Congratulations to Fred and Jillian for winning free copies of Philip Yancey’s “What Good is God?” Thanks everyone for entering to win!
Last Monday, I kicked off October by launching a series of posts on blogging. Why? Because I’m reaching my second year of blogging, and to mark the occasion, I want to take some time to help you be a better blogger. So unless you’re already a perfect blogger, keep reading.
Last week, I told you about what is the biggest reward in blogging to me; the interactions I have with you. That really is the reason I keep at it. Without that, I would’ve quit a long time ago. Blogging is about building a community, and I have some thoughts for you on how to build your community.
Don’t Look at the Numbers
I’m serious. If you sat down one day and decided to start a blog, thinking you’d become a huge famous writer, just quit right now. Probably won’t happen. If you think to yourself that if you could only have a certain number of readers, then you’d be satisfied, then just give up. If that’s you, you will grow to hate blogging.
I rarely, almost never check the numbers that this blog is doing any more. I used to do it multiple times a day. It was like a drug…a really nerdy drug. My mood was altered by the number of page visits and comments I got. How dumb is that? My everyday life is in no way altered if 10 people read a post, or 100 or 1,000. If you’re worried that much about the numbers, you’re going to try to figure out what kinds of posts get the most visits, and try to replicate that success, and then you are a complete sell out, my friend.
A year ago, I achieved what I had coveted. I made it onto ChurchRelevance.com ‘s list of 100 most widely read Christian blogs. I was pumped. I shook my fist in the air and demanded that my wife to make a sandwich to celebrate. Guess what? My life did not change, at all. My wife did not adore me any more than before. Nor did she make me a celebratory sandwich. I did not become more handsome than I was, because that would be a physical impossibility for one man to be that handsome.
In fact, like every other benchmark, it came, it went, and then I wanted more. That’s the thing about numbers. They’re never big enough. You never reach a magic number where you say “that’s enough.”
A couple of weeks ago, the list of top Christian blogs was updated. Guess what? I was bumped from number 92 on the list to number 128. Know why that doesn’t matter to me? Because I know (from that one time I did check my numbers) that I have gained readers, though I won’t be specific on how many. There are just other blogs that have grown faster. So who cares?
If you’re not building a number, than build something else…
Build a Community
People sometimes ask me what they can do to build their blog readership. I tell them to build a community. Maybe it seems strange to think of a bunch of strangers who’ve never met as a community, but I’m serious. Here’s what I try to do, and what I tell others to do.
Meet People: When I first started blogging, I had no friends. I didn’t tell a bunch of people, or even my wife about my blog. I had to go and meet people. So I poked around the inter-nets, looking for people with similar interests. And I would comment on their blogs. Everyone likes getting a comment, and it allowed me to introduce myself. If they came to my blog and commented, great. I had a new friend. If not, oh well. I did that hundreds of times. That’s not manipulation. I needed to meet people and figure out where I fit in. There are no shortcuts, so crack those knuckles and get going.
Invite People to Engage: Maybe you’ve noticed that I have a formula to the way I write. The most important part of my formula how I end a post. I once read a blog that told people how to blog, which said you should always end your posts with an invitation to respond. It’s like a blogging altar call. I always end a post with questions to invite all of you to engage. I visit blogs all the time, and I love what is said, but I often times can’t think of anything to say back. Help your readers out and suggest to them what they should write.
Follow Up: I have a handy counter that keeps track of how many times you’ve all commented on my blog. I have this for one reason; so I can tell who is a new commenter. If I have a new commenter who has a blog of their own, I always visit and leave a comment. (Except for those of you new commenters from last week. I was out of town, but I’ll get to you, so cut me some slack.) I also try to make the rounds among commenters when they pop up after I haven’t seen them in a while.
What Can You Do With Five Minutes?
As a blogger, you probably have peoples’ attention for no more than five minutes. I think the average attention span of a reader here is less than two minutes. I think half my readers must be hummingbirds…hummingbirds on crack. How can you build a community beyond that?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out these days. How can I take this blog beyond the blog? How can I take it offline? Every once in a while, someone will want to talk directly to me by phone or email, or even in person. That means more to me than anything else. I love talking to people.
I mean it, I would love to talk to you. If you’ve got something on your mind, something you need to pray about, or you just saw a hilarious episode of Family Guy, but you can’t talk about it without being judged by your Christian friends, email me and we’ll talk it out. You don’t even have to tell me your name! I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you build community on your blog? Are you a numbers addict? Have you made any real life friends through blogging, or do you have other aspirations?