For this week’s Guest Post Friday, Musings welcomes a good friend and supporter, Grant Griffiths. Grant spends his time blogging at his blog, Blog For Profit where he discusses using a blog and social media to market and promote a business or professional service firm. He is also co-founder of Headway Themes a premium WordPress Theme/Framework. You can also follow Grant on twitter @grantgriffiths.
Last month Clay Griffiths and I went to New York City to attend a couple of conferences. It was the first time this country boy made it to the Big Apple. It was amazing and at the same time a bit overwhelming. The size of things and the number of people compressed in what amounts to a very small piece of land leaves me without words.
During our trip, my family and I had the opportunity to have great time at Lombari’s Pizza with my long time friend, Jay Fleischman. Jay and I have known each other for at least 4 years. We entered into the blogging world at about the same time and we very quickly became friends. It was great to actually meet in person. During our time together we discussed a lot of things, including marketing, blogging and social media.
One question I asked Jay was something which had been on my mind since we arrived in NYC and we first ventured out of our hotel to the streets of the city. First of all, please excuse any ignorance in my question. It is in no way a slam against NYC or the great people there. My question comes from someone who lives in the small rural Kansas town he grew up in. From someone who grew up on a farm and went to a small town grade school. Where my class size all through grade school was no larger than 18 other school mates. Where my High School class graduated 140 students and I married my High School sweetheart.
I asked Jay this:
NYC is so large and there are so many people, is there really any sense of community? Do you really have any way to feel part of a smaller community when it is so big?
Jay didn’t blink, nor was he offended. In fact, our conversation moved with my question. First of all, he said yes. There is a sense of community and it is usually within your own neighborhood. Interesting, and it got me to thinking later that night. Hence this post, which has been stirring around in my small town brain now for almost a month.
What are we doing as bloggers to maintain a feel of community?
This question has been driving me nuts. And my conversation with Jay started the wheels turning on this. Like many, I watch with amazement at the size of some blogs audience. You know the ones I am talking about so naming them serves no purpose. These bloggers have 1,000’s if not 10’s of thousands subscribers. They have huge numbers of subscribers to their newsletters and email offerings. If they have forums with their blogs, they have 1,000’s of forums members too. There are some of these bloggers who don’t appear to have any sense of community at all. And there are others who do have a sense of community on their blogs which sometimes really amazes me.
The bloggers who get it, who have the large “numbers” and who do have a feel of community all do one thing. They make you feel welcome and they are part of their own community. They get involved, they interact and they participate in the community they have built. Best of all, these bloggers are real. What you see is what you get and they are the same in person as they are online. I can say this because I have met each and every one of these bloggers in person. At least the ones I am referring to here, without mentioning any names.
And that my blogging friends, is exactly what you need to do to build a community and maintain a feel of the community you are trying to build. You have to do those things that made these bloggers so successful.
What we have to do to build a thriving community on our blogs
First of all, there are no shortcuts to building a successful, thriving blog. If it was easy, there would be more of them making up the 1.5 billion blogs out there. And let me warn you right now, if you think it is easy and does not take work, stop reading this post and find something else to do. Seriously, those businesses or professional service firms using a blog to market and promote their business and who are seeing results, are putting a lot of time and work into doing it right. They are not taking shortcuts and they knew going in, it would not happen overnight either.
Here are some of the things I see these bloggers doing and what you need to do to build a sense of community with your readers. You also want to encourage your readers to be part of this community and to have a sense of this community with each other.
1. Encourage Comments: Comments are a key way for you to connect with your readers. However, you have to be a proactive blogger, jump in and answer, reply and engage your readers. Not getting comments on your blog, ask for them. Take a step further and ask your readers questions to encourage them to comment.
2. Guest Post : This goes both ways. Encourage and ask your readers to guest post on your blog. This is a great way for your readers to feel they are actually part of the blog. Guest posting and seeing others guest post on your blog may actually give your readers a sense of ownership in what happens on your blog. And in turn, this goes a long way in maintaining that feeling of community you are trying to accomplish.
You also need to seriously consider guest posting on a reader’s blog too. Not just one, but make it a point to accept opportunities to guest post on other blogs. Especially if they are one of your readers. In fact, trade guest post. This is a great way to build a relationship with your readers and other bloggers.
Exchanging guest post gives you two other huge benefits too.
- Your readers get to read someone else and not just you all the time. Plus, you get a break from your own writing and having a guest post saves you from posting one of your own.
- When you guest post, you are getting exposed to a whole new audience. New readers see your writing and they will want to learn more. A good percentage of the readers on the blog you are guest posting on will follow your links to your blog to see what you are writing about there too.
One word of caution. Give your host blogger some of your best stuff. Don’t just save it for your own blog. And don’t just give them a copy of a post you either posted on your blog already or used for a guest post somewhere else. This should be new, outstanding content for your host.
3. Visit the blogs or sites of those who leave comments: Remember we are wanting to build and maintain a community with our blog. And those who take the time to read our blog and leave comments are some of the most important and loyal community members. One way we can show these people how important they are and how much a part of our community they are is to take the time to go visit their own community, their blogs. This should be on your daily list of things to do. Make it a point to go visit the blogs and/or sites of those who comment on your blog. And if you can add something to their conversation, leave a comment and join in on their community.
4. Link to other bloggers who are commenting on your blog: Community building is also about doing what we can to help one another. One sure way to not only help yourself, but to help your community is to link to these other bloggers who are visiting and commenting on your blog post. And I am not talking about just a blogroll in your sidebar. I am talking about actually taking the time to do what I like to call Organic Linking. In other words, put links inside your blog post out to other relevant blog post written by some of your commenters.
Doing this builds authority for you and your readers. You are showing those who read your blog that you want to be a source of information and you are willing to go out and find that information from other sources. You are also showing the person you are linking to that you feel what they are saying is important. And you feel it is important enough you want to tell your readers about it. Also, don’t be afraid to link out to a competitor.
5. Visit other blogs in your niche or target market: Community building and maintaining your community starts with you going out and recruiting community members. One way you can do this is to go out and find others who are talking about similar things. Go visit their blogs. Read their blogs. And leave comments on these blogs.
Three things happen:
- You will get noticed by these bloggers and they will see you are leaving meaningful, relevant comments to their post. They will see you adding to the conversation.
- You will be adding to their community and to their resources by leaving good, relevant comments.
- Your community will grow too. These bloggers will follow your link to your blog and most likely become readers of your blog and members of your community.
6. Join a Forum in your particular niche or target market: Forums are a great way to join in on a community and build your own community. By participating in a forum and answering questions there, you are showing the other forum members you are a source of good relevant information. Most, if not all forums also give you a way to leave your own URL in your signature. Do so. This will give the other members a way to follow you back to your own blog.
You may not have time to implement all of these tactics in your community building. But, you need to try as many as you can. Each and every one of them will help you in building a strong community around your blog. If you don’t want to try them all, experiment with a couple of them. You will soon see they work and want to move on and try more.
The most important thing is to have a plan and a strategy for building and maintaining your community. Following this plan will yield you a lively, active and thriving blog. Not a stale, dead or dying blog.
If you have other ideas you think might work for building and maintaining a community around your blog, please leave your comments here. Let’s keep the conversation going!