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8 Tips for Building Community on Your Blog

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Another challenge that faces a lot of bloggers who’ve reached a point of getting their blog past the ‘launch phase’ and where they have regular readers is forming those readers into a ‘community’.

What I noticed in the growth of my photography site was that in the first 6 months most of my readers seemed to be in ‘consumption’ mode (there just to consume and not really interact or participate) and that in the next 6 to 12 months a community began to emerge with readers interacting more with me and one another. In the next 6 months readers have begun to really take more ownership of the site and are more regularly contributing not just in comments but in writing content, volunteering in the forum etc.

This seems to naturally happen over time to some extent – but was also something that I have been quite intentional about fostering within the readership.

Here are a few tips on how to do it.

1. Start with Comments

Perhaps the most natural place to start to build ‘community’ on a blog is within its comments section. This is a good place because in our day and age it is a place that most web users are ‘wired’ to look for interactivity in. The keys in building community within your comments section include:

  • Ask Questions in posts (this will draw comments out of readers)
  • Interact with Readers (if you’re not willing to comment why would others – this gets the ball rolling)
  • Model the type of comments and tone you want (if you want people to feel safe and at home you need to police and moderate the trolls and spammers)
  • Followup Questions (answer questions whether they be in comments or via email)

Further Reading: How to Get More Comments on Your Blog and 7 Ways to Turn a Blog Post Upside Down and Get More Comments

2. Reader Centered Posts

Show readers that you value them by regularly publishing posts that are ALL about them. There are lots of ways of doing this including:

  • Answering Reader Questions
  • Inviting Questions from Readers
  • Posting a Question for discussion
  • Highlighting a reader and their blog, comment, site

The key is to regularly build into the rhythm of your blog moments where your readers take centre stage and have an opportunity to contribute and be valued.

Further Reading: The Power of Making Readers Famous

3. Interactive Tools and Projects

Whether it be running weekly polls, using quizzes, running a competition in your comments section or some other interactive tool or project – the more you get your readers to ‘do’ something the more ownership that they’ll feel over your site. I find that even the anonymous voting in a poll has the power to make a reader feel connected.

4. Invite Reader Generated Content

I’ve talked about reader generated content in an earlier post in this series with regards to how it can help you keep fresh content on your site – but the other benefit of it is that it can help readers grow in their connection to your blog.

The way I grew reader generated content on my photography site was simply to start a photography tutorials area of the forum there. In that area I invited readers to submit their tips. The idea was that the area would help identify readers from within the community who had a talent and passion for teaching others. I’ve since used some of the best tutorials on the main blog and one or two of the authors have become regular writers.

5. Become a Cheer Leader

Look for any opportunity that you can to cheer your community along. I regularly attempt to give feedback to DPS readers on how well ‘we’ are doing as a community. When ‘we’ hit a new milestone in terms of forum members or traffic numbers I talk about it in our newsletter, when ‘we’ get mentioned in a mainstream publication I make note of that….

My approach with this feedback to readers isn’t to highlight how good ‘I’ am as a blogger – but to show the community what ‘we’ have achieved. I find that each time I do this that the feedback has been excellent and that it spurs readers on to help us grow and become even better.

6. Give Readers Jobs

I wrote about this a couple of years ago now but one of the best ways to build a sense of engagement and ownership within your readership is to give readers jobs. You can’t do this with everyone of your readers but it is amazing how many people don’t want to just read and consume – they want to be a part of building something that matters. ‘Jobs’ can be anything from getting them to help you moderate comments, to being a forum moderator, to coming up with poll topics, to judging competitions, to writing guest posts etc

7. Set Reader Homework

Another great way to get a little more interactivity and buy in from readers is to set them homework in your posts. This is particularly effective when you have a ‘tips’ or ‘how to’ type blog where you’re teaching people and it is a natural way to finish a post to say ‘go and do this’.

Again at DPS we have a photography assignment area in our forum where we have a weekly assignment for readers to go away and complete before reporting back with an image that they’ve taken. Heaven forbid if we miss a weekly assignment – our readers would be up in arms!

You don’t need a forum area dedicated to this to set homework. Just end a post with an invitation to go and do something and to report back on how they did and you’ll find a percentage of your readers will complete the task and in doing so will feel more loyalty to you and your blog.

Further Reading: Building Blog Community by Setting Homework for Readers

8. Give multiple avenues to ‘join’ or be a ‘member’

I’ve mentioned a few times above the forum at DPS. I can’t express to you just how powerful that area of the site has become. While it doesn’t have as many unique visitors each month as the blog segment of the site – it is visited by a growing number of hardcore DPS fans who are visiting on a daily basis and really creating an amazing community there.

Similarly – adding a weekly newsletter to the site has created another ‘connecting point’ with readers and a gentle reminder each week to stop by the blog and or forum to interact. I’ve found that having a blog, forum and newsletter to be a lot of work but a fantastic way to engage with different readers in ways that appeal to their learning style. Many readers have connected in 2 and even 3 of these ways – each time they access a new part of the site they ‘buy in’ just a little more.

One last tip

Above all, the best way of building a community on your blog is to lead the way and start to BE the community that you want to form. This is something that will bring the 8 tips above to life…. or…. if you don’t do it is likely to ensure that you fail in building community on your blog. Readers will take your lead but are unlikely to want to join a community if you as the leader of it seems ambivalent about the whole thing.

How do You Build Community on Your Blog?

That’s enough of me talking – what have you found to be useful in building a sense of community on your blogs?

Further Reading: 3 High-Powered Reader Engagement Tactics and Secrets to Google Community and Conversation on Your Blog.

This post is part of a series on taking blogs to the next level. Next in the series we’ll be looking at shaping the brand of your blog.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Wow, this is an excellent post, I’m getting some good traffic but seem to lack in the comments. I think this advice will help on building a solid community where people return for the interaction.

    Thanks Again Darren!!!

  2. John Easton says:

    Darren,

    The idea of “Highlighting a reader and their blog, comment, site” really caught my attention. There are bound to be some very interesting approaches, tactics, etc buried in your blog follower’s websites and nothing says you care more than highlighting them.

    Thanks for inspiration. I now off to reach out to some of our community members.

    John

  3. Dang this was a good post! I wrote down A LOT of ideas while reading it. It’s funny how simple this stuff really is but you sometimes need to hear someone else say it to really give it the thought that it deserves.

    Something else that encourages conversation and community is rewarding your top commentators (there’s a wordpress widget for this) or referrers, etc. Even just providing a section in your sidebar that links to your top commenters sites with a dofollow link is a great way to keep people coming back and joining in more often.

  4. WOW! I am going to be chewing on this for a while. I was wondering, you mentioned about comments, and I currently have mine turned off because I just started last week.

    Do you think that it is still a good idea to leave comments on even if I have less than 50 visits per day?

    Thanks,
    Nate

  5. Jeeves says:

    Another great post and invaluable advice. I’ve just started my own blog and it is a bit of a hurdle at first to make a breakthrough on interactivity with your readers.

    Starting coversations on comments is just the start and I’ve resolved that I need to start e-mailing people who leave comments as well to thank them for their input.

    I’ve also found engaing people through twitter can be a relaxed and natural way of making a follow up connection if you can tie up the commenter with the twitter ID of course.

    How long before comment forms will make that an option. Hmm, that gives me an idea.

  6. Answering Reader Questions is what I always do when I ran out of articles to be published. Instead of publishing post for the sake of publishing, answering Reader Questions in the form of a post is more USEFUL and HELPFUL. Thanks Darren!

  7. ITrush says:

    #1 is very important, now I know where to start.

  8. It’s great to know that it’s part of “baby blog syndrome” to have readers who are in consumption mode instead of conversation mode.

    So many of my clients expect comments from the very first post. As you’ve illustrated – it takes a real strategy to start GETTING comments. It takes more than traffic – it takes planning!!!

    Thanks! I’ll be passing this one along to my clients!!!

  9. I find getting readers to leave comments to be the hardest thing about blogging. To be honest though, I think most bloggers feel the same way.

  10. Are Morch says:

    Thanks Darren!

    Wow – this article showed me my ‘missing link’ in my blog.

    Not only do you provide great ideas – but identify great actions steps to follow up on those ideas.

    I highly appreciate and are grateful that you provide us with articles like this.

    Keep up with this Darren.

    Article is bookmarked and I will retweet.

    Cheers..

  11. Bryan P. says:

    Comments on my blog have been hit and miss. It partly has to do with the age of my blog. I have tried some of the methods you mentioned here, but this list will help in the future.

  12. Paul says:

    As always you have excellent advice. I think I will start to put more emphasis on engaging readers by following your advice. Thanks!

  13. Darren,

    It’s a fantastic post that has given me some very interesting insight about the difference between an article and a blog post.

    I get lots of appreciation for what I write, the style of writing and so on in my emails, but rarely get comments from my readers, because I learned today that I don’t talk with them, I talk at them.

    I got very valuable inspiration for my future posts. Thank you.

  14. I feel like I’m begging for comments. Funny though, when I specifically ask questions about what I’ve written, I don’t get comments. But when I just talk about an issue, that’s often when I get the most comments. Been thinking about posting more from readers and will continue to do that.

    Bookmarked it, too, and will retweat.

  15. eve says:

    Great article! I have recently started doing some of these things more often, i.e. weekly contests and asking questions, and have noticed a HUGE difference. I finally feel like I am writing for others now, not just myself. I can’t wait to explore your other tips!

  16. Agent 001 says:

    Wow! I am truly delighted reading this post. I am interested to start a community for my blog. These tips would be helpful.

  17. LisaNewton says:

    Many of these ideas work well even for newer blogs like mine. I have so much fun building relationships with new commentors. Yesterday, I invited one of them to do a guest post, and he agreed.

    In the next week or two, I’ll also be taking #3 to heart with a contest to win a great book about the film industry. Hey, I do write about LA, so what could be better……………:)

    Thanks for the great advice, Darren.

  18. SEO Tips says:

    Great tips Darren I believe starting with commenting and ensuring that you reply to each comment is an excellent way of building a community. I like the idea of competitions and various other interactive functions however I do feel that these only work when you reach a certain level.

  19. Isaac says:

    I recommend CommentLuv to encourage more comments. When a fellow blogger comments on your posts, they get a link back to theirs. I think it works a little better on WordPress than Blogger, but it’s still cool. I comment on some blogs because I know I will get a little CommentLuv back. Plus, if anything should happen, they can find lost comments and they filter spam.

  20. “Above all, the best way of building a community on your blog is to lead the way and start to BE the community that you want to form. ”

    It takes time but it’s oh so worthwhile when you see the results.

  21. Jake says:

    Interesting concepts here, I think this can be helpful for bloggers that are looking for more than just clicks on their ads. We are not all in it for the money…

    -Jake

  22. FupDuckTV says:

    I’ve been blogging for well over a year now, but only recently have I started to develop a community of readers. It did start will comments and answering reader mails. Now, they come to expect me to put out quality work and I look forward to reading their responses.

  23. This is a great detailed explanation of action to take based on the home-bases, outposts, frontiers, and communities post, you, Kyle Lacy, Chris Brogan, & I all put together.

    I think community is the biggest part of becoming successful with not only blogging, but anything you do.

  24. Terry Heath says:

    There is a relevant article at Copyblogger today, an interview with Seth Godin talking about being a leader (based on his book “Tribes”).

    It is a great supplement to the article above, with a little different view.

    Happy reading!

  25. @Terry Heath..that was my thought exactly!

    The another way to interact with you community is to invite emails. Set up an email address just for this, and invite you readers to email you. Then be sure to answer their emails.

  26. Once again, a fabulous post at the perfect time for me. I’ve had this stronger-than-usual, underlying desire lately to really know who my readers are. I don’t want so many of them to just be statistics on Google Analytics.

    Last month I invited my readers to ask me questions, which told me a lot about who they are, but it was still really about me. So just last night I wrote a post encouraging my readers to tell me something about them, and I explained why I think it’s important. It’s an experiment of sorts, but I’m really happy with how it’s working. If anyone wants to follow suit on their blog, please do! We can start a whole movement of bloggers getting to know their audiences.

    As you can tell, I’ve already been trying to do more of what you’re talking about in points 1, 2 and 4, but I’m really excited to try points 5, 6 and 7. Such great ideas for community building. Thanks!

  27. Just start giving the answer of comments and you will be able to see that some name become under the list of daily visitors.

    So just keep doing it but however I also like give work to your reader. This have least chances to complete … but if this one will complete than you will be able to see huge regular visitors.

  28. Dev says:

    thanks for the good tips @Darren..

  29. Robby G says:

    Like others have said, this series couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks.

  30. Those are some really good tips. I have been trying to turn my Blogger blog into a community based portal (allowing multiple authors, etc.) but it has beena pure headache.

  31. Stuart says:

    Darren,

    As someone whose blog is still in the launch phase, I want to thank you. This is the sort of thing I need to be thinking about now…

  32. Thanks for the tips. Homework! AHA – great idea. I’m off to add an assignment to the post I wrote today. It should be perfect for it :-)

  33. Amie says:

    another excellent post …

    I bookmarked & shared it :)

  34. Lee Ka Hoong says:

    Great post Darren! So far I’ve only done #1 and #2, seems that I’ve to started with another 6 tips.

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  37. ExtraBlogger says:

    Hi,
    thank you I’ll try this on my blog, I think it’s going to work (75%)
    but I don’t know…

    later…

    http://www.extrablogger.com

  38. Linda says:

    As usual, a very helpful article and I appreciate how everyone here shares their knowledge so generously.

    While on the subject of comments and the importance of building community, what are the advantages/disadvantages of making it a requirement for readers to register before commenting?

    I’m new to this and read that you should require subscribers to register (mostly to prevent spam), but on the other side I’ve read that requiring registration can discourage commenting.

    What do you recommend, Darren?

    Comments??? ;-)

  39. Its usually not a good idea to have user generated posts in some fields. I just read somewhere that people find it unprofessional.

  40. Vishal says:

    Thank you for such precious advice. It will definitely help me to improve interaction with the visitors of my blog:

    http://simranglitz.blogspot.com

  41. One of the ways I build community at my Do-It-Yourself Publicity Blog is by writing feature stories about Publici-Tea™ Workshop Graduates who have used the tips, tools, and resources I offer to earn favorable publicity. I categorize these posts as Publici-Tea™ Graduate Success stories. People love to be seen, heard, and celebrated in the media, and they enjoy being seen, heard, and celebrated at the DIY publicity blog, too.

    DIY publicity should be an ongoing element of any business owner’s marketing mix, so keeping the success stories fresh and fabulous helps lend inspiration to the effort.

    Thanks Darren for being such a fabulous source of useful tips and inspiration about blogging. I just finished reading your book and enjoyed it tremendously. I know I’ll benefit as I apply your excellent tips in service to my growing readership.

    May you sell a million of them!

    Sincerely,

    Nancy S. Juetten

  42. Tumblemoose says:

    If me and my blog were to disappear overnite, I would still have warm fuzzies. Even with a paltry 28 subscribers, they are the BEST community I have seen in a great while. Organically grow your community, feel good about it, and other successes will follow.

    George

  43. Linda,
    I agree with you. Asking for registration means asking readers for more of their time while others don’t require it.

  44. Really building a successful web blog community in the key element for securing the future stability of web traffic. I can see almost a majority percentage of professional bloggers (high traffic and successful) like problogger.net have a strong community.. that brings us back to the website everyday ..

  45. Really building a successful web blog community is the key element for securing the future stability of web traffic. I can see almost a majority percentage of professional bloggers (high traffic and successful) like problogger.net have a strong community.. that brings us back to the website everyday ..

  46. Dean Saliba says:

    Getting people to leave comments is rather difficult if you are a small blog. So thanks for the great post.

  47. Luke says:

    Some really interesting ideas of how to engage with your sites audience. Looking forward to testing some of these out on my own blog/site.

    It must be pretty exciting once you get a site past start-up phase and feel like the leader of fair sized tribe of readers…

    I found the section about reader centered posts really interesting and has helped me to prise comments out of readers and visitors

    Thanks Darren

  48. Wow what a great article. Building a community in a blog or site I guess can really make them more engaging. This would mean more traffic plus better page ranking.

  49. I just launched my blog today, I know it’s a long way to go, but I look forward to following these and lot of your other tips. As you mentioned in one of your posts, on ways to generate comments. I’ll be asking questions at the end of the post and see how that goes. Thanks Darren for all the great tips and inspiration.

  50. Tyrone says:

    Hey great tips I will surely try it out to form a community on my blog :)