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Random Thoughts: Readers vs. Followers

One of the things that seems to have great importance in the book blogging community is followers. While there are other factors involved in determining what a blog’s “worth” is, followers appear to be the easiest way to tell publishers, authors and visitors just how “important” a blog is.

By having a large following, it implies that the blog has an established audience and wider visibility and greater potential reach than a blog with a small viewership – factors that are important to publishers and authors when looking to promote their books. It makes little sense from a promotional standpoint for a publisher or author to approach a blog with little or no viewers. Which is why follow count has become so important to bloggers who want to establish relationships with authors and publishers.

But having followers is not necessarily the same thing as having readers. And while that might not matter for the purpose of promoting a book or author, it does matter if what you have to say is something you want others to read and respond to.

If you are simply concerned with being a great promotional outlet for books, then having followers who choose only to stop by to check out a cover reveal – or what new books you received each week, what new books are releasing each week or to enter a giveaway you are hosting – will be sufficient. But if you are interested in followers who stop by to read your reviews, offer their opinions on those reviews and share their thoughts about those books, then you are looking for more than followers. You are looking for readers.

And readers aren’t necessarily those that opt to publicly follow. They don’t always sign up through Google Friend Connect or Linky Followers. They don’t always subscribe to your feed or email. They may choose to visit, comment and respond to comments, but may not become one of those “numbers” that have become the symbol of a popular blog.

If you are looking to increase your follow count there are many ways that can be done. Make following mandatory for giveaways. Sign up for hops. Participate in memes. Visit other blogs and follow them so that they may choose to follow back. Join a ning. Be social.

If you are looking to increase your readership, create posts that are interesting and informative. Write posts that spark discussion. Have content that is just a little bit different. Interact with your readers by responding to comments. Visit other blogs and leave comments that show you are interested in what that blogger has to say and they may choose to visit your blog and do the same. Be social.

And if you’re looking for both readers and followers, then do a little bit of both. Find a combination that works for you to achieve the goals you set for yourself and for your blog.

But if you’re not sure, then you may want to take the time to decide before getting caught up in the numbers game. Because once you do, it’s hard to stop. And if you do achieve a certain follow count and gain attention for you and your blog, you may find yourself so far afield from what your intentions were in the first place and with no real idea how to get back on track.

If your goal for starting your blog was to talk about books with other readers, make friends and be part of a community, you should ask yourself if that has happened. Do you find that you have a large follow count, but the only place you do talk about books is on Twitter? Is the traffic to your review posts microscopic as compared to your giveaway posts? Do you find the majority of comments you receive are either generic or “thanks for the giveaway” comments?

If you do keep an eye on your blog’s statistics, look at what posts are more trafficked than others. If memes, hops, blog tours and giveaways are your largest hits, then you may find that you have followers but not the readers you desire.

And while you can’t gain a readership if no one knows about you in the first place, if you are too focused on simply increasing views to your site without thinking about who those viewers are, you may not develop the audience you want. You may have a large follow count of viewers only interested in what you have to give away next or to pine over what you received in the mail. You may be envied for your popularity but you may not have those readers you wish to interact with about the posts that do have substance.

In your quest to make a name for yourself, to become known among the thousands and thousands of book blogs out there, you may want to keep in the back of your mind just who you want stopping by the blog. Do you want readers, followers or a mix of both?

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