I started my blog in March 2021, more than 1.5 years ago. Every so often I find myself reflecting on my journey. And every so often something I see on social media or someone else’s blog will spur another moment of reflection. A topic I keep coming back to involves how I found or created my niche within the bookish community. Note that I am definitely not an expert on this and these are just what I found worked for me. In this post I talk about how to make book blog friends.
It wasn’t easy at first. Starting a blog and maintaining it takes a lot of time and effort. Like many others, I started mine to connect with others who enjoy reading similar things. However, ever since the advent of more instantaneous social media (i.e., Twitter, Instagram, TikTok), blogging can feel like shouting out into the void. Therefore, it’s just as important to create and maintain at least one form of social media, in my opinion. That in itself can take a while to curate and figure out. You have to decide who to follow, what hashtags to use, and how to set up WordPress such that shared links to your site automatically preview an image.
All of this is initially overwhelming and may feel futile for the first few months. But after trying different ways to interact and create content, I feel like I’ve started to crack the code. (But who knows, it could change tomorrow. :-)) So I put together a list of things that I strive to do and that I encourage others to try. While I engage in these activities to connect with others, I’ve also seen a positive impact on my blog statistics, if that is something that is equally important to you. So, consider this list a work in progress. Read on to learn how to make book blog friends and grow your audience.
- Search Engine Optimization
- Closing Remarks
Let’s keep it real. Most of us only moonlight as website designers for our book blogs. As such, I don’t think it’s fair for the expectation to be that every blog looks subjectively professional. However, the majority of the population learn visually. Therefore, it’s important to spend some time ensuring your blog is easy to read and navigate. As such, I do think there are a few key elements that make the reader experience more enjoyable. (From my perspective, at least.) If a reader enjoys their experience on your website, then there’s a higher chance they’ll return.
Keep It Simple
Make your blog easy to navigate. Take a look at some of your favorite bloggers’ sites and see what you like about them. If a reader finds it difficult to figure out how to access your review page or follow your blog, there’s a higher chance they might not interact with your blog as much. In other words, keep the layout simple. If you don’t have menu navigation, at a minimum include a search bar. There have been times when I tried to double check if I read a certain review on a particular blog, only to find I can’t easily search for it. This can reduce the opportunity for other bloggers to backlink to your blog content, therefore reducing “foot traffic” to your site.
Include A Book Photo
I think including a photo of the reviewed book is one of the, if not the most important thing to include in a book review post. This ties back to most people being visual learners. Think about what catches your eye on social media when it comes to shared blog content. If it’s the cover of a book in which you’re already interested, there’s a higher chance you’ll interact with that content. Moreover, some book covers might seem catchier than others to some people, so you never know what colors or patterns might result in a blog or social media interaction.
Perhaps more importantly, book covers help to convey a certain vibe a reader might seek. Humans like to naturally categorize, whether consciously or subconsciously. As a result, certain imagery might be perceived as a genre in which the reader has an interest. My point is, though, to never underestimate the power of images. There’s a whole lot of history that contains them, good and bad, so do good and use it to draw a like-minded audience to your blog.
Highlight the Takeaways
For book reviews, highlight the most important or poignant sentences. This is particularly important if your reviews are on the longer side (pointing myself out here). I personally use a bold font to differentiate the highlights from the rest of my review. As much as the book blogger community wants to support each other, we’re all busy. If all a reader has time to do is skim a post, help draw their eye to what you want your audience to takeaway.
Limit Blog Posts Per Blog Page
This one might be more my personal preference than my previous suggestions. But I think it’s a good idea to show a limited number of posts per page. For example, my blog shows five posts per page before the reader must click the “Older Posts” button. This is particularly important if you have social media links or achievement badges at the bottom of your site page. If the reader can’t navigate to that section, then they can’t see that section. Simple. To set a posts per page limit, log in to WordPress, then go to Settings, then Reading, and choose a number for “Blog pages show at most.”
Your blog content is your bread and butter. It’s what will draw readers to your blog and, hopefully, cause them to return. If your goal is to participate in spreading the word about books you enjoy, or even to interact with fellow readers, then I think book reviews are a key aspect of book blogging. However, there are more aspects to the bookish community than writing reviews. Diversifying your posting portfolio will garner additional interest.
Most bloggers I see regularly posts book reviews. It’s certainly not a requirement to post them. But it is a type of content that will help you connect and converse with readers who have or want to read said book. It’s also a way to introduce others to a book that previously may not have been on their radar.
Book Memes, Book Lists, Discussion Posts
Not everyone will have something to say about your book review. This could be because they haven’t yet read the book or because it doesn’t catch their interest. And that’s ok. It’s impossible to read all of the books. Thus, I think it’s important to diversify your content, particularly if interaction is important to you. I’ve been blogging for over 1.5 years now and it was tough to gain traction at first. And I think some of that was because I focused only on book reviews.
Incorporating fun book-related memes (often in the form of weekly prompts), book lists, or discussion posts increases the chance that more of your readers will have an opinion or want to share their experience about the topic at hand. Social media hashtags (#WWWednesday, #FirstLinesFridays) and blog hopping will help you discover your options for book memes and tags. Lists could include books that you might have on your monthly to be read list or that celebrate diversity (Black history, Pride, National Hispanic Heritage months). And discussion posts leave the door wide open to possibility.
I mentioned in the last section that I struggled to gain traction in my infant days as a book blogger; part of that, I think, was because my posts lacked topic diversity. Interacting with other bloggers is equally as important as including different types of content. The biggest reason I joined book Twitter was to find community and engage with others who enjoyed similar books. Once I started interacting in different ways, I found this helped me make bookish friends and generated interest in what I had to say on my blog.
Share Your Blog Posts on Social Media
Always share your blog posts to a social medium of your choice. Include appropriate hashtags that others might use to find social media posts that interest them. Remember what I mentioned earlier about included a book photo in your posts? This will help signal to potential followers and bookish friends where your reading interests lie. And, who knows, you might make some new friends!
Follow Like-Minded Bloggers
If there’s a particular genre you enjoy to read, then focus on finding others who share that same affinity on social media. This will curate content for feed that interests you. And, if you share your posts to social media, the person you just followed might check out your feed or grid; if they see you both enjoy similar genres, more often than not you’ll make a new acquaintance. I’ve found that more often than not I have to initiate a follow. So don’t be afraid to follow first.
Additionally, this applies to following a blog directly as well, not only on social media. It can take an infinitesimally long time to grow blog followers on WordPress (or Blogger). Because of this I am always so excited to see that number climb. Again, don’t underestimate the joy you might cause someone else to feel by following them.
Share Other Bloggers’ Posts
Sharing other bloggers’ posts is so incredibly important. You can either retweet a link to something, share it to your Instastory, or share it directly from someone’s blog to your Twitter. Sharing others’ blog posts signals that you’re interested in and care what they have to say. When you share a blogger’s post with your followers, it also shows that you appreciate the effort that they put in to generating that content. Most of us don’t generate money from our blogs; it’s purely a hobby that we do because we love reading and love meeting fellow readers. It’s so easy and simple to share someone’s post and make them feel valued. Doing so also opens doors to bookish friendships and reciprocal sharing of each other’s new posts.
Say “Thank You”
These two words, “thank you,” can go a long way when someone shares your blog post. It lets that person know you acknowledge and appreciate that they they took the time to spread the word about your content. The vastness of the internet and social media can create what feels like an insensitive void. So let that person who shared your post know you “see” them. It only takes a few seconds. I’m not saying you have to do this all the time, but a kind word here and there is always appreciated.
Interact On Social Media
In addition to sharing bloggers’ content, a good, old-fashioned reply to a social media post is an excellent way to connect. Interestingly I’ve found that the tweets that get the most interaction aren’t those that contain links to my blog. Instead, they’re often a short tweet about a general topic, which may contain a photo. While this may be frustrating, take it in stride; you never know who you might connect with over a more relatable topic. And, let’s face it, social media is generally more accessible and instantaneous than commenting on a blog. When I don’t have access to WordPress, I’ll usually reply to the tweet sharing the blog content.
Comment On Other Bloggers’ Posts
This is one I resisted a lot at first because it is, frankly, a lot of work. Most of us don’t have as much time as we’d like to blog hop as well or often as we’d like. However, generally I’ve found that commenting on others’ posts has, anecdotally, lead to more comments on mine. But it hasn’t been an overwhelming response. There are many blogs I comment on semi-regularly and whose creators don’t return the effort. However, even if you don’t see a direct impact in your blog comments after commenting on other blogs, there are passive positive outcomes:
- Other commenters may read what you say and click on your blog link out of curiosity.
- The blog creator will most likely respond to your comment and check out your blog, even if they don’t comment on it. But they’re now aware of your blog.
Also, remember that there are many reasons why someone might not “return the favor.” They could be super busy and only have time to tend to their own blog. Or perhaps they didn’t relate to any of your most recent posts; maybe they’ll comment when they see you post something later that they find more relatable. On that last point, comment where it matters to you. You don’t have to comment on every single post you read.
Search Engine Optimization
I won’t get into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) too much because I’m still rather new to implementing it on my blog. But John at Tales from Absurdia has an excellent post about it. Taking straight from John’s post, SEO “is the practice of optimising your content to make it easier for search engines to index your blog in their search results.” I focus on keywords that will help “boost,” so to speak, my blog post in the search engine results. I don’t always succeed because, but my efforts have resulted in more referrals from search engines for the past two months than before I started consciously implementing SEO.
While this is important if you ultimately want your content to be easier to find by others during an internet search, I didn’t focus on it initially. I’m a relatively new blogger. So I wanted to focus on interacting through blog hopping, social media interaction, and, more recently, diversifying my post content. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to learn a new skill!
I do understand that all of this takes time. I know because I do it. It’s ok if you don’t have the time do all or any of these suggestions. Do what works for you and makes you happy. The most important thing is that you don’t lose sight of why you started blogging in the first place. If you joined the blogosphere to make friends, fantastic. If you joined to focus on growing an audience, great. And if you joined for both of these things, or something else entirely, that’s totally fine, too. I hope this helps at least a little bit with how to make book blog friends.
Have you found that any of these work for you? What other tips do you have to share to connect with other bloggers and/or grow your audience?
This post was originally published on October 5, 2022. It was last updated on June 26, 2023.