Blogging etiquette with vanilla followers

I have a problem.  (Oh shush, peanut gallery.)  What do you do when you don’t think you should reciprocate attention to your blog?

Part of my ethos as a blogger (well, as a person really) is that if someone takes the time to get to know me, spend time with me or my work, and invests time/effort in me…well, I want to reciprocate.

Don’t we all?

In some cases, it is easy.  The person who follows me has a blog with similar interests, I’ve seen the person commenting elsewhere in blogland, and I feel perfectly comfortable leaving a comment on his or her blog.

In other cases, it’s also easy even though it has a few more steps.  Someone visits/follows/comments on my blog once or twice, the only comments are hard sells of his/her own blog, and after a few days or weeks the person disappears.  I still visit at least once or twice because sometimes bloggers are simply new and don’t know how to find other people’s blogs, but after a while I shrug and focus on the relationships and community that want to interact with me.

In the last case, I still don’t know what to do.  The first time I received “follows” from what looked like an extremely vanilla blog, I assumed it was spam or an auto-follow.  The second time it happened, I thought that someone had found my post on a “fresh-pressed” page and followed me simply in the hope of getting me to follow back.  Then there were bloggers “liking” my posts.  Now, a significant portion of my followers and likers are (as far as I can tell) vanilla.

I’m stumped.

I am happy to have readers, and if you are happy to lurk I am happy to have you.  But I wish you could know that I appreciate you.

If I were a very vanilla blogger writing a very vanilla blog with very vanilla friends, would I really want a ttwd blogger to leave comments on my blog?  Possibly “out” me if I had visited the ttwd blog thinking that I was just leaving a nice note?

What do you do when you have vanilla “likers” and “followers” who have been consistent in their attention to you?  I want to show my appreciation, especially the ones who haven’t commented, but even though I like quite a few of the blogs I don’t feel right about returning the favors.

What would you do?