Eight years ago, when I first started blogging, there was no limit on how many blogs you could follow on WordPress.com during a twenty-four hour period. Or how many blog posts you could like.
To be honest with you, I had a lot of fun with this for a while, but then I figured that it was not worth the effort.
Because here’s what happens from a reader’s perspective: they are followed by some random who never reads their content, and they check them out (we are a curious bunch, aren’t we?). Maybe they actually read the content, and that’s why they subscribe, but this doesn’t happen as often as you’d think.
More often than not, this happens: they are just returning the favor. They are not that interested in your blog, and they won’t spend much time reading your content or engaging with it. They won’t trust you enough to buy any of your products.
You see, in this mindless quest for readers, we often forget that not all readers are the same. If your readers are not part of your target audience, they are not going to do much for your blog.
Secondly, if take advantage of a hack or shortcut, your mindset becomes corrupted in a bunch of ways:
- You begin to look for more shortcuts, for more effective ways to get as many readers as possible, and this soon becomes an addiction. You will begin to prioritize following, sharing, leaving empty comments, and you will neglect creating content.
- Impostor syndrome is going to destroy you mentally. Let’s admit it, we creatives are kind of fragile when it comes to our creations, but this thing is only going to get worse if all you do is use some hack or shortcut to get more readers. You will constantly wonder if your content is really good or not.
- You lose interest in building genuine relationships with your readers. You become so out of touch with your audience that you no longer build trust with them, and you no longer share content that is relevant to them.
- You cannot improve, and you cannot understand quality. What I mean by this? If you artificially inflate your numbers, you cannot figure out what blog posts are great and what blog posts are mediocre (but received a lot of likes because you also liked a lot of posts.)
- You won’t focus your time and energy on becoming a better content creator, because you’re too busy growing those numbers. And odds are you will keep yourself busy growing the numbers because you don’t want to face the fact that you might not be good enough to earn those numbers.
Yes, you could use a hack or shortcut to get more readers, but…
In the long run, it won’t be worth it. You will have the numbers, but you won’t have meaningful engagements. You will struggle to sell a product, sell your blog to advertisers. Your readers won’t trust you, because they don’t know how much you care about them. And the really smart ones, the ones you want as constant readers, they will have you figured out, and they will know for sure that you don’t care about them, because, let’s face it, if all you care about are numbers, you are having trouble realizing that behind those numbers there are actual human beings.
And this shows. Believe me, it shows.
Like I said, I know this because I have done this in the past, and it’s not worth it. And it almost ruined my blogging career.
Don’t chase followers. Make friends.
The truth is that building meaningful connections with others, while taking way longer, is the best way to go about building an audience for your blog.
First of all, you feed your brain with the type of information that folks want to read.
Secondly, you get a sense of the quality of the content that is being shared at different levels of success, and this is not something to be taken lightly.
You cannot reach mastery as a blogger unless you can mentally visualize the steps it takes to become a master. And if all you read are the most popular, best written articles, you never see a way to become just as good.
By reading posts written by those who have similar audiences as yours, those who have 2–3 times the readers you have, you can form an idea of what kind of progress you can expect, and what it takes to get there.
Yes, there’s no elevator to success, and you have to take the stairs, but you also have to see someone else doing it in order to figure out exactly what it takes to climb those stairs. It’s not as easy as it seems.
If you use shortcuts and hacks, you are not part of the conversation. If you build friendships, you become part of the conversation that naturally develops around a certain topic. You can then add to the conversation, which means that your content has more impact, is more engaging, and it’s far more likely to be shared.
Then, there’s this extremely important fact: you understand the importance of being human.
This is it!
50% of blogging success comes down to being human. Just being nice with others. Taking the time to read their content, investing the energy to leave a thoughtful comment. Don’t underestimate the importance of doing this, because if you’re truly genuine about it, you can even get away with writing average content.
After all, you’d be more than glad to pay for a product that’s not the best in its niche but has excellent customer service.
We, as bloggers, are in the customer service business single day.
If you take the time to build connections, you understand that your readers, the ones who fuel those numbers you see on your stats page, are actual human beings, and you get this weird itch to do stuff that genuinely adds value. You’re no longer writing content that is supposed to sell, or supposed to earn ad money, but you are writing content that is supposed to add real value to those you engage with on a regular basis.
You stop writing clickbait headlines, and you kind of want to over-deliver on the promises you make in those headlines.
And, maybe more important than anything, you feel good about yourself. Impostor syndrome becomes almost non-existent. You are no longer this lone wolf fighting for survival. You’re no longer focusing on punching the keys to create magic on a blank document on your computer, but you’re choosing to direct your energy towards helping other people.
Maybe this sounds like silly, idealistic advice that doesn’t do much, and that the real shortcut to blogging success is something that I don’t want to share with you out of fear or malice.
No. This is the shortcut to success. It’s easy. Go out there and make as many friends as you want. There are about half a billion bloggers out there. You can certainly find at least a million that you genuinely like and admire and respect.
And I know what you’re thinking.
“If this is a shortcut, then why does it take so long to do things this way?”
It’s a shortcut because most bloggers are either doing nothing at all to grow their audiences, or are obsessed with numbers and are chasing followers in any way they can. It’s a shortcut because almost no one does this.
If you want to grow your audience, focus on making friends and forget about chasing the numbers.