I went out on a limb and contacted some of my greatest blogging idols to see if a few of them might like to lend us some of their wisdom in response to the one question we’re all thinking about: how the hell did you get so many followers?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d get many replies. Surely these bloggers (with their thousands of followers) are far too busy to answer the many questions, emails and comments they must get every day? Turns out I completely underestimated how LEGEN – wait for it… no really you have to wait for it… sorry just a little longer – DARY these bloggers really are. Because who would answer an email from a random quote-seeking newbie like me?
Legends. That’s who.
So instead of digesting, paraphrasing and regurgitating some of their responses to make the perfect introduction, I thought I’d move aside and let the bloggers do the talking themselves:
“We grow mostly on WordPress by talking, not just about ourselves, but going out and talking on other people’s blogs. Just saying ‘Great Post’ and liking alone will get you nowhere, but reading what others say and leaving genuine comments accounts for 90% of my subscribers and regular commenters. Most of the people I recognize [on the Cool Kids of WordPress list] are prolific commenters, as am I.”
~ Peter Edwards, creator of Little Fears
“I honestly have to say that I believe building a following takes time and effort. Being responsive to comments and interacting with visitors is one way; visiting other bloggers and commenting on their work is another. Offering something positive seems to be another key, as well as providing posts that are quick and relatively simple to enjoy. At the end of the day, I guess I’d have to say this: Followers follow flirtatiously until friendships form. Then Followers are no longer followers, but Friends.”
~ Cynthia Morgan, creator of Booknvolume
“I didn’t build it so much as I earned it, and I did it by writing posts not meant to try to sell anything or be focused on clicks, but posts that I thought were interesting or funny or useful to me first — meaning, I focused on making authentic, earnest work appear there.”
~ Chuck Wendig, creator of Terrible Minds
“I’m quiet and I like it quiet. The fact so many people follow me is a constant source of amazement. I’ve never gone looking for followers and never will. If people enjoy my writing and choose to read it, then I’m honoured, because trying to tempt people with sweet words always turns sour in the end. Just be yourself. Write what you want how you want, and let your passion for words shine through.”
~ Richard M. Ankers
“I started Heylookawriterfellow because I had a book coming out. That means I needed a “social media presence.” So I became a blogger — and just kind of assumed the followers would arrive once I started posting. It didn’t work out that way, of course. I spent my first year of blogging pretty much talking to myself.
This wasn’t a bad thing, though. I needed that online solitude to find my voice and discover what my blog was supposed to be about. I also needed to figure out how to make the blog fun, because nobody wants to read posts by somebody who’s boring.
To put it another way, I didn’t spend much time thinking about ways to get more followers. I did, however, spend a lot of time writing and rewriting (and rewriting) my blog posts so, when potential followers did show up, they’d want to stick around.”
~ Mike Allegra, creator of Hey Look a writer Fellow
“I’ve built blogs with thousands of subscribers just by going out and meeting people. Conversing like you and I. You can do anything and reach anyone with a blog! All it takes is the will and want.”
~ Opinionated Man, creator of HarsH ReaLiTy
“I have never had a follower goal because I’ve never had intentions of monetizing my blog. I began writersite.org to change my mindset into that of a writer from that of a wannabe-writer. Very quickly I discovered that I love blogging because I love the community. Other bloggers and blog readers have become my friends. I haven’t checked my stats in years, and I really don’t care about them. As long as I have plenty of friends through blogging, that is what counts for me.”
~ Luanne Castle, creator of Writer Site
“To build a following on my blog, I did two things: put out content that people wanted to read and did it consistently, usually daily. I wish it was sexier than that. I wish it was easier than that. At least in my experience, it wasn’t. But at least it was simple. Now that, I could do. I could do simple.”
~ Ryan Lanz, creator of A Writer’s Path
“When I first started blogging, I was basically talking to myself. It wasn’t until I found the reader that I realized there were other bloggers on WordPress. I started following them, reading posts of theirs and commenting and liking them. I wrote at least three or four times a week and they knew they could come back time and time again. Then, I got Freshly Pressed and found a whole host of new followers. I started developing friends from it and a community for me was born. It’s been 5 years and a lot of work, but blogging is the best, though everything else makes me bitter.”
~ Bitter Ben, creator of Ben’s Bitter Blog
“My best advice would be to read widely and, when you leave a ‘like’ or a comment, make sure you mean it. Write from the heart, be yourself as you write, remembering that you, not your books, are what people will be reading every time you post. Allow a visit to your blog be a bag of mixed candy… reliable quality, but a surprise every time. And leave your ego at home… you may have thousands of followers, but there are over 300 million blogs out there. Be grateful someone found you. :)”
~ Sue Vincent, creator of Daily Echo
“There is no shortcut or trick. You simply have to provide content that others find useful and provide it consistently. In our case, that content is information on writing contests and opportunities, and discussion of the joys, disappointments, and frustrations of the writing life. The life of a writer can be lonely, so people appreciate a place to gather, like a virtual water cooler.”
~ Dinty W. Moore, Editor at Brevity
“Since I blog about imperfection and authenticity, I wanted to build an audience the same way — no gimmicks or fancy tricks. I wanted my readers to be people I could connect with and build relationships. In a nutshell, the process boiled down to three things: 1) I visited other bloggers and writers and read what they had to say. I commented on the posts that resonated with me and built some true friendships in doing so. 2) I try to provide good content –write my story, but chose subjects that are relevant and helpful to others, too. Grammar, length, voice – all important! 3) Frequent checks – am I being real? Is this helpful? Is it positive? Is it hurtful? Does it sound too promotional?”
~ Michelle Terry, creator of Lipstick and Laundry
“I built a following by having the blog for nineteen years and updating regularly, by being readable, and by catching the blog wave early. That’s all there is to it!”
~ John Scalzi, creator of Whatever
“The way we increase our followers is not just by posting fun and engaging content, but to invite people from our audience to make guest posts and contributions to our Blog. Doing so helps to amplify the reach of the Blogs of the contributor but also to amplify your own reach if the contributor shares their guest post to their own social channels.
This is a win-win situation for both Blogs as while some readers may overlap, you are introducing the blogs to each other’s followers. And furthermore, Katzenworld was always meant to be a community where cat lovers can share experiences and stories, so the more cat lovers that unite, the better!”
~ Marc-André Runcie-Unger, founder & blogger at Katzenworld
“I have built up my readership in a number of ways, but the most important ones are by reading other blogs and leaving comments (even if it is only one a day) and to always ensure I respond to comments and any questions quickly. Treat visitors to your blog as you would guests in your home. After all, there are millions of other blogs to choose from out there.”
~ Hugh W. Roberts, creator of Hugh’s Views & News
“Basically just blog regularly and in different quantities. Small posts for those who have seconds to spare, longer posts for those who have a few minutes, and of course I have sample chapters for those who want to spend more time.”
~ Kent Wayne, creator of Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha
“My blog takes a huge amount of time… and I’m constantly struggling for balance. I have no idea how people with tens of thousands of followers keep up with everyone. I’ve never actually “tried” to grow my blog. I just have fun, visit, and I always reciprocate. It is a nice community. Happy Blogging!”
~ D. Wallace Peach, creator of Myths of the Mirror
P.s If anyone wants to join me, I’m going to have a go at Peter Edward’s free skillshare course in gaining 1,000 WordPress subscribers a month!