Monday, December 6, 2010

Online Persona Workshop Week Ten: Friends and Followers

Because we all start from different places and come from different stages of our career, I’ve tried to bring a variety of guest bloggers on to talk about how they built their community of followers and friends. I have intentionally avoided including anyone who has thousands and thousands of followers because here at Shrinking Violet, it’s all about the baby steps.

Today we have some more tips and suggestions from Lisa Schroeder, Sherrie Peterson, and Becky Levine. As you read today’s tips, you’ll notice some repetition of suggestions and themes. This is not an accident; there really are a few key things that you simply have to do in order to build a following, no matter what stage of the game you’re in.

We’ll start with Lisa Schroeder, who not only has published four YA novels, (Chasing Brooklyn, Simon Pulse 2010) but a MG series and a picture book as well. Inevitably when I’m reading a comment at another blog that makes me nod my head and marvel at the wisdom and insight, it is one of Lisa’s comments. Her top two suggestions for cultivating online connections are:

1) Take a genuine interest in other people and connect with them as much as possible from a human perspective, not just an author perspective. Comment on blogs when you read something you find interesting, even if it's just to say thanks.

2) The best blogs are inspirational, educational or funny, or a combination of the three. They give something back to the blogging community. Be intentional about your blog while being true to who you are.

Sherrie is a pre-published author who started blogging about two years ago and totally impressed me with how quickly she developed a friendly, polished blogging presence and impressive following. She attributes her blogging and online success to the four Cs. (Also? She just landed an agent this week, a HUGE step in any writer’s journey! If you get a chance, do check out her excellent post on why you shouldn’t give up.)

When I first started blogging I found a Comment Contest hosted by Mother Reader and Lee Wind. The idea was to visit blogs of the people participating and leave a comment in the spirit of driving more traffic to little-known blogs. I signed up and visited at least three different blogs every week day for a month. I commented on posts that interested me and quite often, the people I visited would visit my blog, like what they saw, and become followers. You don't have to be part of a contest to comment on blogs. Just be sure that your comment is sincere. Instead of saying things like, "Great post!" let the author know what specifically you liked about it. Meaningful comments build relationships between bloggers.

Make sure you have information on your blog that people want to read. Think about the blogs you follow. Do you go there for writing tips? Interviews? Book reviews?For the author's sense of humor? Find your own niche and then add your personal flair. Blog readers tend to gravitate to blogs that infuse personality with useful information. Nobody wants to hear every detail of your personal life, but if they get a sense of YOU, then they'll have more of a personal investment in your site.

Pick a schedule and stick to it. I've never posted a schedule on my site, but if you look at my Google stats, you'll see that most of my hits come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. People know that those are the days I have new posts up and they come looking for them on a regular basis. If you can only post once or twice a week, that's okay. You don't need to make excuses for your busy life, just make sure that you consistently provide great content for people who come to visit.

Cooperating with other bloggers for special events like the Comment Contest I spoke of earlier will drive traffic to your blog. Whether you decide to sponsor a contest with a few blogging buddies or sign up for Agent Appreciation Day or another type of blogfest, working with other bloggers raises the profile of everyone involved.

And we're going to end with three terrific tips from Becky Levine, the author of THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE (Writer's Digest--January, 2010) and is one of the most connected people I know of online. (Seriously? I don’t know how she does it and often wonder if she’s developed the secret to cloning and simply hasn’t told us about it.)

-Take a few seconds to leave a comment on an update or three that you agree with, that made you laugh, that hit a chord. People will notice you're there, be happy for the comment, and will come back to read your updates and get to know you better.

-Go ahead and take a tiny risk every now and then. Put something out there that's funny or friendly or just goofy, and don't worry about whether everybody will agree with you. We're usually much harsher in judging ourselves (negatively) than anyone else will be.

-If you're in doubt as to whether you "should" post a particular update, or make a specific comment, think about whether you'd feel good about saying the same thing out loud, in public, face-to-actual-face with this other person. People can get their feelings hurt, or become angry, just as easily in a virtual world as in a "real" one. And in social networking, there is a much bigger crowd watching and listening.


And just in case that isn't enough terrific advice, I've got some links!

A recent #YALITCHAT on Twitter that discussed social media.

And Jane Friedman always has fascinating things to say about being online. I don't always agree with her (although often I do) but I always love to hear what she has to say. Here's a link to some of her posts on building an audience. Her suggestions can be a little overwhelming for an introvert, so only pay attention to those that resonate with you. (Always a good guiding principle.)


Angela said...

Great post. I love all those C's.

tanita✿davis said...

(quiet squee) Sherrie, congratulations on the agent!!! And your tips are right-on; commenting and joining in with cooperative things is really key to the blogging thing. I have found such value in the relationships I've gained from this.

Katelyn D. said...

As a lifelong introvert who is just starting up a writing blog, I'm grateful to have found this website and this workshop! I know the hardest thing for me so far has been getting out there and commenting - even though I read other blogs plenty, I'm so shy that I get nervous about leaving a comment.

Everything here sounds like wonderful advice, though, and I love the four C's - easy to remember and very sensible.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Thanks for the great advice and suggestions.
Donna V.

Anonymous said...

All good points. I really love this one:

“You don't need to make excuses for your busy life, just make sure that you consistently provide great content for people who come to visit.”

Blogging consistently is a challenge for me, so I’m hoping to improve in that area. It completely floors me how you ladies are able to juggle your schedules and still post quality content on your blogs. Cheers!

Anna said...

I think the point about building useful and relevant content is key. It's one thing to get a visitor to come to your website once; it's another to keep them coming back again and again.

Thanks for the advice!

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Excellent choice of bloggers! :-)

Jennifer Ruth Jackson said...

A lot of new bloggers fail to realize the value of communication/conversation in their blogs. They believe that just because they put stuff out there, it is enough.

liz said...

Sherrie, yay on the agent! That's great!

Taking a chance once in a while is great advice --it makes you stretch. (It also makes me panic!)

Jan Markley said...

Lots of great advice. I've been following Sherrie's blog for a while now and am happy to hear she got an agent! I'll have to wander over there!

Leevan Banzuelo said...

I love your blog. The posts are useful and relevant! Good luck and more power to you.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Yeah, weren't those four C's brilliant?

Welcome Katelyn! And I too, get very nervous about leaving a comment sometimes. I am struc
kk by Commentor's Remorse, big time. Which is one of the reasons Becky's advice about being willing to risk a little now and then spoke to me so strongly.

And I agree Jennifer, the conversation and connection is such a huge part of the online presence!

It was a stellar line up, wasn't it, Jenn? :-)

Liz, I agree that taking a risk often equals panic!

Hi Jan! It IS very exciting that Sherrie's got a real live agent of her own. Hurray!

And welcome, Leevan. Glad you're enjoying the blog!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

I just discovered your site and am so excited - I've always assumed that as an introvert there was no hope for me! (There's a certain irony that I started a blog at all, since blogs seem based on the supposition that the world cares what I have to say...) Nevertheless, as a writer, an artist, and a blogger (<a href=">Black adn White</a>), I really appreciate the concept of this site! Thanks.

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