Thursday, June 13, 2013

What Your Blog Says About You: Part Three -- Frequency, Consistency, and Participation

Just as personality and content go together, so do frequency, consistency, and participation. Really, these things could be clumped together into how active you are, but each needs to be dealt with individually, too, so we're gonna do that. Activeness, though, is critical if you want your blog to be successful, especially at first. Unless you're famous that is. Most of us, though, are not famous, so how active we are can be a determining factor in whether anyone pays any attention to what we're doing.

This is something my cat knows pretty well. When my cat wants attention, he knows exactly what kinds of things he needs to do to make sure I'm paying attention to him. This is especially useful in the middle of the night. For him, not for me.
He plays music. Or he scratches on doors. Or, well, any number of things. And, yes, we do keep the piano closed, now.

So... let's talk, first, about frequency.

How frequently you blog will have a lot to do with the amount of traffic you get to your blog. Of course, the obvious reason is that the more often you blog, the more often people that want to read your blog will have to stop by to read what you have to say. But it's more than that. How often you blog keeps you in the minds of your readers. It helps them to remember who you are, and that's important. When you're starting out, if you blog less than once a week, it's quite possible for a "follower" to see your post in their feed or reader or whatever and say, "Who the heck is that?" You don't want a "who the heck is that?" response to your posts. Here's a good example of how this kind of thing works:

Let's say you participated in the April a-to-z challenge, which is just that, a challenge. I won't argue that. So you did a pretty good job during April, maybe even completed the challenge but, at least, did, say, four posts a week. Then, in May, because you're feeling rundown or overwhelmed or whatever with all the blogging you'd been doing, you take a break. I know, many people do. But you'd picked up all of these new followers who don't know anything at all about your actual blogging style and, then, you don't post...
Until June. And the response is, "What the heck blog is that?" [And you probably even start with an apology about how you haven't been posting, which is a completely separate reason for people to roll their eyes (but we'll get to that next time).] Yes, some of them won't even click through to find out what the heck blog that is. Or, maybe, said person added so many new blogs during April, people that kept up posting frequently, that he's, now, uninterested in your blog. The amount of posts a person can read in a day is, after all, finite. [Unless you are Alex, but I'm beginning to believe he actually lives outside of time.]

Which leads us to consistency. Even if you can't post with great frequency, being consistent can be just as important. Let's say you're going to make 24 posts in the next year: It's much better to post twice a month than to post seven times the first month, five times the second month, skip the next two months, then post seven more times... Unless you have some exceptional content, people just won't take you seriously with that kind of routine. Which is why all of this is important, anyway. When and how you post tells people about the kind of person you are.

So, wait... let's go back to the whole having a successful blog thing. This is an important consideration and it goes back to that whole "what is the goal of your blog?" question I mentioned in an earlier post. If your goal is to just have a blog and you're really doing it for yourself (or whatever) none of this matters, BUT, if you're goal is to have a "successful" blog--and by successful I mean a blog that gains followers, gets comments, and people want to follow--then these things are important. Vitally important.

And, now, let me address just the writers out there, because I know a lot of you have blogs with the goal of building a platform. If your goal is to gain readers, your readers need to have a certain level of trust. Trust in you and trust in your writing. If your blog exists to say to readers, "hey, look at me; I have a cool blog with lots of interesting stuff; come see how I write so that you'll want to buy my book" [There's nothing wrong with having that blog, by the way. It's completely valid to want people to know who you are so that they will want to buy your book.], then your blog needs to reflect your writing ethic. If you blog inconsistently (either in frequency OR content), people will view your writing that way, too. If your content is inconsistent, people will think your writing is inconsistent. If your frequency is inconsistent, it won't matter how good a writer you are, because people won't trust that you can deliver the material. [And let me just add, if, on your sidebar, you have listed about eight WiPs AND you can't manage to blog more than every three or four months, people will completely dismiss you as a serious writer. Well, I will, anyway, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one affected that way.] The point here is that your blog is a reflection of you. You as a person and you as a writer. So, if you're going to have a blog, you have to take it seriously.
If you're a writer.

All of that brings us to participation. And, oh, man, what a sticky one this is. When you're starting out, especially, it doesn't matter how good your content is, how frequently you blog, or how consistent you are if you don't participate in the blogging world. It's only by visiting other blogs and commenting that people even know you exist. And you can't just run around saying "come visit my blog" on every blog you run across, because that is a sure way to keep people away. Participation comes in three ways:
1. Your posts.
2. Commenting on other blogs.
3. Responding to comments on your blog.
The thing is, you are, by putting your blog out there, asking people to come in and listen to what you have to say. And, really, why should anyone do that? Unless you're going to do the same, that is. No one wants to hang around the guy that just talks all the time, you know, and never listens. People start to avoid that person. And they'll avoid your blog, too, if that's the way you handle it. And commenting on a blog is not the same as being the one talking; it's a way to demonstrate that you've been listening. So is responding to comments. I'm sorry, but, if you're not Stephen King, you can't expect people to just walk in and pick up the bread crumbs you're sprinkling on the ground.

So here's a personal peeve:
I really hate it when people complain about how they don't seem to be gaining any followers, and I say, "Well, do you spend any time reading other blogs and commenting?" and I get the response, "Oh, no, I don't have time for that." Well, then, that's your answer. If you can't make time for that, why should anyone make time for you? Seriously. Unless you're words are literal gold falling to the ground (that will also pop out of my monitor as I read your blog), why should I spare the time for you that you will not spare for me? That's just how that works. And I don't mean this in any "let's trade back scratches" kind of way; this is how you form a relationship. A relationship is not me showing up to "listen" to you for half an hour every few days while you ignore my existence.

But, then again, it's all about the goals for your blog. If your blog is just for you, and you don't care about followers or readers or anything, then none of this matters, but, if you do want a "successful" blog, you can't do it in a vacuum. You  have to participate.


  1. I'm going to copy/paste these into my awesome blog posts folder :) Just sayin'

  2. Agree it's about interaction, you have to give back to others by visiting and commenting. It's the art of conversation really!

  3. Great advice. The frequency issue is what seems to be a problem.
    Summer is a time when a lot of blogs take a hiatus.

    I liked this series.

  4. Excellent advice!!!! I try to be consistent and an active participant. That being said, I've stopped participating on some "popular" blogs because I don't get any return on my investment.

  5. Very smart advice! Especially that last part. Why go to all the effort to put together great posts if you're not going to interact with others? Spend less time writing posts and more time visiting others.
    I'm actually doing a guest post soon about consistency and not dropping off the face of the earth after a book release or the Challenge.

  6. I actually got some of this advice from PT a while back. He had told bloggers they need to go to other blogs and comment in order to let people know he was out there. He used the phrase "the coolest guy in the room," I think, which I took as a mantra: if you're going to read someone's blog, always comment whenever you read. And if you're going to comment, make sure the comment shows that you read the post.

    (I fail a lot in the latter. I always read the post and always intend to comment on the post but then I get sidetracked. Like this one time...)


    I actually got more out of thinking now how my blog COULD mirror my personality, but how it DOES, without me trying. I post 1-3 times per week on each blog, most of them these days being a few short, mostly picture-posts interspersed with the longer ones I'm working on, and the result is that you get these quick glimpses into what I'm doing and then a longer explanation, which is more or less exactly what it is like to know me.

    Your blog, on the other hand, tends to be very consistent and on-topic, always full of helpful information and very teacherly, which, I imagine, is what it's like to know you. (I mean those in a complimentary way.)

  7. I follow and comment on a lot of blogs...not as many as Alex! But a lot. You get a feel pretty quickly for who is going to reciprocate with comments and is interested in building a relationship. Those are the people I enjoy interacting with the most.

    And, yes, I do have a few blogs that pop up in my reader from time to time that I don't recognize because they're fairly inactive. Ha! That may be me for awhile too, since I have a ton of stuff to get done. :P

  8. Great tips for the beginner. I often wonder if we'd get more readers by posting on the weekends, but I don't have the time for that so the posts would be boring. Maybe someday.

  9. Good advice Andrew! I know I don't really post as regularly as I once did, but hey, life keeps happening and a lot of times the blog gets put on the 'not important now' list. And I'm cool with that. There are a few blogs I read and comment on regularly, yours being one of them. I can always find a well written, thought provoking piece here, I gotta give you that! I love that your cat plays piano at you think that by closing it up you've stifled his creativity and dreams of playing Carnegie Hall?

  10. Cassie: Awesome :)

    Suzanne: It is. That's why I'm surprised more people don't actually follow the comments they make and respond to responses.

    D.G.: Yeah, things get busy in the summer for a lot of people, but, with proper planning, it can look as if you've never gone anywhere.

    Thanks! One more to go.

    JKIR,F!: Oh, yeah, me, too. I really don't get why (some) people seem to invite a conversation in their comments then never respond to any of them.

    Alex: I think taking a break right after the challenge is the absolute worst thing you can do as a followup.

    Briane: You know, I try to be less teacherly sometimes, but I'm not all that good at it. I suppose it's the drive to be saying something worthwhile rather than just blathering. But blathering, what a great word.

    I like your pictures of stuff in your life. They are generally great. You know, you might should put together a book of those.
    And I like your long posts.

    You know, I used to not comment if I didn't have anything more to say than "good post," but, then, I realized the comment is more about saying, "hey, I was here, and I read your post," rather than whatever you actually say, so, if I read a post, I try to show "hey, I was here and I read this" even if I can't think of something profound.

    L.G.: I keep telling myself that I need to go and unfollow some of those blogs, but, then, that's a huge time commitment in-and-of itself, and I haven't decided to do that, yet.

    Maurice: Unfortunately, it's some advice for some people that aren't beginners.
    I think weekend posts don't get as much attention, but a good Friday post can carry through the whole weekend.

    Eve: Well, I have to say, it probably doesn't really matter. I mean, I'm not a very good agent for him. I keep telling him I'll send in his audition tape, but, actually, I haven't even made it yet. I like to look at it as goading him into new ways of expressing his creativity.

  11. It's amazing how many bloggers there are who write but don't visit. I haven't been keeping up lately but I do try to visit as many others as possible.

  12. Good blogging advice. I try to visit when I can. Work has been so busy lately. I do like this series though.

  13. Jo: This is true, and it really annoys me when I hear people say, "oh I don't have time for -that-." Like visiting someone else's blog is beneath them.

    Michael: I'm glad you like it.

  14. The number one comment in the Reflections posts after the Challenge was that "I didn't get as much time to visit others as I wanted" and "Comments were down this year." People don't seem to understand the cause and effect there...I keep saying, it isn't "if you write it, they will come" but "if you VISIT AND COMMENT they will come." I never read and leave, I always leave a comment. Sometimes the writing is so bad all I can manage is, "I have a dog, too." but at least they know I was there.
    I totally agree that a consistent schedule is key: people need to know when to expect something new.
    Loved the part about Alex being outside of time...that MUST be the answer...
    I liked this. Very well argued, and not just because I agree with all you said ;-)

    Tina @ Life is Good

  15. DogGONE it. Forgot to subscribe. Again.

  16. Tina: I almost never read and leave. I admit that I do occasionally if the post is just so bad that I can't think of a single thing to say other than, "hey, I stopped by," which I don't want to say on a new blog I'm visiting, because that sounds like, "I'm only here to get you to come visit my blog," and I don't want to sound like that.
    (Wait till you see my next hypothesis about Alex.)

  17. Yes. Consistency. Yikes. I have trouble with blogging / other writing balance.

    I guess the one rule I've instituted that has helped me is this: if you don't have time or energy to write a post, visit other people's blogs and comment. I don't spend tons of time on blogging these days, but I do try to make the rounds now and again.

  18. Great post, Andrew. I've always enjoyed your blog, though I don't get to visit as often as I used to. Like Elizabeth, I have a lot of trouble finding that healthy balance of blogging and writing. Especially when real life has this nasty habit of sneaking up on you.

    Really enjoyed this wise, sound advice. Thanks for keeping us in the know. ;)

  19. Everyone wants "If you post it, they will come" but that's not the way the blogosphere works. It's called social media because you have to be social. If you're just giving a speech, that's more like a lecture, not a conversation.

  20. Elizabeth: And here you are! And that's a good rule to follow. It does help remind people that you're here.

    Alyssia: Is your baby sneaking already? Oh, man, I remember those days...

    Jeanne: Yeah, that's exactly how people want it to be. We all want to believe that we really are that brilliant and people will see our diamond posts shining in the darkness.

  21. I'm with you. I have what most would call a large and successful blog, but STILL have dips in numbers if I go too long without visiting others.

    And it's the way it should be. Because it's so unfair of me to expect people to spend time on my thoughts if I constantly refuse to do the same.

  22. Misha: I don't actually know what large or successful or any of that means, which I realized when someone said "I have good numbers," and I asked what those were, and I would be horrified at having numbers so low. All I know is that I'm not happy with my numbers, but, then, maybe I will never be happy with my numbers.