My previous post about blog follower engagement focused on asking myself the same question several times over “why do I write a blog in the first place”, and I found an answer, of sorts! I also described a very special follower, Danell Nelson at Vinthropology who has recently helped me in writing and publishing my first wine book. This reflection has helped me to understand more about people engaging or not engaging with me on my blog, so time now to share my thoughts about the reasons and these Top 5 tips from many pro blogs.
The Top 5 engagement “tips”?
- Content interest.
This is obvious but needs stating, so if you write about wine, and wine connected to travel, history, philosophy and art, then you might expect that people with an interest in wine would follow and engage with your blog. Not true! In the past 7 days I have visited 117 wine blogs, commented on a couple of their posts in a reasonably meaningful way and …….. only 2 bloggers even responded to my comment! I followed 29 of them and NOT one has reciprocated. So, Content Interest isn’t the sole reason for following and engaging.
- Writing style.
This is a big one on all of those professional blogs that advise you how to get followers. Write in a personal manner is what they all say, tell a story, make it personal but add interest and be informative. I go along with this totally, I try very hard to do it myself, I NEVER merely write so called tasting notes on a wine like many other bloggers. I avoid wine blogs that perpetually write “here’s the bottle we opened last night and this is what it tasted like and you should buy it now”! All of the best wine blogs tell you about not only the wine, but about the winemakers, the vineyard, the terroir etc. So in a way this is mixing content with style. It’s not just about the wine!
- Invite engagement.
“If you don’t ask you don’t get” my mother used to say, even though that wasn’t always true. But I take her point. This is also a standard rule on the pro blogger advice list and includes asking your readers questions in your post, actively seeking feedback on your post or a related topic, or even setting a challenge in some way. I do this regularly but haven’t tried setting one of those challenge things, but I’m scheduling a slightly different photography challenge for January, so …….. do look out for it.
- Post regularly.
Fairly obvious again, and I’ve tried the full variation here, but what is regular? Once a week, same day weekly, every day? I’ve tried them all and …….. no difference whatsoever.
- Use reblogs and guest posts.
Agree with this entirely, I always reblog a post I find interesting and which fits into the focus of my own blog or posts. I occasionally ask a blogger to write a guest post too, but in both cases I often find that there is little or no response or continuity from the other blogger.
You can lead a horse to water but …
So, the list above seems to be the Top 5 recommended modes of attracting followers, developing engagement and building a community for your blog. But there’s something missing, another ingredient, something that is surely vital in the mix for real engagement? You’ve followed all of the Top 5 tips, you’re passionate about your topic, you’re curious about your topic, you want to learn more about your topic, you believe in depth over superficiality, you enjoy a challenge, exploration, discussion, debate, breadth is everything rather than narrow constraint, the big picture is important but so is detail. Are you getting this? It takes two to tango, and if the horse isn’t thirsty it just won’t drink!
If the majority of wine bloggers post a photo of a wine label and write some notes on the fruit, tannin, acidity of the wine they had last night with their pasta, week after week, then that is not a blog I would comment on, follow or engage with. But, naturally the reverse is true, they are unlikely to engage with me either. It’s not about the wine, it’s about whether there are ANY shared values between us. What could they be …….. list in a moment!
But first, here’s a few examples of some comments made by my best follower and collaborator on my latest book, Danell at Vinthropology:
- Vinthropology commenting on a “Wine with Philosophy” post
I don’t know how far Epicureanism aligns with Buddhism, but I would say that Buddhism and existentialism are, for some aspects, worlds apart. While a feeling of zen is, I think, a feeling of oneness with the universe (a loss of self), the existential crisis is incredibly individualistic. I also think a distinction needs to be made between objects and actions in regards to “existence before essence”. In terms of an object, it first exists in-itself: wine is a liquid, it is dark or light in colour, it contains chemicals that release odours perceptible to human beings, etc. It’s essence is successively contemplated by our consciousness, the for-itself, which makes perceptual distinctions, for example this wine smells like ripe fruit and not old socks, I enjoy drinking wine. An action on the other hand is much more ambiguous… the atheistic existentialist believes that since their is no god, he/she has no purpose given to them by a higher being. One exists first, one’s essence is then defined by one’s choices/actions/reactions. The responsibility of freedom is to act, in good faith, in accordance with a self-defined purpose. Drinking wine may help one be mindful, for example.
- Vinthropology commenting on a Wine Tasting Process post
You gave an interesting example with psychology, and I imagine you would run into a lot of grey areas dealing with the mind, the subconscious, attitudes and behaviours. As to a better alternative for wine descriptions that the general public can understand, I really don’t know. The fact is that a relatively common structure for evaluating a wine does exist in the tasting sheets of different organisations. How those notes are interpreted into a written descriptions rather than list of terms is necessarily a question of personal style. I think even sticking to sweetness/acidity/tannin/fruitiness/complexity etc. does not avoid subjectivity as, while people are probably more familiar with taste than with smell, there are still varying levels of perceptiveness from one person to the other.
And some other examples from a post about the Wine Tasting Process
- Noelle at Outwines
Incredibly interesting and thought provoking post! I’d rather know about the wine’s structure – body, acidity, tannins, etc. – than read a “fruit salad bingo” list (a term of yours I love!) That being said, I don’t see traditional tasting notes going away anytime soon. But it would be nice if they were more relatable to the average consumer. (And Tim Hanni’s book is on my “to read” list . . . ) Sure, a tannin and/or acidity scale would give some valuable information to consumers – assuming they understood what these terms mean. If I had a nickel for everyone who when they said “dry” wine meant “tannic” . . . But even with these scales, I think descriptors like “floral & bright red fruit” or “tart cranberries and earthy” would describe the wine more accurately as these would help one differentiate between a Gamay and a Pinot Noir – both of which would rank very similarly on an acidity/tannin scale.
- Kate at KateLaak
We took a tasting class in Rome two years ago. The Sommelier who ran it was a wonderfully knowledgeable about Italian wines and very generous with the bottles he kept pulling from the cellar so that we could taste the differences in vintages and how the aging process contributed to the flavor of the wine. I took copious notes…the funniest of which are in regards to a particularly unique bottle he shared around the table and then had a competition among the guests as to who could write the most ridiculous “tasting notes.” The winner was something along the lines of “Notes of my grandfather’s tobacco saturated breath after he has taken cough syrup. Floral hints of my grandmother’s perfume linger in the finish like they might linger on his collar.”
So, back to why I believe people engage with you and your blog, it’s a case of birds of a feather flock together, shared values! I really believe that my most loyal, regular, and in-tune followers would say that they had all of these personal characteristics generally and about wine specifically:
Depth over superficiality
I believe that I can follow those top 5 blog tips above when I write a blog post, but unless it’s read by fellow bloggers with similar values and characteristics to those listed ……. it will get me nowhere. I can write comments on other wine bloggers posts, and likewise if they don’t share the same values……. silence, or at best …….. “Thanks for your comment”. That leaves the final question ….. “How do I find those bloggers with similar values?”