Weblog Audience-Building and the Strength of Weak Ties

Michael Feldstein has great advice in attempting to make your weblog gain more readership. First, he discusses a paper that I have to get my hands on:

“Sociologist Mark Granovetter provides a clue in his oft-quoted classic paper “The Strength of Weak Ties.” Basically, Granovetter argues that people are more likely to get jobs through connections they have with people they aren’t so close to (e.g., your uncle’s golfing buddy or your brother’s girlfriend) than their close friends and relatives. The reason is that you probably already know most of the people that your close friends and relatives know. But there isn’t nearly as much overlap between who you know and who your casual acquaintances know. So they are more likely to have access to somebody you don’t know who is looking to hire a bright young star like you.”

4 words: The Wisdom of Crowds. Whatever I read these days, I always think back to that book and how the theories can be applied in the current context. In this case, it’s easy. The more social network ties one has (“the crowd”), the smarter that network becomes (“the wisdom”) in hiring the best person for the job. Feldstein goes on to say:

“What you want to do in order to achieve your fame and fortune (well…fame, at least) is to be part of that 30% in one or more groups outside of your core content area. For example, in addition to writing about e-learning, I tend to write about issues in knowledge management, various academic theories, and various technology developments that are loosely related to teaching and learning online. I find that when, say, a KM blog or a blog about network theory links to my site, I get a large spike in readership which levels off after a while to a higher sustained plateau of daily visitors. I also tend to get links from more weblogs in that 70% of the blogroll from my new friend.”

This has become an issue with LS over the past few weeks as I have shifted my focus a bit from RSS and Keeping Current to social networks, collaborative work, and groups. Thus, my audience might shift. With that in mind, when I started LS, I was only linking to news and then shifted to discussions of Keeping Current, then weblogs, and then RSS, and now the aforementioned. And the number of people who read my stuff has increased. So, when Feldstein talks about that 30% outside my “core content area”, I feel that the number is lower in my case. My readership is diverse because I have shifted gears over the years, but my readers have shifted with me. I like that.

Feldstein also has great advice about reading aggregators as well:

“When I find a new blog, I will typically subscribe to the feed for a week or two and see how many new posts actually interest me. If it’s not at least 30-40% then I dump the feed. My feed reader is overflowing with headlines as it is; I don’t have time to scan a site with a very low percentage of interesting pieces. I assume that my readers do the same…”

I always try to do the same. It’s step 8 in my 10 step program [ppt] for Keeping Current, which I have been stuck on for a long time. In theory, this is an easy concept. Practically, it’s very hard to accomplish…

…and, yes, I have subscribed to Michael’s RSS Feed. Maybe it will have that 30% to 40% that interests me and my readership…

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