As part of my ongoing effort to learn more about all things bloggy I’ve been reading a whole bunch of blogs. And for the most part it’s been great. Pick a topic, no matter how bizarre or insanely specific, and there’s someone out there writing about it in an interesting and articulate way. You don’t always find them right away and inevitably you’ll come across blogs that are so full of hate that your faith in human nature is seriously rattled and blogs that read like they’re written by a chimp or, even worse, Pauly D. But if you click around long enough you’ll find lots of fascinating, worthwhile conversations that will ameliorate the damage the chimp, Pauly D, and the hatemonger did to your worldview and then some.
Most blogs promote themselves in one form or another and I get why. I do it too. You can’t be part of a conversation or a community if no one knows you exist. So you comment on other blogs and leave a link to yours. When you write something new you tweet it or share it. You participate in link ups with others who are talking about similar topics. It’s kind of like at parties: you don’t just stand in the corner behind a potted plant and hope a fascinating dialogue stumbles across you. You talk to people.
Some blogs are bit more hardcore with their attempts to build an audience. They attend blogging conferences. They sponsor blogs with a larger audience so they get shout outs. They do give aways and contests. (Want to win a Cool Thing? Leave a comment on this post! Like us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Send us a picture!)
While I’ve never dabbled in that arena myself, I get why others do. Whether your blog is a hobby or a business, honing your craft can be satisfying and fun. If someone hooked you up with a free Cool Thing that you don’t need, why not give it to someone who does and involve more people in the conversations you love having? If there’s a popular blog in your community whose readers seem like they would enjoy your stuff then a shout out from that blogger could be a good thing for everyone.
I especially appreciate it when blogs I love take it to the next promotional level particularly if that community has a lot of vocal, popular chimps, Pauly Ds, and hatemongers. The voice of a not idiot really needs to be heard in that type of situation and sometimes the not idiots have to pull out some promotional stops to make that happen especially if they’re unwilling to do the low brow poop flinging, drunken shirtless yelling, and vitriole spewing that, sadly, are a good way to both suck as a blog and get a lot pageviews.
But there is such a thing as promotional overkill. With some blogs, every other post is a give away. The blogger leaves comments like “Nice post” on a whole bunch of other blogs (and that’s it. EVER.). They blog ad naseum about how awesome their various conferences and networking events were. Every tweet or status update is a plea for followers or a link to one of their own posts. They only interact with bloggers that have bigger readerships than theirs because shout outs from smaller blogs don’t have even close to the same reach. Contribution to the conversation itself nearly ceases.
It’s not that promotion itself is objectionable; it’s that attempts to become popular are not compelling content. And when being popular seems to take precedence over being a genuine thoughtful voice in the conversation it makes me squirm a bit. If someone were at a party screaming, “LIKE ME! LIKE ME! I WILL GIVE YOU STUFF! BE MY FRIEND! I’M FRIENDS WITH A FAMOUS PERSON!” I would rack my brain for a nice way to slip a plug for psychotherapy into the conversation and I would tend to suspect that their point view on whatever they talked about in between LIKE ME!s might be a bit skewed.
Lots of popular bloggers are popular as a side effect of their awesomeness, shrewdness, and e-street smarts. But bloggers who see popularity rather than awesomeness as a goal make me itchy for the same reason that middle school mean girls and career politicians do. They will say and do what is advantageous for themselves and that’s about all you can count on.
I’m also beginning to suspect that bloggers who chase popularity for popularity’s sake are at risk of going the way of the chimps, Pauly Ds, and hatemongers and eventually resorting to getting hits via feces tossing, drunken man-sluttiness, or alarming levels of negativity because there are going to be times where higher brow promotional attempts don’t work and OMG WHAT IF THEY GET LESS POPULAR?!
So that being said I would like to make the following request:
Dear People of the Internet,
Please focus on being awesome. Awesomeness is an excellent goal. A nice side effect of awesomeness is that people like awesome people. But popularity’s just a possible side effect of awesomeness. Carpal tunnel is also a possible side effect of prolonged e-awesomeness. So side effects aren’t very good reasons to blog.
Awesomeness is its own reward. You get to wake up everyday and be like, “Hey. I just woke up and I’m ALREADY AWESOME. Niiiiice.” People could follow or unfollow you all. day. long. and at the end of the day you still get to go to bed like, “Hey. I spent all day being AWESOME. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.”
So, please, bring the awesome. One Pauly D is more than enough.