April's come and gone, and I'm onto a whole other challenge. However, I wanted to take advantage of the reflection post to share some insights that I had from this year's A to Z, which are probably super obvious but maybe important for us to remember.
Blogging works better if you read what other people have written and leave a comment.
Yeah. Super obvious, right? I think I'm fairly safe in saying that most people who blog want to get some kind of interaction out of it. I assume that if you wanted your posts to get zero attention, you would write them in your private journal and keep them private.
Maybe less obvious is that we are doing a funny thing here, we bloggers: we're building a social network out of individual sites that are not necessarily interlinked. We're linking ourselves up by hand. This is, in part, why A to Z is so great: because it provides a list of random people who are looking to network and who share an interest in blogging and maybe little else but possibly a whole lot else and you'll figure that out as you go along. Yeah. That is a long sentence.
Blogging works better if you link to other blogs in some way, add them to your reader, subscribe via email, or find some other way to stay in touch.
When we're not presented with a list like the one A to Z offers, we can sometimes go a long while without meeting new bloggers. I'm as guilty as anyone of failing to follow back, or really liking someone's blog and then forgetting to track it. I will follow you if you follow me and I will also most likely stick you in my sidebar so that I don't lose you in the morass that is my RSS reader. Develop routines around making sure you'll come again if you like someone's blog. (If you followed me and I didn't follow back, it was accidental, or because you didn't leave me with a way to find you, but more about that in a second.)
Find a way to repeat visit other blogs, and do so from time to time. Check in on your new friends and make a point of seeing how they are doing on an ongoing basis.
Blogger has a widget called "Blogroll." You can use it to make a list of people you know you want to revisit, or that you want to encourage others to visit. People enjoy being part of your blogroll. I always love seeing my name on someone else's blog.
If it seems that it is hard for others to find you, maybe it is! Make it easier.
This is an important issue. Have you left a comment on another's site, or followed them, but never received a return visit? There may be a reason for that. This is especially tricky for we Blogger users. Some of you new followers who recently joined my lists do not have a link to your site under your Blogger profile. I can click on your follower icon, and see only a list of blogs you've followed. Likewise, you might leave a comment, but clicking on your name leads me to an empty Blogger profile. To check this, leave a comment at someone else's site, then click on your name and see what information comes up. If you don't have a link back to your blog, no one can find you.
Another way to make it easy for people to follow you back is to leave a link in your comments. (If you already know how to do this, obviously this is not for you. This is for people like me who had to figure it out.)
I do this most of the time now and you should too. Under whatever brilliant comment you have to share, paste in this code:
Put your actual URL and your actual blog title or name in the spaces where it says to do that. The code I leave looks like this:
After you hit Publish or Comment or Post or whatever, it will magically transform into this:
Elizabeth Twist: Writer, Plague Enthusiast
I type the code out in a word processor or notepad, and have it ready to cut and paste any time I leave a comment. It is also handy if you want to link to another site in your comments - just substitute the URL and the description for anything you want.
Bottom line: you get what you give.
I'm focusing on this issue because too often I see bloggers complaining that it is hard to build an audience. My question is, how many blogs have you followed? How many do you promote in your sidebar or via your blogroll? How many comments do you leave in a day or a week? Are you friendly? A to Z reminds us that all of these activities are crucial to building an audience. To build an audience, you have to be part of one.