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Follow For Follow Is Bad For Business

November 18, 2014

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Marketing to other bloggers is standard blogging advice and certainly has a place when building a community finding your tribe.

But is the follow for follow game a good business strategy? I think not. 

Questioning Conventional Wisdom

I'm an excellent public speaker.

It was my major in college and something I excel at...I have absolutely no problem getting up in front of a crowd, in fact, I like it.

I disseminate information and thoroughly engage people in such a way, that when I'm done, I have actually heard, Do it again!
You know why?

It's not because I stroll up and down the aisles when I speak or because I make eye contact or even because I throw in a few jokes.

It's because I know my audience and I use the well researched and intimate knowledge I possess about them when I sit down at my computer to construct my speech.

I write solid, relevant content.

Obviously, blogging is no different.


Except that when I give a speech at PTA or church or at a community event, everyone in attendance is there because they want to hear me speak on a particular topic. They came to see me out of their own need.

They want to be entertained or learn something.

I'm obviously speaking about a subject that interests them and if they like what I say, if I've helped or amused them in some way, they'll be excited to hear me speak again and come back ~ to me.

I don't go door to door asking people if they want to hear about my crafty DIYs. That wouldn't be very efficient.

It'd also be kind of weird.

Plus, my audiences are not generally trying to sell me something in return. They don't offer a counter speech when I stop talking and I most certainly don't go back to their home to sit through a speech of theirs to thank them for showing up for mine.

And yet.

As a blogger, I've read so many, many posts and articles prompting me to do just that.

Whether is was about blogging in 2014 or social media in 2023 the advice is always the same.

Follow For Follow  Is Not A Wise Business Plan

To build my audience, I should go seek out other bloggers or influencers, read their content and comment, because then they will come back to my profiles, to read, follow and comment.

Well, that works if I want to make friends (which I have) or if I'm starting out.

You know, join the community, get exposure, put yourself in front of a larger blogger's audience with your pithy comments, I get it, but honestly, I have to say, I think this idea stinks if you are really trying to build a blogging business.

A little bit of this type of marketing is fine, but spending too much time marketing to the blogging community, as a blogger?

I think not.

I've had so many people, who clearly have no interest whatsoever in home decor, follow me just so I will follow them in return.

They never come back to read my posts, they never comment, they're just focused on building a book of numbers. Plus many of these bloggers join the community, realize that blogging is not the way to make an easy buck and leave quickly.

When they quit blogging, there goes my follower.

How To Create True Fans

I want people to read my stuff because they enjoy what I have to say or I'm offering them a solution to a problem or I'm providing them with inspiration or something they need.

If you're reading my posts just to be polite, that's going to get really old, really fast.

I visit a lot of blogs each day. I don't do it for business purposes or for return visits or reciprocal comments.

I do it because I'm a home decor and craft junkie and I'm addicted to the pretty.

I do it because I've met a lot of people that I now adore and I'm genuinely interested in what they have to share. I do it because I would rather read about a weekend trip to the mountains and see pretty Christmas decor, than hear about the latest political scandal, homicide or DWI in my area.

That is why I read blogs.

I hope that is why other's read mine.

Also, I have to say, that as a blogger, I'm probably not your best customer. 

Unless you're in the business of selling to bloggers...which can be a huge business.

There are tons of people making money telling bloggers how to blog, what they should be doing to be successful, but there again, that's a service.

Those bloggers have honed in on the fact that there are millions of people trying to make money off their own sites and they're going to show you how.

Awesome. I say more power to them.

They have a giant customer base and they are making it work for them, because some people, a large group actually, need to have a problem solved, i.e. the need to make money from their blogs, and they will seek those bloggers selling how to do it out.

You know what my most popular post is? It's my box pleat valance.
How To Make A Box Pleat Valance

It's a how to...people are looking for a solution to a specific problem.

They Google, How do I make a box pleat valance myself without spending a fortune?

And they end up at me.

That one post has generated more traffic than all of the link parties I have ever joined up at combined.

It's more than my posts that have been featured on major craft websites or in national magazines.

The eyeballs come to me from Google search and most of those people actually have no idea what a blog is when they get here.

So tell me again, why am I constantly being told to market to other bloggers?

It just doesn't make sense to me, but that's just me and my little ole opinion and keep in mind,  this is not a well researched piece, it's just a newish blogger's opinion based on my own (very limited) experience.

Again, my blog is not currently monetized and I am not saying it never will be ~ the offers come in often, they are very tempting and I certainly don't have an aversion to money.

I'm just saying that for those who do want to make money and grow their blog beyond an average ranking, I question conventional wisdom of marketing to other bloggers in the I'll follow you and you follow me back game.

And I had to get it off my chest.

Ok, speech over, I'll climb down from my soapbox now.

Although I must admit that I do like being up here.

A lot.


Update: My blog is currently monetized in a variety of ways...but I stand by my original thoughts. Following for following's sake is a bad business plan...

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Post a Comment | 40 Comments

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  1. I always love your replies, Stacey! :)

  2. This is such a good topic, thanks for starting the discussion. I enjoy the, support and connection I have with the readers of my blog. I do feel it is very important to take the time to visit every single person who comments on my blog, not to gain a reader, but out of sincere appreciation. I receive a lot of emails from companies offering to send me items to review. After consideration, I only accept the offers that are relevant to my blog. I'm asked to link to their product, but I don't make any money from any additional sales. Such a great post and very well said.

  3. Thank you, Brandi, I appreciate your comment. I'm always a little nervous when I write about blogging. I know that some people have very strong opinions about certain aspects. I'm a pretty easy going gal, advertise, don't advertise, even the asking for a follow back doesn't really bother me. I just think that for as large as the blogging community is, you tend to run into the same people over and over. It just doesn't make sense to me when posts tout marketing to other bloggers as one of the "top 5 ways to grow your blog"...seems to me you would want to market outside that circle to reach a broader base...especially if you advertise! :) Thanks for coming by! I always enjoy the conversation!!

  4. What a great post. It is really hard. I have thought about trying to make some money blogging since I enjoy doing it and if I am going to spend time blogging truth be told a little extra income would be welcome but I don't have the traffic. I find that trying to build traffic is really time consuming. I did set up a facebook page for my blog but it sits there unused. I try to pin my recipe posts to pinterest. I have linked to the occasional linky party. I see the long lists of parties that some posts are linked to and I am just amazed. This summer I went quite a while between posts as I was busy doing the stuff that I would have liked to have blogged about. Last week I was dealing with a bunch of snow when I would have liked to have been blogging. This week I am painting my cupboards when I would have liked to have been blogging. And I have two days to get it back together before someone that i have never met shows up at my door for a meeting. I really would like for my first impression to not be the contents of my cupboards spread across every horizontal surface in three rooms. :) So no blog post until at least later this week. Shoot, my comment has practically turned into a post. Sorry Kim. Thanks for being honest with your feelings about blogging. From now on I am not going to worry about traffic and only blog for fun. Thanks Friend!! Lorri

  5. I understand what you mean and you are saying alot of what people think, but afraid to say. I don't buy anything from blogs either unless they are on etsy and sell what I am looking for.

  6. Betty, thanks so much for weighing in. I have wanted to open an Etsy shop, I always thought that would be cool a endeavor. I could make my crafts and thrift and then put them up for sale. Of course, I am not sure I would make any money, but it would be fun! ;)

  7. I love long conversations with good friends, Lorri!! Your lengthy comments are welcome here anytime! I agree, making money from blogging takes a huge amount of effort. Building traffic is very time consuming, it's no different than a brick and mortar storefront ~ without traffic, you're not selling anything. I just feel that while it's important to mix, mingle and meet with the other shop owners, if you really want to be successful, you need to reach out to a broader customer base. I guess that's what perplexes me about the advice to market heavily to other bloggers It has its place in the arsenal, but it's limited from a business standpoint.

    I took a step back this summer, too. The kids were home, we were outside more often and while I was doing plenty I could blog about, I just didn't have the time. When I did post, it was something I was passionate about and so I was happy to do it. I hope that your house gets put back together in short order and thanks for weighing in! :)

  8. PREACH IT SISTER! But seriously... well said! {you really ARE good at this speech-giving stuff!} ;D

  9. Thank you, Sally! I do like to talk...just ask my husband! ;)

  10. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. I never pay attention to the ads on other blogs and wondered how many other people ignore them as well. I've also wondered if people really did make money from the pop up ads. For myself personally, crafting-blogging-linky parties-& commenting is for fun, a hobby. Adding the element of making money to it seems like it would detract from the enjoyment of this....but that is in my world. My husband has mentioned more than once that I should make a side business out of selling my creations. While I totally agree that everything I make is super wonderful and that people would have no problem trading hundreds of dollars for my renewed & upcycled crafts, it would just ruin the fun. ;) I like starting a project and then walking away from it for a couple of months and doing something else, or nothing else, or never finishing it. I love connecting with other bloggers and sharing our passions; and I've learned so many DIY tricks from blogland thru genuine connections. I can't say that I have ever looked to another blog with a shopping mentality....although clicking to their etsy account changes that. lol
    This was a well said speech. Go Kim! :)

  11. Well said, dearie. You're writing engages me more than any blog other I read. You have depth and meaning in your words. You most certainly know your audience because when you post something, say, the one about catalogs, you were speaking directly to ME. It's like you are in my mind? I never have been asked about making money on my blog. I am completely unpopular. Although, I do have an etsy shop, it's only there when I have something I have created and think it's worth anything. I have barely made enough to pay for two tanks of gas. However, it is an extension of myself. That's all. I have no business sense whatsoever. I love your posts, your creativity, your candor. You do have a brilliant mind, you know! ;) xoxoxo Jen

  12. Hi Kim, I don't make money from my blog. Never really have researched that course. I don't have the time and I blog because it's brings me so much enjoyment. I have done a few sponsored posts. Mainly because it challenges me. You said it all perfectly in your paragraph about why you visit blogs. I have made so many wonderful people that I do feel a connection to. I really enjoyed this post!

  13. Hear you loud and clear, Kim! I, too, have never bought anything from a blog, I do NOT bat an eyelash at the ads, and although I could really use the money, I have chosen not to take that far. I am a very visual person, and all those ugly, flashing fonts, screaming 'Buy me, buy me!', are way too noisy for these ears.

    Have to say, though, that I will visit every single person who leaves a comment at Poppy View, as it's just good blogging etiquette, regardless if I ever visit them again. And, even though it's not tit for tat, I won't lie - I do appreciate when they do the same for me, since their popping round to my place shows that they've acknowledged my presence, outside the closed quarters of their own comments section!

    Thanks for another thought provoking post. You virtual voice sounds REAL(LY) good from that cyber stage podium!


  14. Good morning Kim! I agree. In the seven years of blogging (seven years in January), I have always such wanted to be ME. Nothing else. I enjoy making contact with others, so for me, commenting is FUN and I find it courteous to acknowledge others for coming to visit me. And even though I was encouraged by others to monetize my blog, sell art, make pitches....I never ever felt comfortable doing so. I hated, literally HATED "advertising" my silly art work on my blog because my blog is a sacred place for me to just write and share beautiful photos. That's it. But popularity is always a target for many people, but after a while, it gets old. I prefer to keep blogging sparse now; there was a time I was pumping out posts every Friday night. But I grew weary of coming up with the same themes. I prefer what I'm doing now, and that is posting only every month. If people want to visit, fine, if not....fine. I've come a long way!

    ENJOY WHAT YOU LOVE and share it! Happy day! Anita

  15. Hi Audra, thanks for the comment! I just adore your projects and think that people would pay money for them! That said, I have never sold any of my creations either. I craft to make my own home prettier. I'm not sure that I have the focus (or the time) to open a business right now! I write to share my ideas and teach/ inspire others. Someday I would love to write a book or magazine articles doing the same, but I know that the vast majority of my readers would not have a blog. I know that there are many people who make a full time salary from blogging, but it's a full time job and I am certain, that they are not just popular with bloggers. I would think that a lot of their customers must come from outside the blogging community, but that's just my thoughts! Thanks for shout out!! :) Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Jen, you are truly the nicest person and always so complimentary! You just made my day! I think that YOU are the one with the brilliant mind, you are crafty, can make clothes, draw, paint, you throw fabulous parties and take great pictures (which are wildly popular on Instagram!)...and I adore your writing. You are always on my must read list. Blogging is such a personal thing, as are most things in life, and what people do is really their own business. I am just a voracious reader and when I started blogging I read everything I could and marketing to each other, just seemed a bit counterintuitive. I had to say it. Thanks for the comment, Jen! Hope it's a great day!

  17. To each his own is one of my favorite sayings, Jann and it certainly pertains to blogging! I am glad that our paths have crossed and I love popping over to check out all of your pretties...especially the red! ;)

  18. Thank you Poppy! I love your last line...your words always paint the clearest pictures! It feels good to be up on the stage again! I do visit everyone that visits me, as well. I, like you, enjoy the interaction. I'm always interested to see who is commenting, what their blog looks like, what they are interested in and whether we end up following each other or not, I always come away enriched by the experience. I guess if I didn't, I wouldn't do it! I also leave comments when I feel like it, because I am verbal and enjoying giving feedback. I understand the idea of peppering my name around the community to get noticed, get featured, get exposure to other larger bloggers' audiences, but I find that the traffic is usually short-lived. Just my thoughts! I always enjoy your visits, Poppy and visiting your blog! :) Thanks for coming by today!!

  19. Anita, seven years? My goodness that is a long time, congratulations! I have read that most new bloggers quit after the first six months and I believe it. There are a bunch of girls I started out with, that are no longer active. Blogging is hard work and it is not an easy way to make money. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, it becomes a chore. I think that everyone has to choose their own road and if monetizing is the desired path, I say fabulous. I just feel that there is a great misunderstanding out there that by marketing to bloggers, you will grow and become huge. There is always something else. A viral post or pin, a feature in a paper, something that may start in the blogging circle but then makes its way out to the "real" world and takes off. Then your job becomes keeping those people engaged ~ if that's what you're into! I often think about making a buck or two, but I would like it to come from writing, as that is my passion and a goal I have had for myself since I was small and I am not sure that the blog is going to take me there. Maybe....
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment Anita! :)

  20. I agree completely Kim! I love speaking to large or small groups and greatly enjoy blogging about gardening. I follow people I am interested in because I am interested, not because I want to up my "numbers". While I've been advised to get sponsors and "start making money with that blog!", I find I enjoy doing it for the spreading for gardening information far more than I would if I had a schedule to follow and a frantic desire to cash in...not that I'm adverse to income either, just don't want the pressure to ruin the joy of writing! Thanks for sharing!

  21. Hi Donna! Thanks for the comment! It does take a lot of work to make money in blogging, just like everything else, that's for sure! I just never found marketing to other bloggers to be a super effective way to grow my blog in any real capacity. My numbers have grown, but almost in leaps, that usually happen after I am featured outside of the blogging community. Then I get real staying power. When I am featured at a linky or during a guest post, it is always lovely and I do enjoy a bounce, but it is temporary. Just sayin' I hope you have a wonderful week and I appreciate your input!! :)

  22. LOL and mine is How to Make a Rag Rug on a Loom and the second one is a story about a haunted house in our area :)

  23. I come and visit here because I want to! I leave with a smile, because I want to. I blog because I enjoy the outlet, and feel that daily life is often full of pain and heartaches for others, and I want to offer them a bit of beauty, encouragement, perhaps a bit of inspiration, and always, I wish to brighten their day. I find that here. I like your soapbox beliefs I know if you were speaking somewhere close by, I would be in the audience. I don't buy or sell in blogging, although it never offends me if others do. I appreciate that you shared your heart, and I am thankful that I discovered your blog. Keep up the great work!

  24. Well, my friend, you and I have had several offline conversations on blogging topics like this, so you know pretty much where I stand. When it stops being fun, I'm done. It seems for every blogger who has "arrived" there's a different viewpoint on how to get there. Do social media one says. Don't do social media another says. Advertise, don't advertise. And so on and so on and so forth. Honestly, it gives me a headache. (Not you. . .you never give me a headache and I adore your blog and you! And this is a great post; well-written and not slamming anybody.) Like Brandi and Poppy, I try to always visit bloggers who leave a comment because to me that's the ultimate compliment and I want to return the favor. And usually I make a new friend and that's really cool. Bottom line, after months (maybe even years, because I started blogging in 2007 with my first blog) of thinking about this, I just decided to do what I enjoy and let God open any doors He chooses. This works for me and keeps my blogging life very joyful. Love you Kim! ~ Nancy

  25. There are many reasons why I always open (and enjoy) your posts. Your writing style, humor and the variety of your topics. But primarily, it's because you just feel "genuine" to me AND there aren't a zillion ads popping up all over! The scrolling side-column ones were bad enough, but now these annoying pop-ups! I want to READ and enjoy your articles, not fight and swear at interrupting ads! So, Kim ... just keep doing what you do and be happy that you've discovered how you want to do it (and that you can do it SO WELL) !
    :) CB

  26. Thank you Cheryl. :) I really don't mind the advertisements, I mean, I don't love them, but if a blog is interesting, I will deal with it...I love to hear when people are successful, I just think reaching out beyond a blogging audience is more imperative than people realize. I also think that the non-blogging audience expects ads on a page!

  27. I'm so glad that you don't think I am slamming anybody, Nancy, because that was never my point and frankly, I am neither for or against any particular tactic. The point I was really trying to make is that if you want to be the next Pioneer Woman or build a crafty Martha Stewart-like enterprise, it's going to take much more than a blogging audience. I honestly know one person in real life who is a blogger. ONE. When people ask me what I do, I say I have a home decor website, because when I say "blog" they look at me and blink. For as popular and all consuming it may be in my world, most people don't know what it is! So I was just pointing out (probably badly) that following me to make yourself bigger, is probably not the best use of your time. Write great stuff that people want to read or help them out in some way...that is what I think will catapult a blog to the next level!
    Thanks for the comment, Nancy...and I certainly think your blog is a place of joy! :)

  28. Thank you, Judy! I got caught up in the networking trap when I first started out, because I was so new, I did what I was told! As time's gone on, I follow only who I want, because I enjoy the content and discussion. I would love to be a great writer with a huge following someday, but I don't confuse my friendly chats with marketing! :) Thanks for coming by and I always enjoy our chats!!

  29. So you are educating and scaring people!! I love it, Deb!! :)

  30. Oh I agree with you. I just watched a video the other day where they were giving this advice. It took me a long time to add advertisements to my blog. Way later than many of the people that I know who started the same time as me. But I truly understand why they did it. Because blogging is a full time job for me now, and there are so many expenses that I'd have to be rich to just keep it up for just the fun of it!

  31. I agree, it can be an expensive hobby! I am all for ads, I just think that if people want to be big, it would behoove them to reach out beyond the blogger base. There may be a lot of us out there, but to be truly successful you need to move beyond the neighborhood and thing globally! Thanks for weighing in on a tricky subject, Manuela! :)

  32. This is a great post, Kim, and I completely agree. My blog is not monetized either. I started my blog after an emotionally draining family situation, because I needed to read happy stuff. Little did I know that I would make such wonderful friends with many ladies I'm sure I will never meet. It was kind of difficult in the beginning to not get caught up in the "bloggy rat race," where you feel the need to be constantly building, painting or redoing something so you can blog about it. I'm pretty good about it now with just an occasional reminder. I, too, have never purchased anything from another blogger, but I do truly wish them much good luck in making money if that's what they need to do. I always enjoy reading your blog.

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Kim!

  33. Carol, I started my blog for EXACTLY the same reason! I too have met some fabulous ladies, yourself included! I think that blogging can be a wonderful, but not easy, way to make a living. I just really think that your audience needs to be much broader than Blogger friends or fellow WordPress users. I think that it is a great way to start relationships, but eventually people need to reach beyond...but that's just my thoughts! :) Happy Turkey weekend! <3

  34. Just meeting you today and reading your post about blogging made me know I would be back again for a visit.
    Excellent post . . .

    I am so far away from "follow me I will follow you back" . . . Oh don't get me wrong I enjoy those who have chosen to visit the IGH and I enjoy visiting them as well.

    I have no desire to write, share my life and living and try to earn money too. I am okay visiting people who choose to do so but I will say . . . I do not like pop up ads. In fact I doubt if I follow blogger etiquette other than being myself, being kind and I can't help but throw a little authentic, love and laughter in there too. Then I am good to go.

    I have learned so much from my visits . . . in fact, I am off to look for some stencils to create some Merry Christmas greetings for the house. I need to find some hoards too . . . I think I know where I can find some, I have the paint. A gal named Kim gave me a bunch of ideas today.
    I love this world . . .

    (I love your . . . "I have a Home Decor website" instead of A BLOG . . . I think I might have to borrow your idea and identify what I do differently.)
    Love, Lynne

  35. I am laughing out load and my husband just said . . . WHAT!

    I have to look for BOARDS not HOARDS . . .

    So much fun to laugh at ones self . . .

  36. Lynne, I entered this world of blogging so naively. I had never read a blog before and I didn't know blogger etiquette existed. Of course, I have learned along the way, but I generally just follow the same "rules" of kindness and manners I would in real life. So far, it seems to be working out well for me! I guess being your authentic self does pay off!

    I have a lot of respect for people who do monetize their blogs. It takes a ton of hard work to make any kind of real money in this biz. I would love to write for a larger audience someday and if it pays, that would be even better! ;) For now, I just write about what I like and when I feel like it. I follow who I want to follow and know that if my blog takes off into the stratosphere one day, in all likelihood, it won't be because of the I'll follow you if you follow me game.

    I'm glad you found some useful tips! I love it when someone tells me that they found a great idea here! That is better than any amount of money...for now anyway! ;)

  37. Haha! I love it! I do that all the time and, while I am not a decorating perfectionist, I am a grammar and spelling crazy person. So I know exactly how you feel when you hit the wrong key and hit publish! A good laugh is good for the soul, so we'll just let it be at that and thank those HOARDS for today's chuckle!! ;)