Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Salon: Follower Power!

The Sunday Salon.com

The term "follower" is a loaded word in blogosphere.  The question, "How many followers do you have?"  Have you ever done a quick check on a Blogger sidebar to see what the Google Friend count is?  Or maybe you see a follower count and feel skeptic.  "What?  This blog has a bajillion followers, and mine only has 500?  Clearly, this blogger is cheating somehow."  Or the opposite.  "This blog only has ten followers, I'm not going to spend much time here as I don't know how much staying power the blogger has yet."  Or, "Wow, this amazing blog has hardly anyone commenting!  How is that possible?"

Some people get really into follower counts.  There are contests or prizes when a blog reaches a certain number of followers.  "I'm close to 50/100/300/1,000 followers!  Follow me, too, and be entered for a chance to win a free book once I hit the golden number."

But when bloggers are asked, point-blank, do followers matter?, many deny it.  Most say they'd rather have a small core of good commenters to spark discussion, not thousands of followers who don't say anything.

So really, where does this disconnect come from?  Is it that a blog needs to reach a certain number of followers in order to be taken seriously in the first place?  And then after that, the blogger can worry about creating conversation through posts and getting lots of comments?  Or is it that everyone does worry about followers but is embarrassed to admit it because it makes them feel shallow?  It seems that many bloggers think they should not care about follower count, but many of us really do.  Why?  I have a theory.

A lot of people are rethinking blogging right now- whether they should stick around or leave, whether it's worth the time and effort.  Often, they cite the competitive nature of bloggers as a reason to quit blogging.  But... competition amongst bloggers about what, exactly?  I hear vague terms about how competitive it's gotten, but what is there to be competitive about?

Google Friend Connect
It's not as though because one blog reviews a book that you then cannot review it.  It is not as though because a person chooses to follow blog X, that person cannot also choose to follow blog Y.  Unless maybe people are competing for review copies of books?  But if that's the case, and you don't get a review copy... can't you just wait and get the book when it's published?

I don't see book blogging as competitive because I don't think we compete for specific books or followers.  It's competitive in our heads, in that we strive to do as well as the next blogger.  And what is the easiest way to measure our relative success?

Follower count.

Generally, we think we are writing at a higher level when more people want to read what we have to say.  And for people to continue following us when there are so many other blogs out there to read and comment on, we must churn out quality content and truly connect with our readers.  So I would venture to say that there isn't really competition in book blogosphere so much as there is a desire to consistently raise the bar and challenge ourselves to be better.  And the way we measure ourselves against others is through the follower number.  That's my two cents at least.  What do you think?

Do you keep track of how many followers you have?  Do you notice how many followers other blogs have?  What do you do with the information?

57 comments:

  1. I don't use blogger so it isn't really an issue for me. But it occurs to me that part of the rationale is that people who receive goods in return for reviews would like to show potential goods-givers that the potential audience justifies the perk.

    I don't notice number of followers much but I do take note of number of comments, because I think that is more meaningful. I am interested in trying to guess what that signifies.

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  2. I guess it's two-fold for me--the follower count makes me think people are interested in what I have to say in general (they want to be updated on my future posts), and the number of comments pertain more to the interest generated by the individual post.

    When visiting other blogs, I do take into account that those who run a lot of giveaways will tend to have more followers--and I think it's a different dynamic than blogs that run occasional or no giveaways and mostly just review or discuss.

    With regards to the competition, I guess I just don't feel it that much. I tend to blog for my own reasons and I'm not really competing for review copies (they're nice to receive, but I could live without them). I think I did feel a bit of pressure when I was participating more in memes (comparing the # of comments w/other blogs), but after I cut back I felt much more relaxed about blogging. :)

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  3. I pay attention to my follower number and my Reader subscriber number but I wouldn't say that I worry about them. I'm pleasantly surprised when that number ticks up by one but it doesn't devastate me when it ticks down.

    I guess if I was trying to find a way to make money from my blog, I would be worried about traffic but I'm in the camp that I would rather just have some like-minded followers who want to engage in a good discussion.

    Plus, every time I see huge follower numbers I tend to assume that they require people to be followers for giveaways. I don't do that. I've never asked people to become followers and I'm not a follower even on all of the blogs I read -- only the ones I enjoy the most and have been reading for a decent amount of time. A blog has to earn me as a follower. ;)

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  4. I'm not sure where the talk of competition in blogging comes from - as you say one blog doesn't take followers from another. The only person we are competeting against is ourself.

    I am always striving to produce a better blog and do notice which of my posts are the most popular, which lead to an increase in follower/commenter numbers and which ones I probably shouldn't do again!

    I do notice the number of followers on other blogs, but it doesn't mean anything to me. I don't measure the quality of a blog by the number of people who follow, but by the quality of the last 5 posts. I am often surprised by how few followers the best blogs have, but as the others say, that is often down to competitions inflating follower numbers.

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  5. I have a follower widget on the blog because I was told that makes it easier for people to umm follow what I'm saying. I wouldn't know, I don't follow through Blogger, I use bloglines. Now when I get a new follower I have a little yippee moment like I do when I get a new comment, but I find followers often don't comment much...not sure why that is.

    As for this competition thing, meh I don't get it. Ok so sometimes I will make a post and then someone else really big will make a similar post and I wonder why everyone wasn't as excited about my post as theirs (Booksmugglers had a steampunk week a few weeks ago and I had to beat down my envy at the response they got, in order to appreciate the great content they had). But I have been blogging for like a year and people I like are commenting at my blog, we are chatting and getting to know each other so I'm really not sure I care about anything else right now. am so over dicussions about 'the in crowd'. people have to go to work and have a life people, they do not always have time to follow everyones blogs. Why don't the people who dislike the 'in crowd' create their own in crowd?

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  6. "But... competition amongst bloggers about what, exactly? I hear vague terms about how competitive it's gotten, but what is there to be competitive about?"

    I keep asking myself the same. I just don't get what there is to compete for, since books are NOT a limited resource, thankfully :P And neither are readers, really. There are so many people reading blogs out there - more than enough to form an audience for every niche.

    I don't pay much attention to followers, and I certainly don't take a blog more or less seriously depending on how many they have. I don't have the widget in my sidebar because I never bothered to add it, and also because its public nature others me - specifically, how people can see it if you drop them. GR is at least private, but when you make that public, there's a lot of potential for making people feel rejected there. And I don't want that, so I don't follow anyone publicly and don't pay any mind to who follows me.

    We talked about how pressured I've been feeling before, so you know this already, but for me, it's not really a matter of competing with other bloggers to be bigger or better. It's basically me versus the 24 hours a day has. I'd like to do more, to get to know more people, to be more responsive to those who reach out to me...but I can only do so much. This gets to me sometimes, but I'm sure that after being cheered up by certain excellent friends, I'll be able to get over it :P

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  7. I have seen soem great blogs lately that have few numbers, and then some that have huge numbers, and I do wonder why soemtimes.

    Yes I do like that I have followers, it makes me feel important somehow...

    But, most of my followers, I have no idea who they are. I kind of wish they could at least say hello one time. Cos no idea who actually reads my blog. Perhaps I don't really have any follwrs, except for those few that actually comment each week

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  8. "others" = "bothers". Sorry :P

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  9. To me offering people a potential prize if they follow you is almost like buying friends-I think having a lot of followers makes it easier to get free books-that seems part of the underlying reason-and who does not like free books-it may also raise your page rank score-

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  10. I have taken to switching off fromt the blogs that are their purely to increase bloggers. Some have absolutely no interesting content and you never actually see them comment any where, they just churn out competition after competition. I blog and speak to bloggers in order to connect with like minded people with similar interests. To begin with I did think that in order to be taken seriously I needed to increase my followers. Now I know that I just need to write interesting posts and people will come on there own. I feel like the people I speak to now are good friends and not just out to compete for followers. Having said that, I do have a follower widget on my blog, but it is their purely out of curiousity.

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  11. I'm not on blogger, so follower count isn't really an issue for me, and I'm glad about that. The public nature of it does bug me a little, especially when people start making follower count a sign of quality. I just don't find that popularity and quality necessarily go hand in hand in much of anything--books, movies, TV shows, blogs. Sometimes the most popular things are the very best, sometimes not. Sometimes the best stuff flies under most people's radar. Popularity in almost anything can be as much a sign of good marketing, good networking skills, and good luck as it can be of good quality. Like Jackie, I'm more inclined to evaluate a blog on its most recent posts than on its follower numbers. Just because a blog has a bajillion followers doesn't mean I'll enjoy it.

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  12. Oh what a great topic for discussion! I don't use Blogger so I don't have the easy widget to add that shows me how many followers I have... I'll admit there have been days where I've debated making the switch just to add this feature - but then I step back and ask myself Why? Do I care how many people are following me? Nah... I blog because I want to and I enjoy it! It's a newfound outlet for me! I can see my stats and that's enough for me. Don't get me wrong - I get excited when they jump up - but again I wonder why? I'm writing for me - why are people interested in what I say?

    Blogs with contests - oh this one I have strong feelings about - I would love to win some of these books that people offer - BUT... I don't want to have to prove anything to anyone and that's what it feels like (to me) for some of these contests. point for being a follower, another for being a long-time follower, one for all your contact information, another for this.... What is the point? If the goal is to obtain a bajillion followers then I'mjust not interested.

    I won't follow a blog because it has a few or a lot of followers - I'll follow it because I'm truly interested in what the blogger has to say! Shouldn't that be the main reason for following?

    Thanks Arti for posting a great topic and I look forward to reading everyone's comments - it's sure to elicit some great conversation!

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  13. Great discussion topic Aart!

    When I was a new blogger, I so wanted to have new followers, as I sign someone was reading my blog. I think we will all admit, being a new blogger is tough, and oftentimes, a new blogger wonders "why are I wasting my time here'?

    I do pay attention somewhat to my followers, but I am not obsessed with the numbers: (347) and (476) on google reader. Honestly, it seems that I have a core of around 25 bloggers that routinely comment.

    I follow/read about 275 blogs, but I probably comment 20 - 30 routinely, yet I read a lot more --why?? time basically.

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  14. What a great topic for discussion! I started my blog for myself and continue it for the same reason but it is nice to see that I have followers. I don't pay that much attention to the numbers though and actually took the gadget off my sidebar because I was getting some weird followers with naked people as avatars which were showing up in the sidebar - ick!

    I don't require that people become followers in order to enter giveaways - I would rather they follow my blog because they really want to and are at least somewhat interested in my reviews and stuff. I don't really get what the whole competitive thing is about either - maybe some people need high numbers of followers for some kind of self validation.

    Hope you have a great week!

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  15. I think a lot of the desire for a lot of followers still stems from that junior high need to know that we're liked: The number of followers you have is a sign of your popularity, whether you're consciously thinking that or not. Everyone wants to be liked, and being in the blogosphere just heightens that need. We need to know that people are reading and liking what we write.

    That being said, I notice when someone new follows me, simply because I currently have so few followers (I've only been blogging for a few months). I notice my page views and comment counts, too, mainly because I like to know which posts bring people in and which don't. Does that mean that I'll change what I do just to bring in more people? Absolutely not. My blog is for me and not for me to find out how many people like me.

    I notice more the people who routinely comment on my posts (like you!) than I notice the number of people who follow my blog.

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  16. I am not on Blogger (anymore) so I don't have the follower widget, but I admit that (being a new blogger) it was exciting to me when I got a follower!

    I don't understand what the competition is about though. I mean, I just started a blog but I don't think that by gaining readers others will be losing. Nor do I think that if I end up looking for review copies it would be a competition for them either.

    Very interesting post, it definitely got me thinking!

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  17. I don't use the Follow widget on my blog because I don't like it. I don't Follow anyone else's either and hate it when people want you to Follow them for contests. I had an issue with the Follow widget when it first came out and refuse to use it now. And besides, people can unfollow you after the contest- I don't get it.

    But my oddities aside, I do have moments where I get hung up on numbers: my feed reader number, visitors per day. I guess that's just human nature, or my nature.

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  18. Thank for opening up this discussion, Aarti. I don't use Blogger so don't have the widget. I admit that I get a buzz of excitement when my stat numbers go up and then I wonder why that happened. Eventually it levels off and I stop thinking about it.

    Like many others I blog because I like to write about books I read and enjoy. I hope others like what I have to say and love it when they leave a comment.

    I also like being involved in conversations I find interesting and challenging. There are wonderful bloggers out there but I never concern myself with the number of followers they have. I am interested in what they have to say.

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  19. Thanks guys for your comments! If you don't mind, I am going to respond generally.

    First- don't other blogging platforms have ways to track followers? I don't mean just the Google Friend count, specifically when I mention followers. I know a lot of people use FeedBurner and Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to track followers. I don't think it's limited to those of us on blogger :-)

    Second- I am glad I am not the only one who doesn't really get what the "competition" in blogging is about! Is there anyone who does get it and wants to explain? I do think it's internal and more a competition with ourselves, but I don't see where competition between bloggers would ever really arise, outside of someone's head.

    Third- I also dislike the blogs that really just churn out giveaways and contests for books and readers and have high follower count just for giveaways. There is definitely one cooking blog I follow solely for giveaway purposes (not that I've ever won), but I dislike the book blogs that do those sorts of things ONLY. They tend to be a bit dull to read.

    Fourth- I think a lot of it is the need to know that people like us, and the curiosity of knowing WHO likes us, and seeing if we would like them, too.

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  20. Great topic, Aarti - it's one I've thought about often since I started blogging. I do pay attention to the number of followers I have, but only because of the reader (follower) / comment ratio. I assume (hope?) that the more followers I have, the more likely I am to get more comments - which is the real reason I enjoy blogging. Not exactly earth-shatteringly original here, but comments ARE what make book blogging fun - not an arbitrary number (and it is arbitrary - I have 163 right now, but when I click through to the end of my list, it changes to 161. What?!) of people, many of whom never comment and probably never actually read.

    The "follow for a follow" posts kind of drive me nuts - I'd rather it be "read for a read." But I can certainly understand how a large following is a bit of an ego-boost, a nice feather in the blogger cap.

    Also, I noticed that you don't have the "followers" widget posted on your blog - which is one of the many things I like about your blog. It's an indication that you're above the follower fray. :)

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  21. I'm not on Blogger, and I don't post my Feedburner followers because those numbers are not actually accurate measures of what's going on on a blog. They can be artificially inflated (by doing things like requiring people to follow in order to enter a contest), and all they really indicate is that at some point, that many people clicked on the "follow" button. But that doesn't tell us anything about how many people regularly read the blog.

    The numbers I pay attention to for my own blog are traffic and RSS subscriptions. If those increase steadily from month to month, I'm happy that my blog is growing and reaching a wider audience.

    But I know there are bloggers who could care less about their traffic or RSS subscribers or followers, and that's fine, too. We all do this for different reasons.

    I think much of the current agitation about blogging and the high school drama we see popping up every now and then comes from bloggers' lack of transparency about how our blogs are doing---we have no idea what anyone else's numbers look like, so we have no idea where we stand, and that can be unsettling for some.

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  22. When I first started my blog, not all that long ago, I was very concerned about followers. I thought that if I didn't have any then nobody would be reading. As I've been blogging, I switched to wordpress where I don't have a list of followers and it doesn't bother me. As cheesy as it may sound, I've found so much enjoyment of the act of blogging in itself that the actual doing of it is what has become important to me. Of course I want people to read, but I get so much enjoyment from just writing the blogs. I guess I have become more in competition with myself to consistently improve my reviews and content, than worrying about competion with others. I have enough of that competion is my "real life".

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  23. I am also on blogger and kinda' like seeing my little list of followers. But then I think there are people who follow other ways that we don't know about. I push my posts to my personal facebook account so some of those "friends" may read posts as well.

    I am definitely not one to make someone follow to win and I've only done 4 give aways so it's not a priority for me.

    You're right; we all want to be liked, but I don't see this as a competition by any means. I like blogging and that's why I do it. I also love getting new ideas for books for me and for my school library!

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  24. This has been a fascinating post and comments! Thank you for starting this discussion! I 'follow' other bloggers so that they show up in my Google reader so it makes it easier for me to catch up on their posts.

    It's taken me a long time to build any sort of 'followers' and they reflect no where near the sorts of numbers in my google analytics so I don't know where the disconnect is but like everyone says I would so much rather have great/frequent commenters than a bunch of silent followers because then I know I am giving people what they want!

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  25. I suppose in a way I've answered your question but I thought I would come and give it here as well.

    I like my followers. There is something nice knowing that there are people who read what you write. But for me it isn't the be all and end all. I write mostly for me. I like to engage in conversation but ultimately I started to blog for me. Yes to share what I love but not necessarily to get something back. I figured mostly I got back through my writing. My thoughts became clearer.

    Bottom line: I love my followers but you will never see a contest on my blog to get more followers or any where you must be followers to win. But do please talk to me :D

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  26. Free at last! I recently relinquished my follow widget. I began blogging about 6-7 months ago, and everyone else had one, so I just figured I was supposed to have one, too. I appreciate those who read my blog and those who comment, and that's enough for me :) As always, a thought-provoking topic.

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  27. I guess we all like to know we're not talking to ourselves out here! Long before I started a blog I was a huge follower of other peoples blogs. I still am, not just book blogs but craft/cookery/life ones. I dont always leave coments and I dont always add them to me google follower list but I do read them on a regular basis.

    If I find myself thinking too much about followers I remind myself of this.

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  28. When I was brand new to blogging having followers was the only indicator I had that anyone stopped by and read my blog! And each new follower felt like a vote of confidence. I still make a point of checking out the blogs (if they have them) of followers as they are added to my site.

    I really got into blogging in order to capture my thoughts on what I read but also to have a dialogue with fellow readers so comments are what really matter to me and make me feel like it is all worthwhile!

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  29. Aarti, to answer your question about blogging platforms and follower widgets, I don't think Wordpress has an easy way to publicly display followers, as Blogger does. It's the public nature of the follower widget that I think creates at least some (but not all) of the angst.

    Wordpress does have it's own stats feature, which I believe draws from Google analytics, but the data is not so detailed that you know who's following you and who isn't. There may be some plug-ins available to get more details, and I think you can get more detailed data through Feedburner.

    And regarding Rebecca's point, I'm not sure transparency regarding stats would help with the drama. Then we'd *know* this person has more readers than that person, which means the angst would be based on actual numbers rather than speculative numbers. And as I said above, I'm not convinced numbers are quality are always directly related.

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  30. I agree that quality is not always directly correlated with numbers, but numbers provide one way of thinking about it.

    As for the angst, I think we're going to have some of it no matter what, and while transparency wouldn't totally solve it, I think it would be a step in the right direction, mainly because many of the people who think they are in the "out group" would be surprised to see the actual (as opposed to imagined) stats of the people they think are in the "in group" and to discover there's not always a huge difference.

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  31. I went through a phase of being concerned about with my follower numbers. Now I don't pay attention to that, just to the comments left. I don't check my stats anymore either.
    I never thought about removing the widget, but maybe I will. Of course I haven't posted anything on my blog in ages since I'm in a reading (and thinking) slump:) I'm lucky people haven't dropped me!

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  32. Once upon a time, I paid attention to my own followers (though never really anyone else's). Then I accidentally inflated my followers list by about 50 people when I held a giveaway last summer, and that's when I got frustrated and stopped paying attention altogether. I admit, in some ways I avoid blogs that have high follower lists because I think it will be harder to interact with the blogger. Some of my favorite blogs have very little following.

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  33. Greg- No, I do not have that widget on my blog. I used to, but I don't like it. It is not accurate, anyway, as it's only Google followers, not subscribers, etc. But glad to know that it gives me cred with you ;-)

    Rebecca- What kind of transparency do you mean? How can you be transparent about how your blog is doing with people? Do you mean in terms of subscriber stats, comments, etc.?

    brichta- That's not cheesy at all. It's why most people start, I think! And I absolutely think internal competition is the key.

    Helen- Yes, I bet there are a lot of people who read on Facebook that you can't really track.

    Amused- Yes, that's what I mentioned above- followers are different than subscribers and I think most people subscribe now so I don't know if it's really a useful measure, anyway.

    Zee- You know that *I* at least love to talk to you on your blog!

    Bookshelf Monstrosity- I know the feeling of doing something because everyone else does ;-) I do it all the time.

    Jessica- I think we all lurk on some blogs! There's nothing wrong with that.

    Booksnyc- Yes, it's super great when people follow. I'm not disputing that so much as wondering if it kind of leads to the "competitive nature" some people talk about. But I don't see the competitive nature myself at all, so I have no idea!

    Teresa- Thank you for answering my question. I am not sure what type of transparency would work, really- as it would still involve subscribers who also just subscribed for contests and the like, I assume.

    Rebecca- I am not sure I understand you correctly because I'm confused :-) Isn't the "follower" number transparent as it is? But sometimes inflated? So how would having everyone be transparent help, instead of just leading to more people inflating numbers? Unless you mean being transparent in different scenarios, such as with comments and the like. But I think that's somewhat transparent already, too, as you can usually see how many comments are on each post, can't you? I think I just don't get what transparency you mean- sorry!

    bookmagic- I didn't mean to imply that everyone who has it should get rid of the widget! I really meant "followers" in a general subscriber stat term, not just the blogger friend connect way.

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  34. I don't pay any attention...I'm too busy trying to keep up with my Google Reader and commenting on people's blogs!

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  35. I'm a new book blogger, and I must say I find this article and comments encouraging. I don't have any followers but I figure that's okay since I started blogging to organise my thoughts, and that's what I'm doing.

    Great post :)

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  36. The short answer to your question is, yes, I do pay attention to how many followers I have. But the long answer to that question is the why.

    I check because I'm curious. Because, honestly, when I first started to get followers it surprised me. Because I'm amazed every single day by how many people are reading my blog! But I don't want to publicize what that number is, now or ever, because it's personal. It's public information that anyone can figure out, so I don't see the point in advertising it. I do, however, understand being excited about it. I do understand feeling overwhelmed that any number of people would be interested in reading your thoughts!

    Ultimately though, I'm blogging the same way I did when I had two followers - my roommates. I tried one contest where I asked for new followers. I got exactly 1. So, I never did that again. Because it failed the first time and because I realized that it's kind of silly. It's not worth it. No one is tracking how many followers I have but me and that's the way it should stay.

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  37. Honestly, I try not to put too much stock in the whole followers thing, especially the Blogger followers that show up on the widget. Now, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't check my GR subscriber count on occasion and that I don't get a little lift from seeing a follower or few crop up on my little follower widget.

    That said, there are so many ways that people can artificially inflate their numbers with extra giveaway entries and such (that I have never done for just that reason), so if I start to get down about how many people are subscribed or following via the Google Friends widget, I can at least console myself that followers aren't just following me because they wanted some free book or something I was giving away at some point in the indeterminate past. That's not to say I'm criticizing the people who do that. I understand the motivations behind it and have often wondered if I should consider doing that with my giveaways, but I just know that I'd become increasingly paranoid that people weren't following me for me but were actually following me because they might get cool stuff and otherwise disregard me and my blog completely. In that vein, tons of people can follow, but if they never comment am I really the better for it? I don't know, so yeah, I guess I try to disregard my numbers as much as I can because, in the end, I'm not actually sure they *count* for all that much.

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  38. I do keep track of my subscribers list, but for me it's not a competition but a kind of boost, the proof that people do like what I post about.

    It's one of the things that keep you going.

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  39. softdrink- I know that feeling well!

    Jane- Welcome to book blogging :-) And thanks for stopping by.

    Lu- I also find it fascinating to figure out who finds ME fascinating (or at least, moderately interesting) so I completely understand.

    Megan- Exactly. That number really means so little about what is actually happening on a blog.

    Violet- Yes, it's nice to feel appreciated!

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  40. When I started blogging, I was on blogger and they didn't have the "follower" widget thing yet. Then I switched over to using wordpress.

    I still have my google account, though, to make it easier to leave comment on blogger blogs. I follow just a handful, mostly non-book blog friends. I think a couple might be book blogs, and yes, I admit I added them to my follower list in hopes of winning something -- but that was quite a while ago. Since then, I haven't made any effort to follow anyone.

    I don't pay any attention to how many follower a blog has -- the quality of the blog is more important. The follower feature probably means more to the blogger than the reader.

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  41. I am on wordpress and have no idea how many followers I have and dont really care about that anyway. :)

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  42. It's so funny you should bring this up! A recent annoying publisher ( I think you know who I am talking about) asked me recently how many followers I had before she decided to send me a book, and I almost fell off my chair in surprise. I guess she felt like she had the right to know, but I found it a bit rude. I think we all want to say that followers don't matter to us, but the fact that we often check the numbers, as others do, reveals our true feelings on the matter. I agree with much of what you say, and definitely don't see blogging as a competitive sport, but I am a little bit tired of people mentioning how many followers they have, or want to have. If a blog I like doesn't have very many followers, it doesn't mean that I will give it up because I don't think it's popular enough, and I hope others feel the same way. I also think it can be incredibly hard to win followers sometimes, and even long time bloggers can have problems doing that. This post gave me a heck of a lot to think about. Thanks for bringing this up, Aarti!

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  43. This may not be a popular thing to say, but I'm going to say it anyway. Publishers do not send bloggers books out of the goodness of their hearts. They send bloggers books because they want to get exposure and publicity for what they're promoting. If they were looking at placing ads on TV, they would ask how many people watch that show. If they were looking at billboards or newspaper subscriptions, they'd ask about stats. And no one would question it because it makes sense. Of course they want to know what they're getting.

    I don't think we should be surprised when publishers ask for this information, and I don't think it's rude. They are not obligated to send us books. They don't do it to be nice. They have a right to know what they're getting when they place a book on a blog, and bloggers should be ready and willing to share this information if we want to gain legitimacy in the industry.

    In no way do I think statistics or traffic are the only measure of a blog's success. Comments, discussion, relationships, etc. are all valuable and important. But if you accept review copies from publishers, you should acknowledge that they are spending money to send them to you and have a right to know what kind of return they're going to get on their investment.

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  44. The thing about followers, as I understand it (and I don't use Blogger, so I'm not totally sure) is that it does not translate into people visiting your blog. I do use Google Analytics, because to me, how many visitors I have a day, or how many unique visitors I have in a month, and where they come from is interesting to me (I think Jackie said something similar up there towards the beginning of the comments.

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  45. I really do not pay that much attention to stats of any sort. What is really gratifying to me is to prompt a fleshed out conversation like you have here today. One can have more followers than anyone else but if their comments are flooded by throw away remarks, how satisfying could that be? It's all about the conversation.

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  46. Valerie- I think you're quite right! It probably DOES matter less to the reader than to the writer.

    Sheila- Good for you!

    Zibilee- I definitely think it can be hard for blogs to win followers, especially if they are starting in this environment, compared to when you and I were starting out. I also hope that I follow blogs that have few followers, but I admit sometimes if a blog is newer, I am wary of following because so many blogs don't really last...

    Rebecca- You're right of course. I think the conversation may be taking a different turn, but I meant more in my post why it matters to =bloggers= how many followers they have. I suppose, if a blogger wants a book to read and review, then the follower count matters, but it doesn't *seem* to me that publishers/publicists are that picky about that sort of thing. I think that going forward, they will get pickier due to so many blogs existing, but as of now- I know I've never had any trouble getting a book that I've wanted. Though, granted, I've also never requested a book myself.

    However, Zibilee's point is interesting in a different way because the *publisher* first contacted HER to review a book and THEN asked about follower number, rather than Zibilee first requesting the book and then the publisher coming back with the question. This goes back to your comment earlier about transparency- that even though Zibilee's blog was on the "list" or whatever of blogs to contact, the publisher still didn't know how many followers she had. (Though it's pretty simple to tell how many follow on Google Reader.)

    JT- I wish I knew how to use Google Analytics properly, but I definitely do not! It is cool that you can tell all that from the site. For some reason, the past several times I've tried to access Analytics, it seems to have trouble with my blog...

    Frances- Yes, I like conversation, too! I'm glad it's facilitated on blogs in this manner. It's definitely all about the conversation, not about count.

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  47. This is such a great post, Aarti, and it's generated a lot of interesting comments. I'm on Blogger, I have the follower widget and I also post my Feedburner subscribers. I must admit I did the latter mostly thinking that it's an easy way for publishers to get a sense of how many folks are reading my blog (although of course it doesn't give anybody any idea of how many people are actually reading my blog on a daily basis). I don't look at my stats too often anymore (not even the Google Analytics ones), but I did more when I had fewer readers! (I think the more readers you have, the easier it is to be unconcerned with stats, or at least that was true for me.)

    I do find that I feel more intimidated sometimes leaving comments on blogs with lots of readers (and lots of comments) because I feel like I'm more likely to get lost in the crowd. Which doesn't mean that I don't read blogs with lots of readers/commenters -- I'm just less likely to comment on posts.

    Oh and about making a link between giveaways and followers: my logic is that it's nice to give extra entries to existing followers/subscribers, since I know they are reading my blog. I don't restrict my giveaways to followers, though, because I agree, that's kinda annoying. I don't want to have to follow a blog in order to enter a giveaway. And besides, that penalizes folks who are not on Blogger, which doesn't work at all in my mind.

    Ironically, I tend not to follow (using the Blogger widget); instead I subscribe (using Google Reader)!

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  48. Yes, I see that this conversation is taking a different turn....

    I think you're right that we're going to see increased interest from publishers, and it doesn't seem odd to me that Zibilee was contacted by the publisher and then asked for her numbers. The quality and voice of a blog are likely what puts it on the radar, then the numbers come into play when pubs are worried about coverage, but that's just my guess.

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  49. One of the ways I keep my blogging manageable (I love what Nymeth says about it being her vs the 24 hours in a day) is by not paying attention to followers. I don't use any method for reading and commenting on blogs. When I feel like visiting someone else's blog, I click on the blog names on my sidebar. It's very old-fashioned, but it works for me.

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  50. Aarti -
    What an important thought... and very balanced and realistic, as usual :)

    And some very important comments and some cute ones as well.

    I knew when I came over here to say my bit - you would have a large number of comments.

    A few questions for anyone thinking about this -

    Why do you blog? to spend all day answering tons of comments? (burnout)

    Also do you actually know who your "followers" are? (I prefer readers)
    Who is your audience and do they actually read your blog?

    Which is a question I have about my blog.

    And most important - apart from the number of people your blog has are you enjoying yourself?

    This is supposed to be fun!

    **************
    off topic

    Your new blog design looks wonderful!

    FYI - I also want to let you know that the post scrolls down really slowly.

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  51. Well, I have a wordpress blog, so I don't have that follower thing on my blog and I don't think I really want it. I do not 'follow' anyone, meaning that I am not subscribed to anyone in particular, but I do have my favorite blogs on my blog roll and I take the time to visit them all as often as I can. To me, it matters to visit people that are putting a lot of effort into their blogs and that they are there for the fun and for the community and not just to show off. I hate it when someone does that or if I see that they are just having a lot of ads on their blog to make money out of it, and if I see that, then I will never visit their blogs again. It is very important to me to be able to communicate with other book lovers out there and to read about their favorite books and co. To me, comments matter more than followers and I would rather have 10 comments than 100 followers who say nothing. Thanks for your thoughts. I like your Sunday Salon posts! They are very interesting!

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  52. I don't notice follower count. It did take me about a year to stop checking Google Analytics every day, though. There was something about seeing how many people read my random ramblings that became obsessive.

    I've become much more comfortable in my blogging and number of comments and/or interactions has become more significant to me. When a post doesn't garner any comments, I always read it to see why. Usually, I've forgotten to ask a question at the end or something like that.

    That said, my time keeps shrinking. I know I'm not commenting on other blogs as much as I used to or wish I could, so if my comments go down, I understand why. Everyone is struggling to find time and I really don't have time any more to make my blog what I want it to be: bigger and better.

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  53. avisannschild- I feel intimidated to comment on "big" blogs, too. Not so much that I'll be lost in the crowd but because sometimes it seems like the same people probably post all the time, and so me commenting might be seen as fairly random. I feel that way about a lot of fantasy blogs, especially! I'm a fan of the genre, but it's not all I read the way that many of those people do.

    Rebecca- Your guess makes a lot of sense. I didn't think of it tat way.

    Jeanne- If it works for you, it works! Period.

    Shellie- I think the "why do you blog?" question has come up a lot recently, and everyone says it's for the community, which implies a lot of commenting! But I agree- it leads so quickly to burnout. Your question about who the audience is is interesting. Other book bloggers? Lurkers? Anyone who wants to come by and comment? I don't know!

    And thanks for the compliment on the blog layout!

    Andreea- I agree that effort really matters to me, too. I think that's why I am anti-meme. It seems kind of like a lazy way to post. But I like that you just visit where you want!

    Rebecca- Yes, I remember your post about this. I don't think many of us have time to do that for our blogs. It can just be as good as you can afford to make it now.

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  54. Obviously you have a lot of followers with all the comments you get, whereas I have a handful. I don't keep track via a google follow list, it would be too sad and I actually don't care that much.

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  55. The follower widget is on my blog, but I don't pay too much attention to stats. I just enjoy and feel honored that people actually read what I write and sometimes take the time to share their thoughts by commenting. I'll admit that I used to look at the follower count, and as it rose, it gave me a boost of confidence, but when I asked myself if I would keep blogging regardless of comments or followers and I said yes, then it stopped being as important to me.

    I think my online time is better spent posting on my blog and reading other blogs than worrying about stats. I've never had a publisher ask me for my numbers, and if they were too low to matter, oh well. I don't blog to receive ARCs and even though I do accept review copies here and there, I already have plenty of books on my shelf to keep me occupied. LOL

    Sorry for babbling...thanks for the interesting post and discussion.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  56. Follower count doesn't really seem that important among reviewers who review adult books, but when when you look at the YA bloggers - WHOA...they act like having tons of followers is extremely important. It then becomes a competition who can get the "best" books in their follower giveaways so they can get the most people to follow.

    I'm more about growing your readership organically. Yeah, it may seem like I have a lot of followers, but I've been around a long time too. A blogger with a 2 month old blog shouldn't think they need to have the same numbers as more established blogs, but a lot of times they think they do, and then hold contests which inflate numbers (I am asssuming to impress other bloggers and publishers).

    I think that's where the perceived competition comes in.

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  57. It means they like you! they really like you! (Old Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech). Probably just the old popularity thing for the blog writers (and honestly, who doesn't want everyone to love and admire them?) and big advertising bang for the publishers (ARC's).

    In a related question, when there's not a new post on a blog for a bit, there's almost always an apology. I can see filling in what's gone on during the absence but it's not as if there's a schedule to be adhered to.

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