Tea dress: Mango
This week's Friend Friday is another in the series of blogging navel gazing and the topic is our readers and reader connectedness. Friend Friday is run by ModlyChic. To participate email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. How important do you think reader connectedness is to the success of your blog?
I think it depends on what you define success. I certainly think a successful blog is one that engages its readers. My goal in starting the blog however wasn't about gaining readers, it was and still is to develop my writing skills on a regular basis. In that respect it has been very successful in helping me realise that goal. Even if I didn't have any readers I think I would still use a blog as a platform to explore my writing.
So is a blog that nobody reads any different from scribbling in a notebook that goes back onto a bookshelf? In a notebook I can write whatever I please. I might have nobody commenting or no hits on my blog but as long as it is open to public view there is still going to remain the idea, the possibility, that someone might see it and that immediately changes everything. That alone makes me put much more effort into my writing. No stream of consciousness, blue sky thinking and rubbish punctuation. That's for the notebooks. A blog is for some prose with a bit more polish with the added benefit of combining it with imagery.
There has never really been a lack of motivation on my part to write a post for this blog in the absence of a large audience. If you want to write you are going to do it whatever. I did blog for six months with just one reader to my knowledge - a dear friend I trusted and shared it with. My friend would (and still does) tell me her thoughts on the odd post via email or over coffee and convinced me to make it public so she could read it without signing into her Google account. If it wasn't for that initial encouragement and kick out into the blogosphere from my first reader I might still be blogging away behind the scenes.
That said I do think that interaction with readers makes a huge impact on your blog and as a writer. It's suddenly like walking out onto stage and realising that there are people in the audience and they are watching, waiting to see what you will do. It is intimidating, yet exhilarating at the same time - you suddenly want to give them the best performance you can. I am also very fortunate that I have readers who actually read my posts, leave very thoughtful, encouraging comments telling me when they have found the posts engaging and who return to read more. It has turned blogging to meet a personal goal into a very rewarding and enriching experience.
2. What do you do to draw readers in and create that writer-reader bond?
Sometimes I try to be entertaining, sometimes I try to make people think, sometimes I'll just share something I find beautiful or interesting. But always, I put a lot of effort into writing well.
For several reasons I've chosen to blog anonymously and not show my face in photos. This probably puts me at a distinct disadvantage to other bloggers whose readers have a name and face to put to a blogging voice. Although I'll admit that it probably makes it easier for people to relate to a blogger whose face they can see I don't think it is strictly necessary in order to engage readers. As a result of my perceived disadvantage I try to inject my writing with more personality to compensate, which can only be a good thing for the reader. For the record some of my favourite blogs are written by anonymous or pseudonymed faceless bloggers. I find that because the blogger can't rely on a pretty smile to gloss over what amounts to inane prattling a lot more thought actually goes into the content.
I've noticed that my posts that have received the strongest response from readers (and I don't necessarily mean number of comments here) is when I talk a bit more about my personal life, such as when I answer questionnaires about my wardrobe or my favourite things or ten random facts. I guess everybody harbours some curiosity about the people behind the blogs they read.
3. What is one way you could improve this connection?
I am happy so far with the connection I have with my readers and can only recount what I currently do. I don't buy into the advice that is often tossed around that you should find out what your readers want and give it to them, or pander to some notion that your blog has to be useful and helpful to people in order to increase your readership. I would rather be true to what I want to do creatively and connect with readers who appreciate that.
My stance is that if you love doing something you will be motivated to do it and to do it well, even if you don't have an audience or are not being paid. If the love for what you do shines through then there will always be readers who will find what you have to offer engaging. If I pursued doing something that I didn't really have an interest in just to court favour with readers than the lack of interest would soon show in the posts.
I think the most effective way of connecting both as a reader and a blogger is through commenting. I always try my best to reply to comments on my blog - so if you leave a comment check back on the comment board in a few days. Nine times out of ten I will get back to you. I also try to visit and read my readers blogs and leave meaningful comments. Commenting makes everything feel a little more like a conversation albeit a short (and sweet) one.
4. Is there a blogger you think does a great job creating that writer-reader bond? Why?
I'm not going to name names or pick just one because there are so many with their own distinct merits. I will say that the underlying theme would be blogs that have personality. A lot of the blogs I get drawn into let you into their personal life just enough to get you interested in them in people. Also if I know that after leaving a comment that the blogger is likely to reply I'll return to read the reply - now in these social networking times of a thousand facebook friends you've never even met that sort of behaviour must count as a serious relationship!
There are also some blogs I find really engaging that are not really about writing and more about imagery. I may not be a reader but I am still digesting the content and returning for more. Some are just awesome outfits and styling - I am a fashion addict after all and in fashion a picture can say a thousand words. However others are more a moodboard or scrapbook collated by the blogger from which one can draw inspiration, or equally build up a mental picture of the blogger as a person in the same way you would walking around an exhibition pondering the curated works of an absent artist.
5. What do you do to cultivate new readers? How do you get them to your site in the first place?
Not that much, I spend most of my blogging time writing the post! I think most of my readers came from joining IFB and participating in Friend Friday. I post an alert about my new posts on the wire at IFB and I always submit a post on IFB's Links a la Mode regardless of whether I think it is going to get included or not - I figure some poor sod has got to read it and hey, they just might like it enough to read something else I've written.
Visiting other blogs and commenting has brought some readers and funnily enough so has having an active presence on Twitter.