Followers, Readers, and Venn Diagrams

I don't actually like the Followers widget on the sidebar there. I mean, yes, it feels nice every time the number goes up, but it's misleading. Followers do not mean readers. Readers don't mean fans. Fans don't mean friends. And really, I think we all want our blog/Twitter/whatever followers to be one of those last two.

Getting followers is easy. Well, not easy -- it's a lot of work. But it's mostly within your control: comment on and follow 1,000 blogs, and you will instantly get 100 or more followers. Just like that. Elana Johnson has some great advice on getting lots of followers, and I agree with every one of her points. But followers do not mean readers.

Turning followers into readers is a bit harder, but still within your control. Just write something people want to read. It takes practice and (again) hard work to figure out topics both you and other people are interested in (hint: it's not you, not at first), but it can be done.

Now I'm not large enough in the public sphere to understand how readers become fans, though I do know how to make friends (be one). But here's a secret: it's not a progression. The diagram above is far too simple. In reality, it's more like this:

You can have readers who aren't followers. Friends who never read your blog. Followers who genuinely like you and would help you out, but don't have time to read all your posts. Readers who like your blog and like you, but aren't really a fan of your fiction.

It's a complicated world, but the encouraging bit is this: you don't have to get a lot of followers to be successful. You don't have to follow everyone who follows you. You don't have to chain yourself to that stupid widget.

I admit, things can change when blogging becomes part of your profession. In the comments of Elana's post, she points out that her editor sees a 1400-follower blog. In fact it's the only measuring tool an editor, or anyone else, has to see how popular a blog is. But Elana uses her blog to make money. If only 100 of those followers buy her books, that's 100 books she wouldn't have sold otherwise.

But most of us aren't there yet. If I got 500 more followers right now, what good would it do me, even if I could turn them into fans? Not much. Blogging for me is more of a long term investment, so I invest slowly. I use it for practice, for networking, and yes I'm looking for fans and friends, but only so I have some folks to celebrate with when I sell something. I don't need "followers" to do that.


Christina Lee said...

AWESOME post! Much more comprehensive than mine ;--) You make some very valid points and I think building slowly is the best way!

vic caswell said...

this is so so so awesome and true!!! (and the diagrams totally rocked!)

blogging is so dangerous! because it can take away time for writing, and the writing... that's what we're supposed to be focused on. :)

great points! great post! :)

NGS said...

I feel like it's such a competition these days - who has the most blog followers? the most Facebook friends? the best sponsors for the blogging conference?

My tiny blog doesn't see a lot of traffic and I have no idea how to follow 1000 blogs and still interact with even a single one of the authors with any real substance (let alone still do my jobs and spend time with my family).

Everyone's measure of success is different and I hope that my blog stands by itself and is its own success, followers or not.

jjdebenedictis said...

I was at a conference and agent Donald Maass had an interesting comment; he said blogs allow established authors to reward their fans for being fans, but blogging doesn't serve much of any (marketing) purpose to an unpublished writer.

He has also said at other conferences (and this was then repeated online) that he's afraid blogging "scratches the itch" and thereby takes away a writer's drive to write.

I like the community blogging has built for me--all the connections to like-minded people I wouldn't have "met" otherwise. Since social networking is about community, not marketing, I think this is a valid reason for me to stick with it.

As an aside, I got more blog hits and followers when I did my Ask a Geek series. Apparently doing something different once in a while is a good way to build your readership!

Deidre said...

How it possible turned followers to friends,may be it would be friends!Nice blog set up by you and swift language-may be I would love to visit it again. If the blogs on real matters it would be more enjoyable to read rather than typical advice.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I heart you for using Venn diagrams. Just saying ...

Yesterday, I had someone comment (on a blog interview) that they had seen me "around the blogosphere" and was excited to buy my book. This was intriguing because I had no idea who it was. I think there's something to having an on-line presence, I'm just not exactly sure what it is! :) All I really know is that I'm having too much fun blogging to stop, but I need to be more disciplined about my blogging time, or it will take too much from the writing/querying/book-promoting time.

Adam Heine said...

@Christina: So glad you enjoyed it :-)

@aspiring_x: I can't take credit for the second diagram. It's a doctoring of one I found online.

@NGS: It can feel like a competition, and that's why I reject it (though not enough to drop the widget from my sidebar I guess ;-).

@JJ: I think Donald might have a point about "the itch". Not that it keeps us from writing entirely, but would I write more if I didn't post 3x/week?

@Susan: Venn diagrams are always a hit at parties (the kinds I go to, anyway). That's cool someone found you like that. When you've got something to sell, I think that's how you do it: get your name in as many places as you can until people feel it's familiar.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Couldn't agree more, Adam. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, too. I have sort of have a love/hate relationship with the gaining followers thing. Sometimes you find a good blog and a friendship, but you're right, a lot of people follow just to bump up their own numbers because they're hoping you'll follow back. Kind of a weird... I like to choose the blogs I follow thoughtfully so I'll have a better chance of keeping up, but it's hard to do. Some I keep reading, some I don't, and in the end I have no idea how many people actually read my blog regularly.


Adam Heine said...

@Amy: I use Google Reader, rather than the Blogger Dashboard, to keep up with other blogs. So mostly I only click to follow a blog for the author's sake (e.g. a friend whose blog I do read) or if someone requires it for a contest. But for choosing what I keep up with, I do it much the same as you.

Matthew MacNish said...

This is such a great point. Much more well explained than I could have done it.