I came across this blog piece today, in which a number of ostensibly popular bloggers share how they would leverage off-blog time to increase their blog’s hits. I found it to be a fantastically depressing piece, because so much of the advice boils down, essentially, to this: “become a starfucker for more popular bloggers.” Mind you, it’s couched in more corporate-speaky language than that — which is depressing in itself — but starfuckery it is.
Let’s break this down a bit. First, to get this out there up front: If you’re spending your time starfucking a blogger, your sense of priorities are unspeakably out of whack. It’s like sleeping with the screenwriter in Hollywood. The screenwriter who wrote the direct-to-home-video feature. That debuted on the public access channel. In Bakersfield.
Seriously, people. Get a grip. You have better things to do.
Now, note that a lot of “strategies” these bloggers suggest people do for their starfuckery — things like commenting on blogs, socializing with and e-mailing links to bloggers, or linking that blogger’s work to Digg or Reddit or whatever — are perfectly cromulent in themselves. What makes it starfuckery — rank and transparent starfuckery at that — is the reason you’re doing it, which is, for the ulterior motive of promoting your own work.
As in: You’re not commenting on a blog because the article or the other commenters speak to you; you’re commenting on the blog because you hope people will click on your name at the bottom of the comment and visit your own site. You’re not passing on a link to a blogger just because you think it’s germane to that blogger; you’re passing it on because you hope the blogger will throw you a scrap by noting she got it from you, and then putting a link to your blog in the note. You’re not socializing with the blogger because you might actually like the person, you’re doing it because you’re “exploring ways of working together in win-win ways,” as one of our fine advice givers wrote.
Don’t do this. Because people aren’t stupid. Look, I go to conventions and writers’ events, as most of you know. And invariably the most annoying person there is the aspiring writer or neo-pro who is simply there to network, and does so in a graspingly obvious fashion: the guy who goes from group to group, looking for the right people who will eventually let him trade up to standing in a conversational circle with, oh, let’s say, Neil Gaiman, so he can ever-so-casually drop the name of his latest book/story/whatever into Gaiman’s ear.
There’s nothing wrong with networking; there’s nothing wrong with talking about your book with Neil Gaiman (or whomever) either, should you get a chance. But it’s all in how it’s done. To repeat: People aren’t stupid. They know the difference between someone who is engaged in a conversation for the pleasure of the conversation itself, and someone who is marking time in the conversation until they can once again open their mouths and talk about them. By the same token, it’s not all that difficult to differentiate between the people who engage on a blog because they’re interested in what’s going on there, and the people who engage in order to try to get people to go somewhere else. The only person who thinks he’s getting away with it is the starfucker himself. Well: Surprise! He’s not.
Articles like this — “how to get more people to read your blog!” — have been around since the old days of blogging, back in the paleolithic era of the late 90s, when blogs were still “online diaries.” It’s not new. The moderately new wrinkle, as noted earlier, is the dispassionate and soul-squattening language these folks are using to share these ideas, infused as it is with the commodified non-sensery of corporate-speak:
“I would pick 5 top-100 blogs that I felt worked well with my target market, then I would read each of their articles and spend time coming up with interesting and constructive comments”
“I’d engage in social media marketing campaigns using a variety of content sharing sites, social networking and community based sites.”
“Building relationships with influential people is my favorite off-blog marketing method because it gives the greatest amount of returns for all your efforts.”
I mean, for fuck’s sake. Who are these guys? Now, maybe it’s not entirely their fault, since the question the blog owner asked to elicit these responses (“If you had 2 hours a day to devote to no-cost, off-blog (even off-line) marketing for your blog, what would you do?”) is chock-full of corporate mentality in itself, and assumes that people should approach their blog like an exercise in market domination. But on the other hand, just because someone hands you a question like this doesn’t mean you have to answer it in the same fashion. One could just as easily say “If I had two hours a day to market my blog, it probably means I’m missing two hours of sleep, and that’s what I would use it for.” Because, well. That’s what I would use it for.
Let me give you some advice. It’s really very simple. When you comment on a blog, or offer someone a link, or socialize with them, it’s about what you can bring to the party, not what you can get out of it. If you have two hours a day to market yourself online, you’re thinking about it wrong. What you have is two hours to explore and enjoy the online world, to read stuff you like, to read stuff you might like, and to participate and share ideas and thoughts and flames war and whatever else, and basically help make the sites you visit better, for no other purpose than you like those sites.
(It could also mean you have two hours to write something good on your own site. But that’s another topic altogether.)
More simple advice: The most successful networkers don’t “network.” It’s an odious term. The most successful networkers ignore the grasping patheticness of the term altogether. Rather, they talk. They laugh. They share the moment, and enjoy other people’s company; are generous with other people and help them celebrate their successes, rather than asking to scrape up against that success so some of it might crumble off on them. It works the same online and off.
Or to put it all even more simply: Don’t look at other bloggers as people you can use. See them as people. Don’t look at other blogs as places you can use. See them as places you want to be. Really, it’s not hard to do.