow
If you want people to follow you, you need to make it easy for them to do so.
Check that you have a “Follow” or “Follow by Email” widget clearly visible on your home page. These instructions will help you find and add the right widgets.
4. Promote, Promote, Promote
Your job as a blogger isn’t done when you hit the publish button. It’s only just the beginning. You then need to actively market that content you’ve sweated hours to create.
If you look at the most successful bloggers you’ll see they are people who are very, very busy “off blog”. They’re prolific Tweeters, Instagrammers and Facebookers, sharing their content throughout the day. They’re also interacting with other users of that channel. It’s all geared to building visibility and driving traffic back to their blog.
Does that mean you have to be visible on all social media channels?
Absolutely not. In fact it’s better to pick just one initially and really get to know how it works rather than scattering yourself across multiple channels. You can always add another channel once you’ve got to grips with the first one.
Which channel should you pick? The answer is – as so often – it depends. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest have different advantages and benefits but only you can decide which works best for your needs. It might just be a matter of personal preference. If you’re a creative person, Instagram and Pinterest could be more to your taste than say Twitter which is more word-oriented.
Whichever platform you choose and how much time you decide to allocate to engagement, just remember one thing:
There is no magic formula for blogging success. It takes dedicated effort to get the results you want. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.