Gathering your own tribe

These are obviously NOT my stats! 🙂

Emiel from Act of Traveling tweeted the link to a very interesting blog post the other day. Well, it was interesting to me since I had been discussing the same topic with a friend and fellow blogger. The post was called “Why are the “social media elite” ignoring us?” (click on link to read). While he is talking about “commercial bloggers”, I think the ideas Mark Schaefer (the author of the post) presents apply to personal bloggers too. There were two main ideas: thoughts regarding blog stats, and how to “build your tribe” or gain readers.

A new blogger had written to Mark Schaefer, asking why when he comments on some very popular blogs he doesn’t get a response, or any acknowledgment when he links to them on his blog. I’m not going to repeat everything that Schaefer said in his post, but there were certain paragraphs which jumped out at me because I’d had the same thoughts. Although, he says it better!

When I first started blogging, I was following some of the very popular bloggers and wondering why they rarely responded to comments. Were they being rude, or were they just busy? It wasn’t only a matter of having my comments acknowledged, but were their posts really that good that I wanted to keep reading without having any interaction or discussion with them? As I gained more readers, I began to understand the problem. There comes a point when your readers and subscribers outweigh the amount of time you have to give each personalized attention. Or, if you’re like me and don’t get a lot of comments, the time you have to visit their blogs.

Mark Schaefer says:

The social web is an enigma. While many top marketers have built their careers touting the importance of “the conversation,” they have become so popular, they no longer have time to converse! . . .

. . . It’s a numbers game. At some point, the workload and crush of followers that comes with celebrity exceeds any human’s ability to engage in a meaningful way, no matter how willing they may be.

Ultimately, I think each blogger has to decide which way they want to go. You just can’t have it both ways i.e. be very popular and still have personal contact with your readers. As a blog reader myself, I prefer reading the “low-level” bloggers with whom I can still have a personal discussion. If I just wanted to read a well written column, with no expectations of a response or interaction, I would probably log onto the mainstream media, and read the columns or blogs of professional journalists.

A while back I wrote a post about what I get out of blogging (you can read it here). I have decided for myself (and especially since I – unfortunately – don’t make money out of blogging), that it is not about the numbers. Which in my case is probably a good thing, since I’m unlikely to ever reach “celebrity blogger” status! Sure, it’s nice to have lots of people read my posts, but I enjoy the interaction with readers and other bloggers, more than I do just having a lot of subscribers or page views. This was brutally brought home to me the other day. Back in January, I was “Freshly Pressed”. Which was great, although I realized that I probably just got lucky on a very slow news day, and that it’s unlikely to happen again. At the time I felt like I had been writing some good posts, and maybe did deserve some recognition. It was nice having people from all over the world visit my blog, and to make contact with people having the same interests. Then the other day, I wrote a post which was essentially just a referral to an article on a very topical matter. That is, I didn’t really write much in terms of original thought, but included a quote from the article with a link to the original article if people wanted to read the whole thing. I intended only to share this information with my regular readers. For some reason Google put me at the top of the search results. I got a lot of hits. It was like being Freshly Pressed all over again. Which I found very exciting, until I thought about it, and then I just became embarrassed. I had essentially done nothing to get the attention. The original article should have been at the top of the Google results. Also, although I have had a couple of people subscribe to my blog since then, I doubt that that is how they found me i.e. there was no lasting effect.

Mark Schaefer says:

There is no shortcut to building a blog community. You have to work hard and create your own movement one reader at a time . . .

. . . Don’t get caught up in keywords, SEO and Ad Age bloggers. Your key to lasting success is originality, and the key to orginality is having the courage to share your own wisdom.

So I agree with Mark Schaefer, you have to gather your own “tribe” one reader at a time. I really believe that if I write good, authentic posts about things I’m really interested in, somebody will want to read them . . . besides my family and friends, that is! 😉

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Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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37 Comments on “Gathering your own tribe”

  1. April 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Dear Lisa,

    Great post! In that ‘social-media elite’-post it was mentioned that this “I am being ignored”-problem is mainly felt by social media newcomers. It is kind of cute. Of course these newcomers have a point. If you open up your blog post to comments, you open up for dialogue. But for those ‘elite-bloggers’ blogging has become purely business. And you should not blame them. Just read and use their awesome content.

    I have been blogging for a year now and the tribe that gathers around my digital fire to listen to travel stories is a fabulous one. I reply to every single comment (I still have the time to do so 🙂 because I still feel honoured that people visit my blog and read my stories!!
    The only thing between your blog and a bigger audience is commitment. Commitment to write awesome content, to solve problems, to surprise your readers with creativity and to show who you really are. Just like you, I intend to stay. The blogosphere is a second life (call it a parallel universe 🙂 that enriches and inspires me…

    • April 18, 2011 at 7:44 am #

      Hi Emile!

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice comment! I still follow a couple of the “elite bloggers”, but in some cases the commercialization of the blog, has led to a change in their content so that they’re no longer that interesting. In others which aren’t commercial, the content has become very formulaic, because the blogger feels they have to publish daily.

      I also reply to every comment I get – still few enough to deal with – and then visit that person’s site to see what they write about.

      What has attracted me to particular blogs – including yours – is a unique perspective, humour, an insight in the blogger’s personality and their passion for whatever they’re writing about. So I’m trying to incorporate those aspects into my own writing.

      I love how blogging has allowed me to “meet” people from all over the world, and get a feel for what their lives are like.

  2. April 17, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Very interesting post, Lisa. I haven’t figured all this out yet either.

    • April 18, 2011 at 7:57 am #

      I’m not sure what you haven’t figured out yet. I think you have a wonderful and very interesting blog. Being a professional journalist, you obviously have storytelling skills which other bloggers may not have, but your content is still of a very personal and “chatty” nature which a lot of people can relate to.

      • April 19, 2011 at 10:50 am #

        Wow, it’s flattering to hear someone call me a professional journalist! I’ve never thought of myself as such 🙂

  3. April 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    Indeed. Well said, and expressed. I enjoy the posts you have put out there, and continue to look for them when I open my email. 🙂

  4. April 17, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    It is very interesting and puzzling trying to work out how a blog works. I have quite a lot of subscribers who never leave a comment. I wonder why you would bother to subscribe if you don’t want to comment ever. I try to respond to my comments, but sometimes I don’t get to all of them and I try to leave comments on the blogs I subscribe to. The fun bit is getting a response to posts. It is nice to know that someone out here is reading. Being freshly pressed was fun, but apart from some new subscribers things just go back to normal.

    • April 18, 2011 at 8:06 am #

      I also have a lot of subscribers who don’t leave comments. Maybe some people are shy? Or maybe they’re not English-speaking and are therefore not comfortable leaving a comment in English? Some of my family and friends hardly ever comment on my blog, but then will email or phone me and let me know what they thought. It is nice to hear from readers and find out how they feel about your topic – especially if you’ve written a more personal post and others tell you that they feel the same way, or have been touched by what you have said.

  5. April 18, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    Great post Lisa! And I agree with you. There’s a blog I read and like a lot- it has great content. I don’t expect to have a person to person relationship with this person because she’s too huge- but I do get a lot out of the content of the blog.

    And on the other hand, their are friends I’ve made with my own blog- like you- and some others- that I truly enjoy and want to know what’s going on at their blog and in their lives. It’s a new dimension to my life I truly enjoy.

    My particular blog may have a very short life. Who knows? Maybe we should all read this article to ferret out the goals of our particular blog-( which is usually a good thing in general)

    • April 18, 2011 at 8:10 am #

      Thanks! I also read a combination of “elite bloggers” and bloggers with whom I have more personal contact. Although the balance is definitely shifting towards the latter.

      (Gasp!!!) Your blog may have a very short life?! Please tell me you’re not serious! I don’t know if I could cope without a regular dose of your humour and insights. I’ll even keep reading if you become an “elite blogger” and don’t respond to my comments! 😉

      • April 18, 2011 at 11:58 am #

        LOL! I’m not going anywhere– just that my content centers around moving to Japan. I’m not sure my views on life in the US would be as entertaining….or maybe I should say welcomed….Ahh- to be an elitist….now there’s a worthy goal to shoot for!

      • April 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

        What a relief! 😉 I think you could make just about anything entertaining and amusing. You might just have a swing in your US versus the “Rest of the World” reader ratio.

        I’d say if not an “elite blogger”, you’re well on your way to becoming a very popular one. Of course, living near a disaster zone and experiencing a (hopefully once-in-a-lifetime) massive earthquake might have something to do with it. 😉 We have nothing that exciting happening in our part of the world.

  6. April 18, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Great post, Lisa! How fun that you got so many hits! I agree that I enjoy the interaction with readers, but it would be fun to be a big time blogger just to see what it feels like. I’m craving a boost like freshly pressed again, to be honest. Hell, I was FP-ed when my blog was only 3 weeks old–that was weird and likely only luck!

    • April 18, 2011 at 8:18 am #

      Thanks, Kathy! It actually wasn’t so much fun to get a lot of hits for such a “non-post”. The people that came to read that post, mostly didn’t read anything else on my site, and I doubt that many came back again.

      Keep writing interesting posts and I’m sure that you will be FP-ed again. I think writing authentic and original posts are the key.

  7. Lu
    April 18, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Hi Lisa, Great post – you put it so eloquently! If I had to honestly say what it was I wanted to get out of blogging, it is definitely not the numbers (I don’t think I appeal to the commercial main stream, anyway 🙂 ). Building a community that is meaningful is far more rewarding. There is also a part of me which loves to blog because I feel that I am somehow trying to improve myself – my awareness of things around me and my ability to interact and convey my thoughts and share it with others. It’s almost as though, through blogging, I have suddenly woken up and realised there is a world out there! (Is “sleep-living” a down-side of being trapped in workaholic mode?!) Like you mentioned in your post “My blog is my happy place”, mine is too! BTW – does this mean you now have a “Clean House”? – Lu

    • April 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

      Thanks for your kind comments, Lu! I agree with you that blogging improves your awareness of things around you. I find I look around my immediate surroundings and am seeing interesting things which I previously didn’t pay much attention to. And wanting to share my finds and observations has improved my writing and photographic skills.

      I now have a cleaner house . . . it’s still a work in progress! 😉

  8. April 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    It is an interesting dilemma isn’t it? I have been thinking about your comment about bloggers having to “decide” which way to go. My blog readership (and comments) have increased 900% in 12 months. At this pace, there will come a point where I can;t keep up. That is sad to think about but I think the decision around engagement will be made for me! The only alternative is to tell people to go away and not comment — not a very likely scenario. So I have to watch as my ability to engage slowly erodes.

    Thanks for continuing the dialogue with this excellent post!

    • April 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

      Thank you for coming by to check out my post, and for you kind comments. It’s quite a thrill for a small-time blogger like me!

      I hear what you are saying about sometimes not having a choice about how big your readership gets. Perhaps the choice comes in early – when you’re making decisions about what the focus of your blog is going to be, whether you’re going to aggressively market it, and whether you’re going to commercialize it?

      I think with my diverse choice of topics and personal anecdotes my blog is unlikely to ever attract a large audience. I have thought of writing more serious articles, but would have to find a different forum to publish them in. And my expectations regarding my relationship with my readers would then be different.

      Thanks for writing an interesting post for me to build on!

  9. April 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    ~~Very interesting, Africa.
    Yes, I’ve noticed that the VERY popular bloggers will give back to their readers by following them on Twitter or some other social network…
    but the GREAT Popular bloggers will actually comment at the end of their post by commenting on what the reader has said about the post.
    My all time favorite blogger “Not Quite Nigella” (she has thousands of followers) does this…and she also comments on my blog every week. I find that over & beyond….and wonder how she finds the time.
    Great post.

    • April 19, 2011 at 6:08 am #

      Thanks for your comment! “Not Quite Nigella” has a great site, doesn’t she? I don’t follow her regularly, but go there when I’m looking for something specific. Also not sure how she manages to keep up with her followers. Maybe you’re one of the exceptions, rather than the rule – I’m sure she hasn’t got time to read everybody’s blog.

  10. April 18, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Great post!! I personally enjoy having a close knit of readers, but am not terrific about responding to each and every comment, I’ve noticed (some have escaped my radar!) and now I feel a bit guilty. I should go back and do that, no matter how late it is…
    Also, time is a HUGE factor. I try to comment and read my favorite blogs on a regular basis, but sometimes I feel like I just need a break from the internet and cell phones and all of this social media craziness! I know of great blogs such as Unbrave Girl and Bacon is Magic that have tons of readers and are still able to keep up – I would really love to know how they do it!!

    • April 19, 2011 at 6:13 am #

      Thank you for visiting my site and for your comments! Some comments don’t really require an answer, although I usually try and acknowledge that I have read the comment in some way. I also sometimes feel I just need to switch off from the Internet for a while. Last week I didn’t have a computer for a couple of days, which was actually a nice break.

  11. April 20, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Great post, Lisa! When I started, I thought I also wanted to have those thousands of readers and commenters. But as days went by, I realized that I loved blogging more as it forced me to look at the wonder around me. I try to find something nice and special in a day or in a place so I have something to write about. Which meant that I was seeing the world in a different way. So….it would be great if my blog somehow becomes a vehicle for information or inspiration to others. But it has definitely made my life richer just by being forced to look at everything with a new eye and a different perspective.

    Have good week ahead!

    • April 20, 2011 at 8:08 am #

      Thanks for your comment Leah! I agree with what you’ve said about looking at things from a different perspective now. My blog has definitely made me more aware of what is going on around me, and also to look for the beauty in everyday things. Although I’m still struggling with chronic pain, I’m more positive about life than I’ve been in previous years.

      I love the lightness and brightness of your blog, and how your passion for life shines through. So I think you are definitely achieving your goal of inspiring others.

  12. April 20, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    I love the comment from Leah (simplesplendidthings) when she says that blogging made her look at the world in a different way. That is spot on and exactly the way I feel after one year of travel blogging. Thanks Leah!

    • April 20, 2011 at 8:17 am #

      Yes, Leah has described it beautifully. And it’s these type of blogs that I’m definitely attracted to. There is so much negativity and bad news in the world, I need something to uplift me.

  13. April 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Thanks Lisa and Emiel!

    And thank you too for your blogs that show me new things in the world and which makes me want to travel, to be where you are and to see what you see.

    Happy Easter!

  14. April 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I started blogging just to have an easy way to share my thoughts with my friends and family and post some pictures. Then, I started focusing too much on the stats, even getting competitive with other friends about them, and posting everyday so I could watch the numbers. I was becoming completely consumed by it!! One day I thought, is this really what I want? This wasn’t my original goal! So, I have backed off and been posting only once a week and then setting a side time to visit the blogs I really like (like yours!). Blogging should be fun and not a chore.

    • April 23, 2011 at 8:23 am #

      I had to cut down as I was not coping with all the headaches, and I’m feeling much better for it. It’s so easy to get sucked into posting a lot – or feeling you have to post a lot – but then it isn’t fun anymore. Also, it becomes difficult for your readers and subscribers to keep up with your output.

      I have a little site visitors map at the bottom of the screen. Not to keep up with the numbers, but because I get a thrill out of seeing where visitors to my blog come from.

  15. April 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Being interested in blogging is one more thing we have in common. Nice to meet you, Lisa!

    • April 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

      Yes, it is! Nice to meet you too – thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂

    • April 24, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      I mean writing about blogging. I enjoy such posts and will return to read more.

  16. April 27, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Some fascinating thoughts here, Lisa! The idea of community strikes me as an important feature of blogging which makes it distinct from other forms of writing and reading; it initiates the possibility of engagement not only with the blogger but with the ideas, places, thoughts etc. that he or she writes about. It opens the door to dialogue.

    Having said that, as I’m becoming increasingly aware, there is a tremendous amount of terrific and interesting blogging going on. In a world saturated with media, both good and bad, there comes a point not only when one’s writing time is potentially reduced by maintaining a community but, and more importantly for me, I have to make a conscious decision to leave space for contemplation and consideration of the reading I’ve done. There is enough great writing out there (on blogs, in books, in journals and magazines) that I could easily spend the rest of my life devouring it without having the time to absorb it and allow it to deepen my relation to the world around me. It’s a fine balance indeed that you describe! Which is why I’m deeply grateful to readers that will spend some of that precious time (whether they leave comments or not) reading my words.
    Hope you’re well and best wishes,

    • April 27, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

      Hi Julian,

      Thank you for your thought-provoking comment! You are right about the dangers of constantly reading new material, and never taking the time to contemplate what you have read. The other day a science blogger I follow, wrote a comment about how he slaves over certain posts and does not getting much reaction. Speaking for myself, I sometimes find it difficult to keep up with reading posts, and if it’s a more in-depth topic, will need to think about it before responding . . . and then I often forget to because the blogger has moved onto a new topic. This particular blogger, for example, writes fairly substantial posts on a daily basis.

      Recently, I’ve taken a bit of a step back from blogging and felt so much better for it. I was forced to do so because I wasn’t feeling well at the time. I just couldn’t absorb information, and wasn’t inspired to write. Now that I’m doing better again, I’ve decided to continue limiting the time I both spend blogging and reading other blogs. There are, as you say, other things one needs to spend time on. Writing a blog is a hobby for me, and so I have limited time to spend on it. Obviously you, as a writer, need to keep your creativity for your work. What you did recently in summarizing your “Karst Country” essay and providing the links to it, is a great way for you to share your writing with us, yet not have it take up too much of your time.

      In the 9 months I have been blogging, I have made contact with some wonderful professional writers, and my life is enriched through reading their blogs. But the sense of community is a relaxed and unforced one with occasional interactions to discuss an issue. That works for me. The trend today in social networking, where you feel obliged to be a presence on the Internet every day, is just exhausting!

      Best wishes,


  1. Sleep-living is the downside of being a workaholic « The Unwitting Traveller - April 18, 2011

    […] Sleep-living is the downside of being a workaholic This post comes in the wake of reading Lisa@notesfromafrica’s post “Gathering your own tribe”. […]

  2. my tribal philosophy « clouded marbles - April 22, 2011

    […] wrote a very interesting post, titled “Building your own tribe”, which in turn links to another very interesting post by Mark Schaefer. If you haven’t […]

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