Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Do We Follow - or Not Follow - A Blog?

Anybody know what letter are we on?

Right, W.   Thanks, Bill.  Aren't you proud you made it this far?  Even if there were a few places where you got stuck. (Or was that just me?)

For W I'm tackling the question, Why?  As in, why do we choose to follow Blog X, and not follow Blog Y?

Here's my personal take.

from Krista76 at Flickr
Why I Do Follow:

#1 - What's in it for me When I read a blog, I am looking for high levels of entertainment, and/or interesting information that relates to where I am in my life and present pursuits.  Right now, I am not personally involved in breastfeeding or raising llamas - not to knock either of those interests.  But unless your blog about said subjects is really, really humorous, or features poignant, brilliant writing, it's not helping me to learn.

#2 - Make me laugh.  I follow The Oatmeal, CakeWrecks and other funny sites, because they bring a smile to my face, sometimes an outright guffaw.  Not only do their posts spark ideas I sometimes use in my own writing, just the act of laughing loosens me up.

#3 - Quality Content.  There are a billion blogs out there offering advice on writing and blogging in general, and on contemporary fiction writing specifically.  I don't need you to write in my genre, but I do need quality: things you've learned, tips, links, helpful examples.

#4 - Consistency in posting.  Everybody gets busy, and it's okay once in a while to phone-it-in and say, "Can't do it today."  We're all human, and stuff comes up.  But if you go from making six posts a week to six posts a month, and four of them are "just checking in because I don't have time to make a real post," you're going to lose me.

#5 - Let me hear your voice.  I've read, even followed a few blogs that are chock full of information, but I'm not hearing the author's voice.  Why are you interested in baroque music, SETI, the proper way to shoe a horse?  Help me understand why you are drawn to this subject; sell me on why I should care.  If your site's just a book report, term paper, or encyclopedia... well, it's not the only one out there.

#6 - Break it up with pictures, short video clips, white space.  White space is our friend.

Why I may choose not to Follow, or even drop a Blog: 

from cable car couture
# 1 - Don't hurt me.  If your blog has so many brilliant graphics, with flashing ads and an electric blue and hot pink background so bright that I need sunglasses before clicking your link, I'm going to pass.  Please think twice about the text boxes that are partially transparent over a busy graphic art design, no matter how cool the art is.  Cutesy (when they are hard-to-read) fonts, long unbroken paragraphs, texts or links that are of colors difficult to read... all make me lean toward not Following.  When I visit blogs, it should not be a painful experience.

#2 - Relentless flogging of your own book.  Of course you should promote your book(s), but if four out of five of your posts are "Buy my book, buy my book, buy my book," and little else, it's a turn-off for me.  (If you're offering good content, with one teensy paragraph per post being a reminder to people about your book, that's a different story.)

#3 - Nothing but lists of other people I should follow/visit, etc.  Again (see #5, above), I want content from you.  if you've got lots of friends, I'm happy for you, but why I should take your advice on who to visit when I have yet to connect with you?

#4 - Egregious spelling and grammar mistakes from a writer.  If your having problems wrapping you're head around the proper way to use "you're" and "your" (which is the opposite of how I used them in the first part of this sentence) you're going to lose (not loose) me.  It says to me you're not at a point in the craft where I can learn from you.  That said, everybody makes mistakes (as a kindly friend pointed out, I have my own punctuation problems) and a few mistakes and typos sprinkled in here and there are forgivable.  (Especially if they're mine, of course.)

#5 - Inconsistency in subject.  If on Monday I stumble on your blog and you have a fabulous article about how to write conflict, but on Wednesday it's a long, much too detailed post about your dog's hysterectomy, and on Friday it's about what you had for lunch... Sorry, I'm outta there.  It's fine to write a blog simply for the purpose of connecting to personal friends and family, and throwing in everything including the kitchen sink, but if you want to build a large following among strangers, who don't really care about Mrs. Floppy Ears, you've got to be consistent in what content you're offering us.

#6 - Whining.  Blogging and writing is hard work, it's tiring, and there's a fine line where we do want to acknowledge that fact and to connect with others who've also struggled.  I can't connect emotionally with perfect people to whom everything seems easy-peasy.  On the other hand, if your blog has a consistently negative tone...  Sorry, I'm not wanting to hang out with Debbie Downer.

Speaking of self-promotion, I've posted previously on Blogging and Branding that contain more links to some good references.

Please share, below - what makes you follow a blog?
What makes you decide not to click that Follow button, or to unFollow at a later time?

And <gulping, bracing myself> what flaws do you see in my blog that I should address?
Thanks so much for your feedback and comments.

P.S.  W is also for Winner!  I'm delighted (and a bit surprised) to be a co-grand prize winner of Nate Wilson's A-Z Contest.  My Amazon wish list is going to be very happy.  Go to Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire to check out the entertaining alphabetical entries.