Ask Me Anything – Followers

Today’s question comes from Larissa at A Three Way Tie.

How do you get SO many followers!? I would love to have like a third of your followers, lol. Anyway, any networking advice you can give to a blogging novice would be nice!

First off – Don’t judge a blog by the number of followers.  I have a lot of follower, I’m grateful they have been to my blog and found a reason to follow.  HOWEVER I know that many of them have only been here once and followed simply to enter a giveaway.  They have never come back and never will.  A blog may have tons of followers but there is no way to know how they gained those followers or if they have ever come back again.  There are also many other ways to follow a blog besides Google Friends Connect.

In my recent reader survey I asked how readers followed my blog.  Here are the results:

Those who checked “other” most often said RSS feed.

Although GFC is the most popular way my blog is followed there are other ways people follow it.

Current Followers:
2662 Facebook
1212 Email Subscribers
4998 Goodreads Friends
829 Networked Blogs
2894 Twitter
5280 GFC

Like I said before I’m grateful for everyone of my followers but personally I think my “stats” are a much more accurate view of my blog. If your blog is hosted by Blogger you can view the stats for your page views.

If you want more information about those who visit your blog I recommend you install a free widget from a site like Statcounter.com.  It is a hidden widget that those visiting my blog don’t see but it gives me a lot more information than what is available in Blogger.

Even page views are not even an accurate account of how many people read a blog.  If someone reads a blog in google reader you doesn’t actually visit the blog they won’t be counted in your page views.  Email subscribers often read your posts in their email and don’t actually visit a blog so again, no page view.

My point is simply this… Don’t be overly concerned with followers, the numbers are not always an accurate picture of a blog’s true following.

Now on to answering the actual question… How did I get so many followers?

First off I must confess if I had things to do over again I would probably do them a little differently. But as they say hindsight is 20/20. Like most people when I started blogging I was fairly clueless and did some things that seem silly to me now.  For my first 1,000 followers I cared about the numbers.  I had a goal to hit 1,000 followers and the numbers mattered to me.

So knowing that follower numbers are not all they are cracked up to be here are some suggestions for ways to gain those followers.

I think many bloggers have a “Field of Dreams” mentality – “If I build it, they will come”. The reality is there are thousands upon thousands of book bloggers out there.  You could have the best blog around but if no one knows about it they aren’t going to visit your site.

So here are some ideas for getting your blog out there.

Follow my Blog Hops
Parajunkee.com & Crazy-for-Books.com host weekly blog hops that have a goal of helping you grow your following and connect with other book bloggers.

These are “You follow me, I’ll follow you” hops.  My suggestions is to look over the list and find blogs that are similar to yours.  Visit their site, follow them and leave a thoughtful comment about their blog with a link back to your blog. My hope was that for every 2 blogs I followed I would gain 1 new follow on my blog.  Many of these blogs are just starting out and are looking for followers for their blog and are willing to follow you if you follow them.  If I had it to do over again I would have been a little more discriminating in the blogs I followed. I participated in these weekly hops for a couple of months and that is where my first followers came from.

Memes
There are dozens and dozens of book memes that you can participate in.  First off what is a meme?  Most of what book bloggers participate in are not true memes but it’s the term that we use (click here for a definition of memes).  An example of a popular meme is In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren.  Each Sunday Kristi posts a message that shares all the books that she’s received that week. She then allows bloggers to leave a link to their In My Mailbox post.

Find a couple memes that you like and participate in them weekly.  A future post will be dedicated to all the Memes that are out there.  Don’t make the sole focus of your blogs memes, rather choose a few that appeal to you and take part in them each week. Visit the other sites that participate and leave a thoughtful comment on their post with a link back to your blog.  A comment like “I follow you, please follow me back” is not thoughtful.  Share something you like about their blog or a comment about something they said in their post with a link back to your blog and they will likely visit your site.  If they like what they see then they may follow you.

Giveaways
Another way to gain followers is by hosting a giveaway.  A giveaway does not have to be expensive.  You can giveaway a used book you have and ship it via media mail for less than $3.  Many of my original followers came from my Nearly New Books for You Giveaways.  This is something I haven’t done lately but will be bringing back starting tomorrow.
My personal philosophy is different from most. I believe it is better to share books than have them sitting on a shelf unread. Most of my books never get reread so I prefer to pass them on to others and let them enjoy them.  I’ve learned that there is a “shelf life” for books since most of my books from childhood are now brittle, brown and falling apart.  So instead of keeping books I give them away.
When I am giving away one of my books and paying for shipping out of my pocket I don’t see a problem with asking for someone to follow me to enter.  I know opinions of this vary and I don’t believe there is a right or wrong, just different ways of doing things.

Most of the giveaways I now host are shipped directly from the author or publisher so I don’t ask for someone to follow me but instead have optional entries that promote the author or publisher.

If you do host a giveaway make sure you spread the word.  You can have the most amazing giveaway but if people can’t find it they won’t be able to enter.

Got Great Giveaways on my site is one place you can share your giveaway but it’s not the only place.  
Try some of these:
Link a Contest Thursday @ The Book Monster
Full to the Brim – Kids Book Giveaways (Fridays) @ Brimful Curiosities
Fish For a Free Book Friday @ Lori Calabrese
Saturday Situation @ Candace’s Book Blog

There are groups on goodreads & bookblogs.ning for sharing giveaways.  Tweet about them with the hastag #giveaway, etc. Get the word out!

Social Media
Another way to build followers is through social media.  Personally I’m not a huge facebook or twitter fan, I just don’t have the time.  But I have a facebook account and a twitter account and my blog feed automatically posts to both sites.  These are a great way to build a following and many people have had great success using them.

Goodreads
Personally, I think goodreads is the most underutilized tool for book bloggers.  Goodreads is a social media site for book lovers.  What is the best book you have ever read?  Find that book on goodreads and then look for people who love that book too.  Check out their shelf.  If they have similar tastes then friend them. When you post reviews at the end leave a line that says something like:
“As reviewed on I Am A Reader, Not A Writer: http://www.iamareader.com“.
This will let them know you have a blog and if they like your review they will likely visit your blog.

Connect with Similar Blogs
Find blogs that review books similar to what you review and comment, comment, comment.  Bookmark their site and visit often.  Leave comments, ask if they want to swap buttons, interview them on your site, etc.  Visit the sites of people who comment on their site, visit the blogs they link to, etc.

Giveaway Hops
Finally try participating in a giveaway hop.  I host a lot of them and I join most of the ones hosted on other blogs.  Again you don’t have to spend tons of money.  You can giveaway a used book with media mail shipping within the US only for just $3.  A $10 amazon.com gift card draws a lot of entries on my blog.
I would suggest keeping your giveaway as simple as possible.  Many people are turned off by a long list of things they must do to enter a giveaway.  I get the most entries when I simply say “please follow this blog at least one way (goodreads, GFC, twitter, facebook, email, etc.)” and then have them fill out a form to enter.  My form giveaways always get more entries than when I ask people to leave a comment with contact info.

I hope these ideas help.

What do you think?  I’d love you hear your thoughts.  What is the best way you have found to gain follower?

Do you have a question for me?  Send me an email toobusyreading(at)gmail(dot)com or fill out the form below.