4 Ways to Build Community On Your Blog
In the early days of social media, everyone talked about community.
Build your community.
Talk to your community.
Community is the bee’s knees.
Everyone should have a community.
Speaking from the perspective of having one of the most active communities in the PR and marketing world, that is hooey.
Yes, community is important, but if you think about it only from an engagement point-of-view, you will be angry you spent so much time and energy building it.
What Community Means
But let’s back up and talk, first, about what community means.
Mitch Joel, the author of Six Pixels of Separation and the new Ctrl Alt Delete, wrote a blog post a few years ago about building community. He said you don’t have community until the members begin to talk to one another without the help of the author or moderator.
And he’s right.
The magic happens not when you begin to get comments on your content, but when those people begin talking to one another.
This isn’t something that can be created or forced. It happens organically. But there are things you can do to help the community grow, and encourage members to begin building relationships with one another.
Community Secret Sauce
The secret sauce is this: There is no secret sauce.
However, if you spend some time online talking to the people who can influence purchase decisions, you can provide the foundation for your community. And, when you do it this way, it becomes much more than engagement.
You build a virtual sales force that isn’t on your payroll.
You build goodwill.
You build trust among a group of people who will go to bat for you in a crisis.
You build a referral network.
And you build relationships with human beings who will not only buy from you, but will become your biggest advocates.
Think about it from this perspective: Just like you, prospects, candidates, customers, journalists, and bloggers want to be noticed. They want to know their comments or content resonates. They want you to acknowledge it, share it, and help their voices be heard. Help them do that.
Give People a Reason to Visit You
With people who spend their time with your content, visit their sites. Comment on and share their content. Follow them and engage on their social networks. Publicly thank them for their efforts.
For journalists and bloggers, visit the sites of those who you want to notice your content. Comment on and share their content. Continue to do this day after day and, soon, you’ll have developed an online relationship with an influencer in your industry.
Give people a reason to want to visit you—again and again.
This is hard work. You’re building relationships with human beings. That doesn’t happen overnight.
But it’s worth all the elbow grease.
Exactly how worth it depends on your goal. More than likely, your goal is not only to build brand awareness and gain credibility but to increase sales. So how will you use your community to do all of those things?
There are a few things you can do immediately to massage the community.
1. Install Livefyre
Livefyre is a commenting platform for your blog or website that allows people to not only comment and engage with one another but follow the discussions via email.
While some of the other platforms do something similar, Livefyre is more user-friendly—it provides many different options for readers to set their settings in a way that’s convenient for them.
2. Answer comments
There is a big debate in the blogosphere about whether or not you should respond to comments. Many journalists and bloggers believe the article or blog post is their say and the comment section is for the readers to agree or disagree, but not for the author to participate.
If, however, you are trying to build community for the sake of increased sales, it is imperative the author speaks to the people who are commenting. After all, you can’t build relationships—online or offline—by sitting in your throne and not speaking to the people.
3. Engage people with one another
This is another thing Livefyre allows you to do. Just like on many of the social networks, you can “tag” people in the conversations. By using the @ button, you can type a person’s name and invite them to the conversation.
They’ll be alerted either on one of their social networks or via email and follow the link to extend the conversation.
4. Introduce readers to one another
We do this through our weekly Spin Sucks Inquisition. Every Friday, you are introduced to one member of our community, which provides information about professional and personal lives, including hobbies, interests, and fun facts we’ve learned about them while they’ve hung out with us.
This provides an opportunity for members of the community to get to know someone they see in the comments a little bit better. Rumor has it there have been many in-person meetings, many friendships formed, and even some dating (and soon a wedding!) among the Spin Sucks community.
While that doesn’t do a lot for direct sales for us, it certainly creates a deep loyalty that is tough to break.
Your customers. Your community. The influencers. The journalists. The bloggers. All of these people will help you grow your business.
It’s no longer just about the people inside your organization—it’s also about those outside. Some will buy. Some will refer others to buy. Some will talk about you non-stop. Some will talk about you only once or twice—but when they do, it’s powerful.
This is an excerpt from Spin Sucks, the book.