Every new media channel survives through a community built around it. The more vibrant and lively is the community, the more it flourishes.
Blogs are no different and each one of them requires a thriving community to accelerate its growth. Community around a blog is just like a lubricant to keep your car engine in a good condition.
Have a blog with no community around it?
Start your community building efforts today as it is vital for taking your blog to the next level. It's a long term investment that helps your blog flourish and grow year after year.
But the BIG question is - "What it takes to build a thriving community around a blog and how does one get started with it?".
Before we move ahead with this question, let's first try to understand "What community is!" - in this context. Good percentage of bloggers believes that the commenters on their blogs form the community.
Are you SURE?
Well, commenters are just a part of a larger ecosystem that forms a community around a successful blog. With the advent of multiple new media platforms, your blog's community is not just limited to comment form on its single post pages or archives. People who talk about your blog on different new media platforms ( for e.g. forums or social networking sites) are also part of that community.
And it's not just limited to online platforms. Offline community building is a must if you really want to make it big. We'll talk about that too in this guide.
Getting StartedCommunity building exercise is a time consuming process and you must be mentally and physically prepared to invest enough time for it. This also includes developing skills to handle negative feedback or comments that you may eventually face during the community building process.
So here's how you can kick-start your community building efforts.
- Create outposts on prominent new media platforms - Gone are the days when blog's audience was limited to RSS feed readers and visitors leaving comments on your posts. You must do some research to find out the most promising social media platforms that may give you an opportunity to nurture a community focused around your blog.
- Shortlist relevant blogs to comment on - Another important task while strategizing your community building plan is to create a list of select blogs that are not only relevant to your niche but are already experiencing lively community-powered discussions. This shortlisting process is solely for preemptively reaching out for these communities by proactively taking part in the discussions.
- Build a free newsletter - A killer newsletter has the power to trigger discussions from the subscribers. These discussions can start through your contact page, comment form or through one of your blog's social media outposts. All depends on the structure of your newsletter which should contain something to chew and consume.
- Start weekly/monthly polls - This is yet another potent weapon in your arsenal to further boost your community building efforts. But, if you really want to get some results through it, make the polls infinitely interesting. This way, you'll be able to spark lively discussions from within the participants.
- Consider adding a discussion forum - And last but not the least, our good old discussion forums are one of the promising alternatives for nurturing a community around your blog. Start with a free discussion forum and you may start an optional premium membership option for serious buddies.
Prerequisites and PrecautionsApart from giving your time and energy, community building process requires some other stuff too. Without it, no matter how hard you try, it's not going to give you the results.
And, what's that - STUFF?
First, we will talk about the prerequisites and then we'll move on to the precautions. The prerequisites mentioned here are applicable for almost every blog no matter what you blog about and what's your blog's goal.
- Content is the cornerstone - Every community building effort revolves around the content publish on a blog. First provide something to ponder upon, only then you can expect people to take part in the community discussions.
- Your own soft skills matters - Another extremely important prerequisite is your own approach to answering and addressing queries of community members. The more open and transparent you are, the more is the probability of your success. This also includes great listening skills that are so necessary while interacting with the community.
- Facilitate easy opportunities to interact - Sometimes, potential community members try to express their views but don't find the right platform to do so. Extreme moderation rules or poorly designed interaction elements are some of the reasons people may not be interested in being the part of your blog's community.
- Put cap on 'Broadcast' syndrome - It's very easy to fan out scheduled updates on different media platforms and then expecting some interaction from the readers. I'm not against automation, but solely relying on it without any human touch is only going to ruin your community building efforts.
- Formulate appropriate policies for every interaction channel - It's always better to come with clearly defined policies before some of the community members starts messing with you and with other members. You must not only tabulate these policies beforehand but should also facilitate easy access of the same.
- Identify and prune spammers at the earliest - Be ruthless when dealing with spammers and trolls. Your ability to quickly identify these notorious digital entities will play an important role in building a clean, useful and lively community.
- Avoid controversial topics - Another important precaution is to keep distance from extremely controversial topics that may hurt sentiments of the community at large. It's better to either delete such content or simply impose posting restrictions through strict filtering options.
Nurturing the CommunityThe real challenge is not to attract new members to the community. It's all about retaining them and getting more through those retained members.
Most successful communities started with a small and open group of members.
There are almost always some key players in every blog-powered community. It's the blog owner's responsibility to identify these key players and to use them to further build and expand the community.
Following are some of the key techniques that'll help you grow your blog community in a fairly quick time with much less efforts.
- Post and respond at peak hours - Now this is quite obvious but still some of us forget this golden rule of online engagement. Do extensive research and find out the best time during the entire week when your readers flock around various new media platforms. Create your schedule matching with this time to get maximum interaction opportunities with the community members.
- Identify and delegate powers to the key players - As I mentioned earlier, key players within the community can help you expand it in a fairly quick time. You must identify these active players and must assign them bigger roles to not only expand the reach but also to optimize the overall interaction experience.
- Keep check on hard-selling or extreme self promotion - Community building is not about hard-selling your own products and services or trumpeting about your achievements throughout the day. One must be very careful to avoid falling in this trap as it can ruin your community building efforts.
- Share useful stuff from others - One of the secrets of growing a community is continuously coming up with extremely useful stuff for the members. And this can be achieved through sharing the best available stuff from others. This way, you'll not only retain the existing community members but will also be able to attract others whose content you're sharing on a regular basis.
- Reward active members - Who doesn't like freebies and goodies? That's what is needed for active members who not only regularly take part in community activities but also helps in spreading the word about it. You can give swag, discount coupons or a free service or product on a weekly or monthly basis to such members.
- Find new avenues - Instead of relying on good old methods of growing your community, continuously look for new platforms, methodologies and opportunities to give a boost to the existing member base. This will ensure continuous growth of the community despite low performance or failure of one of the channels or methodologies.
Over To YouNow it's your turn to share your blog community building tips. You can also share some useful case studies where a business or an individual has managed to build great online community through a blog.
This will help us get more insights about the process of connecting with more people through this powerful new media platform.