The ‘Follow Me – Follow You’ Blog Chirade (and why it’s counter productive)

While new to the blogosphere, I’ve been spending the past few days reading up on how to grow an audience.

After a few posts and no publicity (not even my family know about my little blog yet) I’ve managed to grow my follower numbers to….(drum roll)….12. I’m not worried at this early point about massive growth, preferring initially to prepare tailored and interesting content. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. That’s why I want to take my time in building my ‘tribe’ of followers. After all, building a successful, compelling, sticky blog is a long process – a marathon, not a sprint.

With that being said, on blogging channels I’ve made the equivalent of a mouse fart’s noise in a hurricane, which begs the question, why have I still gotten follows? When I dig a little deeper into some of the populated blogs out there, it’s clearly a numbers game. Success = Lots of Followers. It seems normal etiquette that if someone follows you, you are compelled to follow them back, especially if you are a first time blogger with a fresh site. I can understand the mentality behind that to some extent. Returning the favour. Each respective blog gains a new devotee. Everyone’s a winner right?

I can’t help but be reminded of something that happens in Sales, where inexperienced amateurs want to boost their sales figures. Typically they would use the Mass Mail approach. A literal example of this is to be found in any mailbox in any city in any country, especially if the occupant has been out of town for a while. In the world of business, the digital equivalent happens. A generic email template is mocked up and shared between the team. It’s usually a bloated and vague email sent out en masse to a database of email addresses typically purchased from a 3rd party marketing company.

The ‘To Whom It May Concern‘ emails are self-important, unclear (as they need to be. Anything more specific would slice off some of the target market), and in all cases just bloody ignorant and rude. The reason this method is still adopted is because it is a Low Calories approach and can be done very quickly. Worst case scenario for the sales person, you get a few rude emails back. Best case, you get a few sales out of it.

I can see this pattern in blogs. People mass following others blindly in the hope of a follow back (or in sales, an email response), which could ultimately lead to a future customer.

BlogI’ve been in Sales for ten years. I’ve also been trained in various sales methodologies during that time and worked for a number of large U.S. multinational companies. My own experience has taught me that the COLD approach doesn’t work. Not anymore. Especially in this digital age where everyone, whether they like it or not, has a unique online profile made public through a host of different channels.

A little bit of research and thought can make a big difference in gaining a follow or making that sale because ultimately, every time a blogger sits down to write and hit that Publish button, they are selling themselves. Some writers might not like that idea that they are actually Sales people, but it is the truth. Especially in the world of self-publishing where you have to drum up the interest and shift those digital copies yourself.

That’s why the ‘follow you-follow me’ attitude irks me. A lot of the blogs out there that have thousands of followers are seemingly made up of people who have simply followed back, a courtesy borne out of a felt sense of empathy and kindness.

I would go as far as saying that these flaky followers are less than worthless if you are serious about building a successful blog or business. At the end of the day, if you need to inflate your numbers by randomly following others blogs in the hope that they’ll like you back, then your motives are plain wrong, if not unethical. Encouraging rubbish blogs and their owners with insincere praise in the hope of a follow back is pretty shallow.

Personally I would pride myself on having a smaller band of followers who were more attuned to my interests and ACTUALLY read my material, instead of someone who simply returned the favour of following back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for encouraging people in their respective blogs. Blogging is not easy and it is a lot of hard work. But it is precisely for that reason, that I would rather be honest and give my praise sincerely than give a false follow. A False-Follow can encourage the owner to continue blindly publishing bile, spewing out post after post with gusto, while when push comes to shove and that new killer e-book is finally released that same audience are non-committal to part with their well earned $$.

A False Follow gives False Hope. At least with a Non-Follow, you can better gauge from your core followers how they feel about your blog, perhaps revealing some painful truths that you don’t have the right networking skills or compelling content to draw the masses. Yet.

Perhaps I’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick here, but that seems to be the culture I’ve seen so far in my travails through the collection of WordPress blogs. I’m sure the cream eventually rises to the top, but I wouldn’t automatically assume that a high number of followers is a barometer for success on this medium. At least that’s my excuse, for now! 😉

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