There’s nothing passive about being a good listener.
Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, your blog: pitch a tent anywhere on the web, and the expectation is that people will quickly line up to give you a (virtual) high five in the form of a “follow.” I see it often enough in our own Community Pool posts here at The Daily Post: “Follow me and I’ll follow you back!”
It’s pretty clear what the followed blogger’s supposed to do: keep posting stuff that others enjoy reading. Be a gracious host. Ensure posts are readable. But what about the follower? Is there a job description for what happens after you click on a blog’s “Follow” button (or Follow Blog Widget)? Here’s some food for thought.
Don’t expect instant reciprocity
You shouldn’t take the plunge if you don’t want to read new content from the person whose blog you just followed.
When you follow a blog you’re making a light, but real, commitment: each new post from that site will show up in your Reader (and/or your email, depending on your delivery settings). You shouldn’t take the plunge if you don’t want to read new content from the person whose blog you just followed.
Interaction and reciprocal generosity are among the cornerstones of the blogging community, and form the basis of any meaningful online conversation. But you should never expect immediate reciprocity in the form of a follow-back. Demanding it, however politely or indirectly, cheapens the gesture of following someone’s blog in the first place.
Slow-cooked admiration is the best kind
There’s something intoxicating about discovering a great voice you hadn’t read before. I stumble on new, fantastic blogs every day, and when I do I follow them. I then immediately want to read, like, and comment on every single post.
Note: If you wish to resist instant gratification, you can opt to receive new posts on a daily or weekly basis, instead of instantly. Just tweak your email delivery settings (which can be done for individual blogs as well as in bulk).
I stop myself from actually binge-reading (most of the times, anyway): I prefer to think of following a blog as a longterm relationship, one in which I gradually discover more and more of the blogger’s voice, skill, and temperament. It takes a long time to build a blog (though taking our Blogging 201 course, starting next week, might help). Following it should equally be considered a process that unfolds over generous stretches of time.
Don’t be a (total) stranger
It’s nice to show a sign of life to the bloggers you follow every once in a while: a comment here, a well-phrased reblog there, a sprinkling of likes.
These are not huge gestures and don’t take a lot of time, but they can mean a lot to those who receive them. It’s these kinds of gestures that make followers feel like engaged partners in a conversation rather than disembodied Gravatar images hovering in your blog’s attic. It’s also the best, friendliest, and most organic way of drawing another blogger’s attention to you and your own work.
The idea behind following a blog is to give you an easy way to focus your attention on something you find valuable.
It’s fine to pick favorites
I follow more than 800 blogs. While I’m happy to have discovered each and every one of them, I most definitely have my favorites — the ones I return to time and again, the ones I always hope to see a new post from in my Reader. Blogs are like people, in that sense: having strong preferences doesn’t take away from my appreciation of everyone else, but rather grounds the value of my affection in the first place. If you like all blogs equally, you don’t really love any of them.
What does that mean in practical terms? No need to feel bad if you find yourself engaging with some followed blogs more than others.
There’s an Unfollow button, too
Given the number of blogs I just confessed to follow it might sound hard to believe, but I unfollow blogs all the time. There’s nothing personal or vindictive about it: sometimes, my reading relationship with a blog has simply run its course. You can unfollow blogs for any number of reasons — they publish too little or too much for your taste, repeat the same idea frequently, or have taken a turn in their editorial style that doesn’t mesh with your current preferences.
It’s ok. The idea behind following a blog is to give you an easy way to focus your attention on something you find valuable. There’s already so much distraction in our lives; why dilute our attention with things we’re no longer passionate about? Unfollow! You might still rediscover an old blog you used to follow later on — and fall in love all over again.
What does following a blog mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments.