Most people who know me well and who are familiar with blogging know that I’m not all that concerned with my numbers. Sure, there is influence implied by high numbers, but that influence only reflects people who actually come to my blog. It doesn’t take into account the people I work with on a daily basis, or the people who have seen/heard me speak, or the people on Twitter, Facebook, and whatever else. And, if numbers ARE important to you, it doesn’t take into account the people who read my work on About.com, or Common Sense Media or anywhere else my work is currently appearing. I don’t define myself by this one blog and I don’t define my success by the number of people who read it.
The irony is that I somehow managed to be influenced by other people who think the numbers are important. Or, at least they say they do. And in my mind, although I don’t apply it to myself, I go with an assumption that the most influential mom bloggers are probably those with the greatest numbers. Today, while working on a project that happened to be a nod to my non-blogging influence, I was reminded of just how meaningless numbers can be.
If you were to ask me for the list of the mom bloggers (which is one area that I’m acutely familiar with) I am most influenced by, I would have no problem making a list. There are easily a dozen or so women who I would choose who are intelligent, well-spoken, generous with time and information, and who “get it.” Other bloggers know who they are and seek them out for help and praise, people follow their advice as if it came down from on high, PR companies court them. They are Big Bloggers. So it might surprise you that many of these “Big Bloggers” have relatively small traffic. I mean, people are certainly reading them, but they aren’t drawing in hundreds of thousands of page views. Conversely, the list of mom bloggers who are extremely well-read isn’t a big surprise, either. People know their names as well. But they aren’t necessarily influencing anyone, other than perhaps those people who emulate their writing styles. People enjoy reading them, as they might a novel, but these bloggers aren’t necessarily changing the way people think in profound ways.
Now this isn’t a strict rule. I’m not making a sweeping statement about how low-to-medium blog readership is the hallmark of an influential blogger. That would be absurd. And it’s important to note that “influence” is subjective. In this case, I’m talking about the people others go to for information, whether it be about blogging, parenting, diapers, work-life balance, etc. So what I have noticed is this: Influential bloggers typically aren’t just blogging. In fact, they aren’t necessarily blogging that much at all. They’re out doing. They’re talking to people, starting businesses, writing books, helping other bloggers, connecting, networking and advocating. Blogging is just part of their platform.
What fascinates me about this is that is goes against some commonly accepted norms in the blogosphere. If you’re paid through advertising on your site, certainly you want the most eyeballs you can get. But mom bloggers are woefully under-monetized (I current have no advertising on my site at all!) and very few that I have met started blogging for the income. Most do it for a voice, or a persona, or free stuff. Others for community or an outlet. And I believe that without a compelling voice and/or a strong niche, it’s nearly impossibly to put out the quantity of content necessary to keep numbers high without sacrificing on the quality and depth of content that is a better indicator of influence. Are you thinking right now of notable exceptions? I hope so, because there certainly are some. But they aren’t all that common. And if you think they are, you might want to rethink your definition of quality and depth.
A blogging friend of mine has on more than one occasion suggested that I pay more attention to my numbers. Maybe I will. But the reasons I’d want to have a big blog are very specific. The first is trite. My friends are now either laughing or rolling their eyes in anticipation, but I want to be invited on trips. I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for a behind-the-scenes tour. The second is more important. It’s all about marketing myself and my skills. And here’s my last little bit of irony: the people who work in my field of expertise already know I’m influential. They already hire me and take up all of my working time so I don’t have any to post on my blog and grow my “influence.” Imagine that.
I suspect I’ll have to stay a (semi) Big Blogger with a (relatively) Small Blog.