As much as I say "I don't care about growing my blog" and "I'm writing just for me" -- it's not true. Not for me. (Not for you, either, by the way.)
We wouldn't be out here, putting our thoughts, lives, emotions out on display if we didn't want it to be read.
That's the bottom line: We all want our blogs to be read.
Image: Jonny Goldstein via Flickr
We all have different lengths we go to for this to happen. Some bloggers network through their 'niche' or their 'tags.' Other bloggers do this more organically just by reading other blogs, leaving sincere comments and building relationships. Then there are the real go-getters: they read everything they can get their hands on, join every blog party, link-up and circle, try every strategy in the book.
I probably am a blend of all three. But if I'm honest and put false humility aside, I do it for one reason: I want people to read my blog.
And I'll be honest: I have a hard time with self-promotion. I'm uncomfortable putting my stuff (and myself) out there. Typically, I'm content to be in the background, fine to stay out of the spotlight. It's hard to admit that I want some of the spotlight to find this blog and shine on it.
Is being 'blog-famous' all it's cracked up to be?
A lot of us want attain 'blog-fame' or 'grow our numbers' or be 'Freshly Pressed,' and there is nothing wrong with that. (But let's at least be honest about it!) But if we are working so hard for this, what are we hoping to gain from it?
For some, it is definitely money; some really hope to make a living from this -- and I'm totally okay with that. In fact, if I can end up making some supplemental cash (or more) from blogging, it would not be a violation of my principles. At. All.
For some, it's reaching goals. The competitive edge. The inner drive. It's the high of seeing the numbers go up. And up. Yeah, I'll give you that. Some -- okay, a lot -- of that appeals to me. I wouldn't say I'm obsessed with my stats, but yeah. I know about that place on my dashboard. I get a rush when I see traffic go up or when I get new followers.
Some feel really strongly about their message, and they want to get it out there to as many people as possible. I respect that. I don't think I'm that kind of blogger, but that's totally valid.
Some just really like the connections they make with like-minded people. Or the debates with non-like-minded people.
I've read a few theories (and deduced some of my own) about what happens when people make it big, are Freshly Pressed, or have some other spike in success.
[Disclaimer -- some of these are not my own, and if it is yours, please let me know. I read so many blogs that I lose track of where I read what. I'd be happy to give you credit.]
1. Some bloggers start to lose their voice (or fear losing it). Before, they were just writing, not really sure if anyone was listening. Or those who were listening were a small, supportive circle. Now, this new fame brought a whole new audience -- and with it came this pressure to please this new crowd. As a result, some bloggers struggle with staying true to themselves, their content and their voice.
2. Some bloggers stop writing. They've reached their goals; they've hit the big one, and now they stop writing, leaving their audience hanging. Maybe they get stage-fright. Maybe life just happens, and they can't write anymore. But from what I've read, it's not uncommon for bloggers to stop writing once they reach these milestones.
3. Some bloggers realize their fame is short-lived and doesn't really translate into a bigger reach for the long-term. It spikes for that period when they are 'Freshly Pressed' or noticed by the big people. They get a huge amount of traffic, comments, and attention -- and then it's gone. Poof. Sort of what happens in 'Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives' (aka Triple D).
[Warning: Short tangent coming up. But it ties in. Hang with me.] My husband and I went to the Catskills a few summers ago and found this little place called ChaCha's BBQ Hut. It was a hole-in-the-wall behind a gas station, but a local told us they were the best, and she wasn't lying. The next summer, ChaCha's moved to a place a little bigger and was getting some good attention.We told them we wanted to recommend them to Triple D.
The owner wasn't really that thrilled, a surprise to us. He said that (somehow he had the inside scoop) what happens after being featured on Triple D is this: traffic and business go way up. They are popular, trendy, the latest rage. That's great. But what's not great is that the new crowds scare off the locals who have been loyal all along. It changes the tone, what originally made it great. That small-town, local, personal touch gets lost with the new crowds.
Then, after the hype dies down, it takes them some work to get back the old faithfuls. In the end, it doesn't really do any long-term good for their business. Actually, in some cases, it hurts it.
So what does this have to do with blogging?
Well, when a blog is 'Freshly Pressed' or the equivalent, first, the 'fame' is short-lived, and often long-term, loyal readers aren't really gained; it doesn't really make a big difference in overall traffic, readership and legitimate followers.
Second, it runs the risk of losing or changing what made it great in the first place. (See #1.)
Third, there's a learning curve to try to retain -- or get back -- the 'it' factor.
Fourth, when a blog goes 'big,' it inherently loses its 'smallness.' How can you keep up with the comments and reading and relationships with your followers when now they have multiplied exponentially? It's understandable. And probably impossible.
But sometimes, it's the 'smallness' that allows the blog to be a great thing. Contrary to how we often feel as bloggers, 'smallness' isn't always a bad thing; it might be the thing that makes us great. (Not necessarily big, but big doesn't always equal great -- and vice versa.)
In a hunt for blog tips when I first started, I came across this advice: 'Don't peak too early.' In other words, don't try to artificially grow your blog. Let it grow steadily. Slowly. Naturally. That is the growth that will mean something long-term. That advice has stuck with me.
So since we are being honest here...
Do I still want to grow my blog? Yes.
Increase my followers and traffic? Yes.
Be 'Freshly Pressed' some day? Yes.
Make some cash? Sure. (Ok. Yes.)
But since we are being honest, what I love best about blogging can't really come from blog fame; as a matter of fact, I think (and fear) that what I love best about blogging would be lost if I ever did make it big:
The real-person connections. The community. The interactions and conversations and the relating to each others' stories. The 'Oh-my-gosh-me-too!' moments. Knowing that I'm not really alone in my experiences. Knowing that I maybe have done some little bit of good in this tiny corner of the blogosphere that's mine. And the good is not always in the post itself; sometimes it's in the conversations and connections that follow.
I'm not saying you can't have this if you make it big; some do. I'm just scared that I wouldn't.
There might be a trade-off.
Is it worth it?
I don't know. Everyone has to answer that for himself. And clearly, I'm putting the cart before the horse. But I don't know if blogging would mean the same to me if I lost what I love about it.
It's kinda like that small-town cover band that plays in the local bars, working like crazy to make it big. Then, when they do and all the excitement and glitz dies down, they realize they miss the 'good ole' days.'
Maybe these really are the good ole' days. Right now. In Small-Time-Blog, USA.
Be careful what you wish for. (We all know how that story goes.)
For anyone interested, I wrote a post in October explaining "Why I Blog."
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