The Blogging From A to Z April Challenge has a history--a very short history. I have posted about this on March 27th in my blog post where I first suggested this challenge and in a follow-up post on Monday March 29th. You can go back to read these posts if you want to recapture some of the initial spirit that inspired the Challenge and see exactly what little promotion went into convincing our mighty band of bloggers into participating in the Challenge. It was one of those things that literally seemed to come together almost overnight.
As unsavory as it may sound to some of you, the Challenge was about followers--not completely, and I'll explain that later, but I also have to be totally honest. My whole reason for proposing the Challenge was to celebrate my 200th follower. At the beginning of this year when I had reached 100 followers, I set a goal of reaching 200 by April 1st. Note that I had named April Fool's Day as my target day so in a way I was being whimsical in that I did not seriously think I was going to accomplish it. However, as the date approached I realized that it actually was going to happen and I made an active networking push to make sure it happened.
There is a tradition of celebration for many bloggers when they reach milestone numbers of followers. I didn't want to do a contest like a giveaway or drawing or anything like that because quite frankly they don't interest me that much. Instead I wanted to do a showy blog challenge that I could invite others to do with me--it did not take long to come up with Blogging A to Z. I proposed the idea on a Saturday blog post, when I normally have less readers, and indicated that I would be making an official announcement on my Monday post, when readership is usually the highest. Yvonne at Welcome to My World of Poetry was the first to accept the challenge. By the end of the day of that Saturday post I could see that there was some definite interest in doing this challenge.
I decided that it might be nice to get the participation of 20 or 25 bloggers in total, but I would have to do some work to get that. Before the Monday post showed up I began networking to some of the more prolific bloggers that I follow to tell them to check my Saturday post and watch for my Monday announcement. One thing led to another as word began to spread. By the April 1st start date over 70 bloggers had come on board to participate, and eventually 90 were on the official blog roll. The real point I want to make is that in order to get the word out I had to actively promote the Challenge with additional help coming from bloggers telling others about it.
Now here's the interesting part of my hosting this challenge. In celebrating having reached 200 followers, during the course of the month of April I gained over 100 additional followers. And for the most part I'm not talking followers who just wanted to win something or who were doing some kind of linky follow thing, but I'm talking about quality reading and commenting followers. Yes, I'm referring to you participants. You are the best kind of followers that any blogger can have--followers who are not just numbers, but followers who are blog friends who care for one another, who read, who comment, and who teach. I will gladly keep ten of you over 100 anonymous followers who will never read or comment on my blog. I think most of you would probably agree with this sentiment.
What does it take to get quality followers like these? The Challenge helped by offering a pool of the right kind of people. But just like blogging in any scenario, if you want the followers you have to work to get them. If you're a well-known literary agent or some high profile personality maybe the followers will come to you without effort. If you do the follow linky days I guess you can accumulate bunches of followers, but are they the quality that you are looking for? If you want followers with whom you can have an actual communicative relationship, then you need to reach out, comment, and become friends. Most of you saw absolute proof of this during the challenge.
You each have your stories to tell and you will be telling some good ones in these Challenge Reflections posts. But I would like to give a couple of standout examples. Yvonne at Welcome to My World of Poetry tells of the years she blogged and never received a comment. Her following grew little by little in that time, but it was a loyal following. Yvonne knows how to comment and keep commenting. She was commenting on my every post prior to the challenge. Right before the challenge Yvonne celebrated 100 followers, and now at the end of the Challenge she is nearing her next hundred. How did that happen? Ask yourself: "Did Yvonne ever comment on my blog?" More than likely she did. Yvonne is an amazing commenter and she has learned the value of networking to make and keep friends. Yvonne is a friend who I, and probably you, want to keep. She was looking for numbers in her followers so she could have readers and she got them.
On the other end we have Bud at B-E-ing Transformed. At the beginning of the challenge Bud expressed his concern about my stressing on amassing blog followers. We had a discussion and came to an understanding of what we were each looking for. Bud was looking for very specific blogging friendships in which he could relate to them and they could appreciate where he was coming from. He found some other bloggers with whom he became very close and began to offer wonderful comments to them--words of encouragement and inspiration, friendly suggestions, delightful humor. I love Bud-- he is a blogger of heart who has made a real connection with others.
I'm sorry that I just can't go on about every one of you like this, but this blog post would become extremely long if I did so. I seriously thought of spending the entire month of May talking about how wonderful each of you were in your own ways. You all have so many gifts and talents that I become overcome with awe that you all took the time to join me on this challenge. I don't have anything planned yet for May except for the Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites post on May 17th, so maybe I can make talking about all of you as my personal May challenge.
As I said earlier, the April Challenge was not just about numbers of followers. Like I have indicated in the previous paragraphs the followers we gained are now our friends. I hope these are relationships that will be maintained and blossom in the months and even years to come. There are not many things on this earth finer than a good friend. We may never meet, though I like to think that one day we might, but at least we can share our experiences and offer support in whatever way we can.
Finally, for me and I know for certain others, the Challenge was about writing. We are all writers in the sense that we are writing our blogs. However certain ones of us are looking at writing as an avocation. We may be building platforms for our career, honing our craft, trying to learn from other writers, or blogging just to talk about our writing projects. Celebrating followers was an excuse for the Challenge. I had already challenged myself to post everyday until September 21st, at which time I would reassess my future blog plans. I wanted to have one year of steady blogging.
Blogging in April from A to Z was just a variant to what I've been doing all along. I formatted the daily blogging into a theme. It was a discipline that integrated some extra creativity. The Challenge was about the craft of writing, the art of staying motivated and motivating others, and the business of promoting. The Challenge was just another step in preparing for my future and I help it helped you in the same way.
Right now I feel like many of you have said you feel. I feel somewhat empty like in--now what? The party is over, the guests are going home and now it's back to life the way it was before the Challenge. What are you going to do now? I guess I'm going to think about my upcoming topics. And then I'm going to start writing and writing some more. Thanks to all of you for a job very well done.