Linkies, parties, blog hops - whatever you want to call 'em - are a great tool in a blogger's arsenal. They can drive traffic to your blog, keep you up to date with the latest blogging trends, and help you find your 'tribe' and make blogging friends.
They can also be a bit of a minefield.
Most will have fairly strict rules about what you can link up, when, and what you're expected to do in return for being welcomed into the club. Reading the rules carefully will cover most of it, for sure, but putting together lists of linkies for each day has really highlighted some of the unspoken rules which might trip you up.
I'm speaking generally, of course, but the emphasis on what the hosts want from their linky seems to differ slightly on either side of the atlantic. Everybody wants their linky to be successful, and to have people who link up time after time, but in the UK the focus is more on building a community around the linky. There will usually be a hashtag which is used across social media, and all participants are encouraged to use the hashtag in their blog comments so everyone knows how they found the post. The end goal is that you become, to nick a fandom term, a 'big name' blogger with a lot of name recognition within the blogging community
US hosts, on the other hand, are less likely to have a hashtag and some even claim to delete every comment they receive which contains one. Reading the rules of US based link-ups, the focus is much more on growing social media followings and building up personal relationships with a few regular linkers. Commenting on the linky post to thank the host for, well, hosting is seen as de rigeur in the States, while in the UK the preference is usually for linkers to focus on the post the host has linked up. The end goal is to be look like a popular 'big name' blogger with the wider public, rather than with other bloggers.
On both sides of the pond including the linky badge is a common requirement. (If you're not sure how to do that, Cuddle Fairy wrote the how to guide.) If it's not really fitting with your blog's look, you do have options. You could include a text backlink, or have a post dedicated to linky badges that you can link to each week instead. If I'm linking a post to a few different linkies I'll often alter the size - see my basic guide to HTML for more - so all the badges look uniform and sit on one line.
Similarly, both camps generally stipulate family friendly posts only. It's just the exact definition of family friendly that sometimes doesn't quite match up. Again, I'm using very broad brushstrokes here, but US hosts will tend to have a lower threshold for what constitutes bad language and 'adult' topics, while in the UK family friendly may exclude explicitly religious material. (Religion and politics often get lumped together in the UK as controversial topics likely to polarise.)
When it comes to sharing posts and engaging on social media, the UK is more into Instagram and the US has more time for smaller, niche networks like Stumbleupon and Yum. There isn't much in it though, and the best thing you can do for any link up is to make sure your share buttons are working properly. These might be the ones built into your blogging platform, a third party tool (I use Shareaholic), or you can use embedded and shareable social media posts to make things super easy (e.g. embedded tweets). I always do my best to look up peoples' social handles if they're not automatically included in their sharing tool, but if I'm pressed for time this is often the first thing to slide. This means that your post is being shared, but you're not getting the extra engagement (and Klout) you should be.
At the end of the day though, our similarities are greater than our differences. The best advice you can follow when getting involved with linkies is simply to treat others as you'd wish to be treated. Comment on other link ups, follow people you like, share some of the posts you found interesting, and smile disarmingly at your computer screen.
Who wouldn't cut somebody that nice and helpful some slack? :)
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