September 09, 2008

Using Blogger's New Followers Feature

As many of you may have read on Blogger Buzz, Blogger has introduced a great new feature: "Followers".

This new feature allows you to:
  • Show that you are a fan of your favorite Blogger blogs
  • Follow a blog publicly or anonymously
  • See fans of your own blog (and the number of followers you have) from your blog dashboard
  • Display a list of your followers in a new "followers" widget
  • Read your favorite blogs (even those not hosted on Blogger) from the reading list in your dashboard.
  • Import your reading list from Google Reader
  • Read posts from the blogs you are following in a special "Blogs I'm Following" folder in Google Reader
At present, this feature is not available to all Blogger users, though it is being rolled out for everyone to use over the next few weeks.

For those of you who are (like me) impatient to try out this new feature, you can enable this automatically by following a blog (use this link to follow Blogger Buster, for example). Once you have followed even one blog, your dashboard will be updated to show the number of followers, your personal reading list, and the ability to add a "followers" widget to your layout. Thanks to Ionut of Google Operating System for the tip to enable this new feature :)

Add new subscriptions to your reading list

Once your blog dashboard has been updated for the new "followers/reading list" feature, you can easily add new subscriptions to read in your Blogger dashboard.

Adding a new subscription is easy. Simply click on the "Add" button near the bottom of your reading list, where you will be presented with a screen like this:

You can add a new blog by simply typing the URL (eg: This does not need to be a Blogger powered blog, nor do you need to know the URL of the blog's feed.

On the next screen, you can choose to follow this blog publicly or anonymously. Choosing to follow publicly means that your friendship with this blog is made public. Those using Blogger can see a list of their public followers, and readers of these blogs can also access follower details if a Followers widget has been added to the blog. In the future, non-Blogger sites will have access to similar widgets to display their public followers.

Choosing to follow anonymously is similar to subscribing to a blog feed in the normal manner: you would be counted among the list of followers, though your details and affiliation would be hidden.

Alternatively, you can choose to import your subscriptions from Google Reader by checking the "Import from Google Reader" option. On the next page, you can see a list of all the subscriptions in your Google Reader account, then check the ones you would like to import. It can take a few minutes to import all of your subscriptions of you have many listed in your reader, so you may need to be patient!

Managing your subscriptions

If you decide not to follow a blog you can easily edit or remove blogs in your reading list by clicking the "Manage" button.

This will generate a page listing all of your subscriptions with options on the right to delete this from your reading list and to toggle between "Public" and "Anonymous" following. You can also add new subscriptions near the bottom of this page.

Building a social network with Blogger...

In time, the "Followers" feature will also be integrated with FriendConnect which is built on Google's Social Graph API.Rather than being a social network in its own right, FriendConnect will link with other social networks and allow you to integrate your blog completely with your online social activities.

I must admit that my research on this subject is sparse, though you can read more about the possibilities for FriendConnect on Google Operating System, the FriendConnect homepage and the OpenSocial pages.

Learn more about the "Followers" feature

The Blogger Help Section has been updated with information to help you make the most of the new Followers feature. Here are links to the most useful pages which should help you get up and running:

What do you think of the "Followers" feature so far?

I'd love to know your thoughts about the new Followers feature, so please feel free to leave your comments and opinions below.

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