5 Lessons Bloggers Should (Almost) Learn from FarmVille

Whether you love it or hate it, Farmville is a phenomenon that is hard to dismiss. As with anything successful, it is worth looking for anything we can learn from it. As it happens, if you tilt your head the right way when you look at it, Farmville has a lot in common with blogging, but with a few key differences. Let’s take a look.

1. Always Be Planting

In Farmville, you need to plant and harvest crops on time. If you don’t plant crops, you don’t get experience points you need to advance in the game. If you don’t harvest on time, your crops wither and you don’t get paid. Harvest enough of a given crop and you develop “mastery” in it, which makes your future harvests worth more.

In blogging, you need to add new posts and, when appropriate, reply to comments. If you don’t add new posts, the search engines (and your visitors) may decide your site is abandoned. If you don’t respond to comments, your visitors may feel you don’t care. If you write a lot of quality posts on a given subject, search engines and visitors will associate that subject with your blog, which can help future posts on that subject.

For mastery on Farmville, however, you just need to rack up the numbers for each crop. In blogging, you need to actually produce solid posts that (a) people want to read and (b) helps people in some way (even if they just provide laughter).

You should: Add new posts and respond to comments regularly.
But: Don’t just crank out tons of posts without making them good.

2. Spread the, um, Wealth

Farmville involves a lot more cooperation than most games. For example, you can (and should) fertilize your neighbors’ crops regularly. Not only does it help your neighbors make more coins from their crops, but it gets you experience points and sometimes fuel (the truest currency in Farmville).

Successful blogging is similarly cooperative. In blogging, you can (and should) comment on your friends’ posts regularly. Not only does it help make your friends’ blogs seem more alive to casual visitors, but it also allows you to show off your own expertise and possibly gets links to your own posts (the truest for of currency in blogging).

That said, in Farmville fertilizing is just a matter of clicking on a certain number of crop squares. With blogging, you should actually have something to say or share, rather than just tossing a bunch of cow manure onto other people’s posts.

You should: Comment on your friends’ blogs regularly.
But: Your comments should be more than just a load of bullsh*t.

3. Pay Attention

The folks at Zynga keep Farmville fresh by introducing new “themes” of items. These include special crops, animals, buildings, and decorations. For example, the Swiss theme included Swiss chard, Simmental cows, Swiss cottages, and evergreen trees. These themes only last a little while, so you have to act quickly if you want the items.

In blogging, hot topics come and go. If you catch them at the right time, you can get a lot of traffic and a lot of new visitors. Wait too long, however, and you’re out of luck. If people in your field are talking about something, join the discussion. Throw out an opinion post, an analysis, or even just an overview. Don’t miss the boat.

In Farmville, you never know what the new themes will be, so you can’t plan ahead. In the real world, you can. If you have a sports blog, you should have know the World Cup was coming. A political blogger should be aware of the upcoming November elections. Even if you blog about less predictable things like the weather, you know when seasonal changes come and can have some idea of what is coming up from forecasts.

You should: strike while the iron is hot, because it cools off quickly.
But: Don’t just wait for opportunities to show up. Look for them and prepare for them.

4. Cultivate Good Neighbors (and Save)

In Farmville, a lot of tasks require either a lot of help or a lot of Farmville cash. These tasks are often things you really want to do, such as building stables and other buildings or expanding barns and chicken coops. Since Farmville cash costs real world money, getting help is a lot more appealing, so you’d better have a bunch of good neighbors.

In blogging, building up traffic and links requires either a lot of help from friends and visitors or a lot of advertising, link purchasing, and so on. Again, since advertising and purchased links cost actual money, getting help is a lot more appealing, so you want to have some good friends.

Of course, helping out in Farmville only takes a click or two, with no risk to the helper. With traffic and link building, your friends are risking their own reputations if they recommend poor links. They probably won’t share unless your content is worthwhile, so your site has to be good.

You should: Encourage your friends (and everyone) to spread the word about your site, because many other methods will cost you.
But: Don’t expect people to help unless your content is good.
f the goodness of their hearts; your content has to be worth it.

5. Expect the Unexpected

Even the most ardent lover of Farmville has been annoyed by some of the technical issues Zynga has had over the last year. Sometimes the site has been unavailable. Other times, harvests didn’t count towards masteries. The latest snafu involved construction supplies and animals randomly disappearing. It seems like it is something new every week. It can be frustrating, but such is Farmville.

In the blogging world, there is no single overlord like Zynga, but the unpredictability of the landscape is much the same. Google updates, changes to Digg’s algorithms, Twitter downtime, security updates. Bloggers need to stay on their toes and just because something is working today is no guarantee it will work tomorrow.

You should: Roll with the punches and be prepared to change strategies if necessary.
But: You can assume most of the changes are intentional in the real world, which may make it easier to adjust.

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