Friday, June 11, 2010

On Following

Do you use google's "follow" feature? How do you decide which blogs to follow? When you follow a blog, do you mean it? Have you ever "followed" a blog and not really followed a blog? Does clicking "follow" really mean you'll be back? How do you prefer to keep up with a blog? A feed reader? An email subscription? A blogroll? (I'll admit it, I prefer the blogroll. If I really want to keep up with a blog, I'll add it to my blogroll.)

I am going to admit something. I don't *love* google's follow feature. Perhaps that isn't quite the right word. I don't *trust* the follow feature. How many followers are actual readers? How often do followers actually read your blog on a daily, weekly basis? How many followers sign up to be followers so they can have a chance of winning something? How many followers follow so they can be followed in return? Does anyone ever follow out of pity or obligation? Be honest.

So I don't necessarily trust the number of followers a blog has. I don't think that number really matters. Because I think there are plenty of readers it is missing. (Readers who may or may not be counted in other ways statistically.) Readers who visit your blog. Readers who read your posts through email or through another reader. Readers who click through your blog roll. Or someone else's blog roll for that matter. The truth of the matter is, I have a hard time trusting numbers in general. Yes, you can find a number to see how many are subscribed this way or that. You can count the number of times your page has been loaded, and how many "unique" visitors your site has had. But you can't know for sure that those numbers represent real people who are genuinely reading your posts, who are appreciating what you do. (In my opinion, people matter, numbers don't. I don't think of a reader as a number.)

So is counting comments a better way of guessing how many readers a blog has? In a way. Comments let you know that there are some readers out there who care enough to leave a comment. But it is only part of the story. Because leaving comments takes time. Time that readers may not have that day, that week, that month. Also, there are times you read a post, like a post, maybe even love a post--but for whatever reason don't leave a comment. (Sometimes you bookmark a post with the idea that you'll come back to it later and comment.) (And some people read regularly and never comment.) And not all posts are comment-worthy. Meaning some lend themselves better to leaving comments. Sure, you can leave "great review" or "I want to read that" comments. (Or even "worst book ever" or "why oh why did my teacher assign this book" comments.) But comments aren't everything either. And it would not be good to depend so much on comments that you worry no one loves you reads your blog anymore because there are posts that haven't received a comment.

Personally, I think you have to take some things on faith. If you blog well, you'll find an audience. You'll find an audience that loves what you do, that wants what you have to offer. You'll find an audience that welcomes and supports you. Would you really blog all that differently if your blog jumped from 100 to 300 followers? How about 300 to 600? Maybe you would. Maybe you wouldn't. I don't know. I can't answer that question for you. Would having a GIGANTIC following mean more pressure, more stress, more guilt for you? Would you feel like you're letting your readers down if you don't post? Would feeling obligated to post take some of the fun out of it? I can't say.

I believe in being the best you can be--though without stress, without guilt--no matter the size of your readership.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

25 comments:

One Womans Thoughts 11:27 PM  

An interesting topic. I read through blogs and it seems like they have a lot of followers, although it appears like an updated family journal with daily activities and lots of photos of kids, family and friends. Nothing wrong with that. But is can seem like I am an uninvited guess into a families life.
I really enjoy read blogs that move me somehow. That ask a question or that share a personal experience. I love a blog that educates me or touches my heart. A stirring of emotion is my desire. Artistic intensity for the heart, mind and soul if you will.

Julie P 11:52 PM  

I can really relate to your post, Becky. I always watch my follower number, but to me following is more than just clicking the button. Personally, for all blogs I follow, I read them every day. Sometimes it is late, and if I am running late I do skim through and only thoroughly read the reviews and posts that really pique my interest, but the point is that I watch the blogs I follow every day. Also I try to make it a point to comment as much as I can. I love getting comments myself, so I try to treat other bloggers the way I would like to be treated!

Gregory K. 1:27 AM  

I've never "followed" a blog. I subscribe via my reader (and a few, I've realized, by email. Huh.). I like being able to read things on my terms: I have time, I read. And I truly do read everything I subscribe to... though often only a sentence or two (and occasionally I clear the queue!). If I stop being interested, I unsubscribe - it's not personal, it's just that I'm not reading!

The true number of readers is an elusive one to find, and likely meaningless anyway. But at least it's a measurable metric. Comments are much harder - some of the poems in this year's 30 Poets/30 Days were seen by 2,000+ people and got a small handful of comments; others got 20+; random posts, at times, can get more. It's not consistent or a good measure of anything other than that one post, I suspect.

And I agree strongly with your final point - if you know why you're blogging and you're having fun doing it, the size of the readership doesn't matter (unless a big readership is your why!).

Anonymous,  4:01 AM  

"To be frank, the "follow" feature is just a matter of convenience for me because at a glance I can see the new updates to a blog that I like.

Personally, numbers are just a type of measurement and it shouldn't even matter if you are doing what you like, sharing your thoughts or even getting something out of your system.

People come back because they find some value in your post and can relate to it.
At the end of the day it's all about being yourself...

alexandra george 5:20 AM  

oh Becky thank you so much for this post! it was such an encouragement to me, because i worry very much when i don't get any comments that my blog sucks.... i will try to be more positive. and i totally agree with what you said about 'following' a blog. i generally follow only blogs that interest me, but i also think that following a blog as well as the comments are a way to encourage its author. thanks again for your thoughts.

Debi 6:52 AM  

Becky, you are such a classy woman. :D I think you're right...you just have to take some things on faith.

I've been horrendous at commenting everywhere lately. But I hope you've taken it on faith that I'm still reading, because I have been all along, and can't imagine ever stopping. And yes, this seems like as good a time as any to thank you again for all you do, Becky!

Anonymous,  7:34 AM  

I'm with Gregory in that I don't follow either. I put them in my reader. Blog reading has pretty much replaced my morning newspaper reading! I try and comment when I think a post is particularly well written or if I've read the book that has been reviewed or if the post is initiating a dialogue - like this one.

Commenting, for me, takes a fair amount of time. I try not to comment for the sake of commenting. But it is a way of letting the blog host know that you're out there. There's a blog hop going on right now and Lee Wind hosted a comment challenge some six months ago. Those are fun ways of finding new blogs. I've also found some new blogs through the mailbox postings.

I blog for myself. I keep track of all the books that I read through it. It still surprises and delights me when I receive a comment or someone (like the vp at another school in my district) tells me he reads my blog.

I rarely enter contests. All these extra points for this or that confuse me. I have well over a hundred blogs in my feeder, so I do skim. If the entry doesn't grab me immediately, I might pass. If I'm not interested in the book, I pass. But that's what I do when I read the newspapers (I still subscribe to the real thing) or news in my reader.

You're right not to get too caught up in the numbers game. Have fun; keep reading and keep posting! Thanks!

Brenda

Anonymous,  7:34 AM  

I'm with Gregory in that I don't follow either. I put them in my reader. Blog reading has pretty much replaced my morning newspaper reading! I try and comment when I think a post is particularly well written or if I've read the book that has been reviewed or if the post is initiating a dialogue - like this one.

Commenting, for me, takes a fair amount of time. I try not to comment for the sake of commenting. But it is a way of letting the blog host know that you're out there. There's a blog hop going on right now and Lee Wind hosted a comment challenge some six months ago. Those are fun ways of finding new blogs. I've also found some new blogs through the mailbox postings.

I blog for myself. I keep track of all the books that I read through it. It still surprises and delights me when I receive a comment or someone (like the vp at another school in my district) tells me he reads my blog.

I rarely enter contests. All these extra points for this or that confuse me. I have well over a hundred blogs in my feeder, so I do skim. If the entry doesn't grab me immediately, I might pass. If I'm not interested in the book, I pass. But that's what I do when I read the newspapers (I still subscribe to the real thing) or news in my reader.

You're right not to get too caught up in the numbers game. Have fun; keep reading and keep posting! Thanks!

Brenda

Michele at Reader's Respite 7:40 AM  

Love this post, Becky. To be honest, I took down my "followers" gidget/gadget thingy a long time ago. Hope it didn't inconvenience anyone, but I figured if someone wanted to subscribe, they'd just use their feed reader to do so. I think the follwers feature is a little silly (mostly when people make you "follow" them for a book giveaway thing). The numbers aren't reliable and are easily inflated, although I'm not sure how that is a useful thing for people.

Comments are always more reliable. Like Alexandra noted, comments are the way to encourage a blog author to keep it up! And even though I think we all go through periods where we're reading more than commenting, that's where the faith part comes in. :)

My newest venture has been to find blogs that don't have many "followers" and comment on their blogs. I always root for the "little guys"...and there are some great newer blogs out there, too. :)

Elizabeth 8:00 AM  

I really enjoyed this post, Becky. When the "following" feature first came out, I thought it was just another thing to show how many "friends" a blog had. I kept up with the blogs I wanted to follow via my blogroll, where I can see the title of a post and an image. But as my life outside of blogging has gotten busier, I find myself turning to the blogs I follow more and more, because there I can see the first few sentences of a post. I check it every day, and that gives me more time to read posts that really interest me, instead of just exploring via a post title.
I also go through the blogs I follow every once in a while and delete those I don't visit, so there's less to scroll through on my daily check-in.
I've noticed that since I've been writing more book reviews I get fewer comments, but I have more followers and most are book blogs.

Tara (The Bodacious Pen) 9:01 AM  

I found your blog via the bloggiesta feed, and I'm glad I stumbled upon it. I agree about "following". Sure, I admit I do see how many followers a blog has, but I agree with what you've said. It's not always representative of who's really reading the blog. I have people who follow me who I'm sure aren't reading my posts because they'll pop by on a weekly "blog hop" post and act like they've never seen my blog before.

I figure perhaps 15% of those following me actually take the time to comment and read my posts, and I'm okay with that.

Donna 9:07 AM  

I was never big on follower numbers, simply because so many people shill for them. They have contests where it's required to be a follower to enter or you get bonus points for being a follower (I admit I do that but it's only one additional point on top of the initial entry). It is a disingenuous number.

I think all of the stats need to be averaged together. Followers alone mean nothing. Blog hits alone mean nothing. Comments alone mean nothing. But lump them all together and you get a pretty good idea of what your reader activity really looks like. For instance I have 100 unique hits to my site a day. The average time on my site is about 2:30. That time spent means more to me than the numbers because it means people are reading what I write instead of hopping away quickly.

I reciprocate a follow and add the blog to my blog roll. I don't use Google reader or anything like that simply because I don't have the time to sit down and read through all of those blogs. I scan my blog roll and see if anyone posted anything of interest and I go from there.

Carrie 9:19 AM  

i wrote a big post about how i use my feedreader just a couple days ago. basically i follow anyone i might want to come back to (and if i decide i'm truly not interested i later unfollow) but with so many crazy layouts, i actually find it easier to read blogs in my feed reader so if i want to try someone out i'll follow so i can get their most recent posts into my reader

Mel 9:47 AM  

I do follow most blogs in google, but the ones that are my high priority, the ones I want to read regularly are the ones that I follow through RSS feeds--like yours. You will find me on your google list, just because I think that is a courtesy that you have an idea that I am at least familiar with your blog. But most of the posts are read through RSS unless I feel like commenting. You are right about comments though, I read a lot, and comment little because time is an issue.

This is an excellent post, and a subject I have been pondering a lot recently.

Annette Laing 10:46 AM  

I'm a hopeless attention hog, and my blog and my personal newsletter are very badly neglected these days because writing it felt like shouting into a void... But then I meet readers who enjoy what I write, but just don't comment, often out of shyness. Upshot: I try to comment whenever I can on blogs, because I know how frustrating it is not to hear applause! Thanks for the thoughtful remarks, Becky.

Anonymous,  12:12 PM  

Thanks so much for this post. This is something I have been tossing around in my mind too but was afraid to say it. I follow people but I also subscribe cause its easier to get the updates in the reader.

Great thoughts, thanks for sharing them.

Gwen 1:42 PM  

I don't really let any of it get me in a tizzy. My goal was just to make it easy to keep up with me no matter what way is easiest for you. (the reader)

If I had my way, I would ditch the whole google follower thing because I think it makes my blog look cluttered and it is a pain to manage as a reader. Regular RSS feeds are much easier to deal with, at least to me.

Josette 7:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jehara 3:20 PM  

I don't follow very many blogs. Others I have on my blogroll. But if I choose to follow a blog then I follow it. I check in daily or at the end of the week if I'm too busy. But I do read.

Annette 6:53 PM  

Hello Becky! Great post!
As you probably know 1-2 times a month I visit all the blog's that I follow then create a post called Roundabout listing all those blog's that I found that were noteworthy.
I read on my blogger reader almost everyday and comment often. I also try and comment back to all those who comment on my blog's.
Even when I only had 1 follower I still blogged, now my blog's are gaining more followers it does make me sometimes a little nervous, probably because I want to do a good deed by my blog's--I consider it a challenge.
Blogging is certainly more than a hobby, it is a large task, but one I feel is my ministry.
I drop those blog's that were in my reader when they stop posting, say after 6 months to a year of no activity. I also have dropped blog's because I do not like their content.
This community is growing! It is such a pleasure to meet those who have a love for reading as I do, and also to meet authors and publishers.
A few blogger's have become good friends such as you Becky. That is a wonderful thing!

Elisabeth 12:49 PM  

great topic! I've wondered the same thing because according to my google profile, I only follow a handful of blogs. However, I have three or four times that many in my reader that I've added by hand. While officially I only have 10 "followers" according to Google, I know that I have many more than that based on people who comment. I can't remember who was doing a survey recently & asked how many followers I had & I had no way of answering that with confidence!

Again, great post & great discussion.

Jeane 3:23 PM  

I've never used the "follow" feature. I got so comfortable with the google feedreader and like how it's all set up, so why add another system to my blogging? Sometimes I wonder how many followers actually read a blog, especially when I see ones with crazy-high numbers. Also, I find it annoying when contests require you to be a follower in order to enter. It seems like just begging for followers.

melissa @ 1lbr 5:25 PM  

I'm with you on this. I really only use RSS feed to follow blogs, though there are some I follow with google friend connect. Very few. And they are almost always ones I started following because of a contest and just decided I liked enough to keep following. Now I don't follow someone for a contest unless I actually want to read their posts. I finally put my followers up on my blog because I found there were a handful of people who had managed to follow me even without the button visible. I figure if they really want to, that's how they can follow. It does make me feel less-awesome when I see how low the number is, but I'm working on not really caring. :)

Anonymous,  5:11 PM  

I don't follow blogs with the "follow" feature, but I do follow blogs. I either hop to blogs I like from other blogs I like that have them listed on a blogroll, or I have the address memorized enough that I can find it again. I usually make the rounds pretty often on my favorite blogs, and I rarely leave comments.(I almost didn't leave this one, but I thought about it and made an effort to find this post... :) I won't read a full review on book blogs if I don't think the book would interest me, but I do keep coming back to see the next review. Personally, I think that the number of posts you do here is amazing.

Bobbie 12:47 PM  

Hello! Just letting you know that you have been featured here: http://tilwereadagain.blogspot.com/2010/06/book-bloggy-happenings-4.html

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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