Tossing It Out has been my blog laboratory.
The first thing that captured my curiosity when I started my blog was how would I get people to read. I also recognized that having followers sign up would mean the greater likelihood of potential return visits by readers. Also the attractiveness of numbers of followers on a site often makes others want to linger a bit to see why that site is so popular. Let's think psychology here: If you see a business with an empty parking lot you might be inclined not to go in, whereas a crowded parking lot might make you want to find out why the place is so popular. It's not always the case, but overall, popularity attracts more attention.
So how to get the visitors? My first step was to contact friends and relatives. Perhaps a cheap shot, but why not? Wouldn't they be interested in what you have to say? I called people I knew and sent out emails. I asked them to tell all of their friends and relatives to read and follow as well. I posted an announcement about my blog on Facebook and LinkedIn. These methods got the word out, but it was also the toughest sell. Most of these folks weren't bloggers and didn't understand the process. I got most of my first twenty or so followers this way, but I still wasn't getting many comments for the first month.
The first step I took to get commenters was to go to my Blogger Profile and find others with similar interests. I visited their blogs, left comments, followed, and invited them to visit my blog as well. As most of you know these visits will reap a pretty good return rate for acquiring followers to your own blog.
Before long I was getting daily comments for my posts. This is where an important part of the process enters the picture. First I would try to leave quality comments as much as I could and leave an opening for continued dialogue. I subscribed to the comment sections so that if I saw that anyone responded to my comments I could comment back if it were appropriate. I would also follow the comment thread in order to find and check out other bloggers with interests similar to mine--poaching as Elana Johnson referred to it. Time consuming? Yes. Productive? Sometimes. If nothing else I was establishing blog presence--check "ARLEE BIRD TOSSING IT OUT" on Google.
A few of the bloggers who I have seen notably use the subscribing to the blog technique are Stephen T McCarthy, Larry of DiscConnected, Judy Harper, Gregg Metcalf, Dezmond the Hollywood Spy, Sig of BeadedBear, and Trish and Rob MacGregor . Sometimes they argue, sometimes answer questions, and sometimes it's just pleasant banter, discussion, and conversation. Whatever it amounts to it's meaningful relationship establishment and building.
The other thing that I did was respond to any comments I received and attempt to give a quality response as much as I could. When I look back over some of my earliest comment threads I see actual discussion going on between me and commenters. To me this represents a healthy exchange of ideas and a good potential for learning. I try not to leave any question unanswered and any comment unaddressed.
Still another approach I took was announcing special posts to certain people that might be interested. For example, when I did a series of interviews, I would go to my Blogger Profile and add to my interests and favorites a number of things that might relate to my topic. I would then find other bloggers who were interested in those things, visit their blogs, and leave a comment which would include an announcement of the blog post that I thought might interest them. As a result I would get some good comments for that post and often new followers for my blog.
The Blog Events-- such as the lists of favorites that bloggers like Alex J Cavanaugh have hosted; the BBQ hosted by KarenG, or the recent Great Blogging Experiment hosted by Elana Johnson, Jennifer Daiker, and Alex Cavanaugh--can all reap many new followers for those who follow the etiquette and visit, follow, and leave comments. Any of these bloggers will probably agree that hosting a successful blog event probably gains the most followers in the shortest time, but it involves a lot of work. When I hosted the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I gained over 100 followers, but at a great investment of time and effort.
What it boils down to is how badly do you want followers and readers? They are probably not just going to come to you unless you have something very special going on with your blog. You've got to work at gaining and retaining your followers and you've got to give them something that they will want to come back to read. It can be a lot of work. What you need to do is figure out why you are blogging and what you want to get out of your efforts.
If you have hosted blog events, what was your return and was the effort worth it? Do you use the Blogger Profile to find others of similar interests? Do you encourage conversation in your comment thread and if so how do you go about it? Do many of your family members or friends follow your blog? How do you get non-bloggers to be interested in following and reading blogs? If you are one of the commenters who regularly subscribe to a comment thread and I did not include your name in the above list, please add to the comments here--I know there are more.