Massive Blog Growth: Do You Really Have the Time it Takes?

by Marcus Sheridan

blog time dedicationI can remember well in Nov of 2009 just how I felt when I published my first blog article here on TSL. It was without question such an exciting and invigorating experience. With boundless enthusiasm, I could see massive comments and a thriving community forming in no time. But after a couple of arduous months of little to no success, the reality of my situation became clear—The comments were few and far between, and I had no community.

But as I’ve explained in other articles, eventually I started to understand principles of blog commenting, networking, and relationships. I found my voice as a writer and now, roughly 18 months later, the Sales Lion community is rich with a thoughtful and active network of thinkers, movers, and shakers.

The Yearning for Comments

What so interesting about my mindset those many months ago was my general obsession with comments. I’m not ashamed to say I yearned to be recognized. I wanted so badly to feel that my readers appreciated the things I was teaching. And more than anything, I WANTED MORE COMMENTS!!

I was talking to John Falchetto recently about this need for commenting. Shortly after our conversation, he felt inspired to write an excellent post asking readers why some comment and others simply do not. Well, the article ended up being hugely successful for John, and after writing tons of replies for two straight days, he emailed me and jokingly said, “Marcus, Remind me to never write a post about comments again! ;-)”

Now obviously John was thrilled to have so much interaction, but with such interaction comes a few ‘drawbacks’, and this is what this article is all about. I want to take a real look at the time investment it takes to establish a thriving blog community.  Truth be told, although every new blogger seems to dream of the days when they’re getting 50 and 60 comments per post, I don’t think most understand just what this will mean in terms of time, dedication, and hard work.

The Reality of Success

Earlier this week (Monday)I wrote an article about 9 lessons I learned from the biggest blogging jerk ever. And although I knew when I published the article it would likely do well, I did not know that it would be one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written in terms of number of comments. As of today (Friday), it has around 180. In fact, with this article The Sales Lion now has received a total of over 5,000 comments (non-spam of course) since its inception.

For some, this number may seem inconceivable. For others it may be common-place. As for me, I think it’s a testament to hours of hard work. It’s also exactly what I signed up for, but here are some facts about this week’s article you may find interesting:

1. The article itself is about 1400 words.

2. From start to finish, it took about 45 minutes to write.

3. Once written, it took about another 45 minutes to prepare and publish.

4. By Monday evening, the article had about 35 comments, many of which were amazing and quite thought-provoking (which means my responses are going to be longer as well). After getting off my elliptical around 11:30pm that night and settling into my desk, I answered the last comment and email from my community just before 3am.

5. On Tuesday, the article actually picked up traction. In fact, it got more hits Tuesday than it did on Monday. Just as with the night before, I started answering comments around 12:00am, and by 2:05am, I was done.

6. Although Wednesday was a lighter day, another 15 or so comments came in. I also took this time to thank some people on Twitter for all their help in sharing the article, plus a few other direct emails to some of my great friends in the blogosphere. Thus, only about 1.5 hours were needed on this day to tend to the community.

As you can already see, the easy part to writing this article was the 1.5 hours of time spent writing and publishing it. But the tough part(in terms of time) has been the roughly 7 hours of replies, conversation, etc. In fact, even though the article was only 14oo words, my replies to all the comments were just a hair under 5000 words.

I want to stress here that I’m not complaining. No, not at all, but with greater community comes greater responsibility.

Other Great People

Ingrid Abboud from NittyGriddy recently did a massive ‘report’ about blog posting schedules. Essentially, she invited everyone in her community to submit to her their blog posting schedule and she would then combine everything into one complete report. As you can probably imagine, Ingrid’s ‘communal’ idea was a huge success, but because she takes the time to reply to every comment, the project itself took hours upon hours of hard work to complete (even with Brankica’s help). With a total of 269 comments on the post and well over 20 hours of time invested, by the end Ingrid’s hands/fingers had literally swollen greatly because of the fact that she’d been typing for so many hours(and no I’m not kidding about this). Simply put, this was one of the best examples of a ‘labor of love’ towards one’s community that I’ve ever seen.

Over the last 6 months in the blogosphere, I have watched comment trends come and go. On this subject alone, I could speak for hours. Heck, even Stuart Mills wrote an excellent article on ‘The Best Commentors in the Blogoshphere’ recently. But along with Stuart, I want to point out that there are some amazing people out there like Ingrid that take their time commitment  and love of community very, very seriously.

Although I could name dozens of great folks—like Mark Harai, Danny Brown, Mark Schaefer, Gini Dietrich, Davina Brewer, Bill Dorman, Elena Patrice, Kristi Hines and the Great JK Hustle—I’ll simply say I’m not alone at all in terms of understanding the time investment community takes. Again, a true commitment to community takes a major labor of love, and to the persons that are doing it, I say– ‘Well done!’

What’s It All Mean?

If I may be introspective for a moment, all the excitement that comes with communal growth has its fearful side as well. To me, this ‘fear’ is derived from my clear understanding that I’m not going to always be able to give the one-on-one that I’d like to with others. I care about so many people in the blogosphere and I know I’m simply not going to be able to read as many other articles as I’d like. I’m not going to be able to comment on as many sites as I’d like. I’m not going to be able to personally email as many people as I’d like.

I’m sure some of you understand exactly what I’m saying right now. Others might think I’m crying the blues. But please know this is not my intention. I’m simply observing the byproduct of what happens to a blogger when he or she reaches high community and traffic levels with their site.

In conjunction with this though, I know some things in my life are going to have to give in order to make this work. For example, with so much success with TSL, coaching, and speaking—I’m going to have to soon walk away from my swimming pool company. When will this be? I’m not entirely sure, but it won’t be too far down the road, less than 2 years I’m sure. Owning that company has been the springboard to all of this, but I can now clearly hear the inner whisper saying, ‘Marcus, it’s time’.

Once this occurs, it’s my hope that I’ll find better balance (as we all are striving for in life) in terms of growing TSL and other areas of my life to their potential. It’s also my hope to further my relationships with more great people. As to when this will all happen, only time will tell. But be rest assured, you’ll be the first to know about it. ;-)

Is it in you??

So to all you bloggers out there right now that are dying to grow your community and comment numbers, I wish you all the success. Whether your goal is 10, 50, or 100 comments per post, I hope you soon reach that goal. But along this journey, please know, as I said before, where much is given, much is also required. And it’s important to look within yourself and ask, “Is this truly what I want and what am I willing to pay for it?” Only you can answer that question, and in reality the answer may change for you many times over the coming months. But hey, the joy is found within the journey, and not the destination, so just keep that in mind as you walk the amazing path known as ‘blogging’.

Your Turn

I’ve got a few questions I’d like to pose to the community here and am very, very curious to hear your answers. First of all, if you’re a newer blogger, what are your goals for comments and community? For some of the more seasoned veterans, how have you dealt with the time demands of community? What are you doing in your life to have balance and allow for optimal interaction?

Please jump in folks, the conversation starts now……

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