Creating Passionate Users has a great post on building community which I think can be applied to building community around a blog.
“The best way to grow a user community is to get even the beginners to start answering questions. The more they become involved, the more likely they are to stick with it through the rough spots in their own learning curve, and we all know that having to teach or explain something to another person accelerates our own understanding and memory of the topic.”
It reminds me of something that I learned in my early days of being a church pastor (tangent time):
Many churches have a welcoming strategy for new people that aims to ‘serve’ the new people in any way that they can. They go to extreme lengths to do welcome people in ways that make them feel included but that keep the visitor passive.
I found in my early days of church work that we had a much higher rate of integrating new people into our community if they were given a job right from the start. The jobs they were given were always small but they didn’t allow new people to remain passive for long but instead encouraged them to belong by actively participating.
So at LivingRoom (the community that I currently lead) you are asked to bring something to eat/to share from your first or second visit and are even encouraged (not forced) to lead (or co-lead) a night’s discussion in your early days.
In contributing in small but real ways people almost immediately felt like they’d invested something in the community and were more likely to continue to do so over the long term.
I’m pretty sure that a similar thing applies in building all kinds of community and can’t see why it wouldn’t apply to blogging.