Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Moral Economy of the "Genuine" in Blogging

It is a truism of anthropological practice that the way you learn about a culture's conventions is to accidentally violate them. That's how I'm beginning to feel in terms of soliciting followers, though to be honest the only pushback I've gotten on the issue has come from me. I spent the morning reading discussions on IFB groups dedicated to blogger etiquette, and I've come to a couple of (very) provisional conclusions: 1) the blogosphere is highly divided on this subject, so there isn't any one set of conventions to adhere to; 2) in blogger discourse,"genuine" connections are far more highly valued than raw numbers of "followers." We need followers to keep us going, but we want them to follow us because they genuinely appreciate what we produce, not because they too need followers for their blog. In other words, blatant instrumentality is not cool. In this, perhaps, the fashion blogosphere strives to maintain its independence from the larger fashion industry, an industry notorious for instrumentalist social relationships. It's not enough to be followed; we want to be liked. We want the feeling of community, even when we're writing for an anonymous base of 50,000 readers. Of course in practice creating a significant readership complicates this principle substantially. How do we self-promote while maintaining a commitment to genuine, forthright relationships with our readers? And where is the line between building networks of readers and collecting followers? Bloggers, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about how you navigate these difficult waters. 


  1. Leave it to an anthropologist to infuse angst and worry into all things. I can offer this as a fellow anthro who recognizes our innate need to problematize. It is hard to imagine that there are bloggers out there who are NOT deep in the reflexivity of it all! In seriousness, your comments on community and networks are appreciated and I look forward to more posts and linking to them in the future ;)
    sarah in iowa

  2. Hi Sarah! Point taken. No doubt I am creating unnecessary angst and anxiety for myself. I problematize. It's what we do. I do, however, think bloggers tend to be a reflexive, self-conscious lot as well, and blogger discussion boards are full of similar angst and anxiety (though minus, perhaps, the overt references to Foucault).

  3. I worried over this so much in the beginning and now I just let it be and grow organically. If you want fast growth you have to do shameless self promotion but if you are patient, stay true to your goals and post regularly with good content it will happen on its own.

    I don't know how many followers I have though, maybe I'm not a good person to take advice from on this.

  4. I've settled for a strategy in between those. I've stopped soliciting "friends," except for those people who specifically do street style blogs that I like. And now I'm trying the whole leaving comments on blogs I like thing, you know, while laying down my URL. It's still blatantly self-promotional, but it's easier to maintain my self concept doing it.

  5. We've shamelessly tried all things in between (bar the 'follow me!->url' ones), but realising now that it is indeed better to focus on building community with fellow local bloggers (albeit personal style ones). A lot of it stems from constantly feeling like our work is not good enough, and to concentrate on producing strong work and like Dana said, allow it to grow organically. Especially when I can't help but cringe at the amount of self-promotional crap people post on Twitter. I think of it like the small independent artist or magazine - doing what they enjoy, constantly honing their craft and sharing it with people whose work they also love (in terms of networking). With the oversaturation of fashion blogs these days, people just aren't gonna return to your blog if they didn't immediately love it the first time round. I think self-promoting through conversation is a good way to engage other bloggers. As for the non-blogging audience... that is something we haven't quite figured out yet. Word of mouth? Haha. Ok sorry for all the disjointed thoughts here!


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