Close
Close

Community – Principles of Successful Blogging #4

communityToday’s principle in our series on successful blogging is all about building community on your blog. Let me share how I discovered that community was possible in the online space with a story:

I discovered the power of online community on the very first day that I went online (I think it was in 1996).

Up until that point I’d always been quite sceptical of people who talked about ‘relationships’, ‘friendships’ and ‘community’ when they talked about their online experience.

I just couldn’t see how people could ever call online interaction any kind of community – but I quickly discovered how wrong my assumptions were.

I still remember the moment – the guy who’d come to install my new computer and modem (dial up) gave me a quick tour of how to access the web – Netscape, hotmail and then he opened up a little program called Comic Chat and told me it was for chatting to people online using a system called IRC.

I promptly told him that I wouldn’t be wasting my time with that and closed it down.

Later that day on a whim I opened it up and joined the first ‘room’ that I came across – an Aussie chat room. I used the handle of ‘oziii’ on a whim and entered the room. Within seconds I’d been noticed, welcomed and drawn into the conversation.

3 hours later my view of how community could be developed online was completely changed. 3 months later I’d spent an hour a day (minimum) in this room since that first day. Over the year or two that followed I’d personally met 20 or so other members, had attended one wedding from group members, had helped conduct an online memorial service for another who’d passed away and had become close friends with a number of others.

Was it true community? I’m not sure – perhaps a sociologist out there can fill us in on that – but what I am sure of is that people found a sense of belonging in that simple IRC chat room.

Of course we’ve come a long way on the internet since those days. The mediums have evolved (although I have to say that some of what I see on Twitter reminds me a lot of IRC) but one thing has not changed – people are still going online to connect and find community. In fact with the explosion of social media the web has only grown in the way that people are using it to connect, relate and find belonging.

My own story of learning about building communities online continued to grow with my own stepping into the blogging game – in fact it was one of two things that attracted me to blogging the most (the other one was the way blogs amplify a person’s voice).

I still remember the experience of reading my first ever blog and marvelling at the way that this medium not only gave an individual the ability to communicate with thousands of people around the world but the way that it enabled those same people to add to the conversation. I was amazed by the sense of belonging I saw among readers on the site, the way that they improved the site with their ideas and the way that around the blog was a community of other bloggers engaging with one another’s ideas.

As I began to develop my own blogs I saw this community first hand for myself and discovered that one of the secrets behind growing the readership of a blog is to give people ways to participate in it, ways to belong to it and ways to make it their own.

Over the last 7 years I’ve started over 30 blogs – the three that became most successful for me were the three that became communities rather than just information portals.

Yes some of the ‘information’ sites did get some search engine traffic and made a little money – but they never built a brand, they were never recommended by one person to another, they rarely generated comments and they never opened up opportunities to create indirect income streams like writing a book, selling an ebook or doing consulting or speaking.

I put down the failure of these 27 or so blogs down to numerous reasons – but the main one was that they failed to grow a community around them.

So how does one grow build a community around a blog?

This is an important topic and one that I really do recommend bloggers grapple with because it’s so important in a blog hitting the tipping point of becoming successful.

I’ve written numerous posts previously on the topic so won’t rehash them all here but do recommend that you read at least one of them – 8 Tips for Building Community on Your Blog – a post in which I attempted to summarise my own experience and advice in building online communities around my blogs.

Tip #9 – Play Match Maker with Your Readers

There’s one tip that I want to add to the 8 tips in the previous post and that is to work at helping readers to connect outside your community. This can seem a little counter-intuitive for a web publisher because we often feel like we want to keep people on our site and get them interacting more and more on our turf – however what I’ve begun to discover in my blogging on Digital Photography School and even here at ProBlogger and in the ProBlogger Forums is that when you give people a secondary connecting point with one another that it deepens their connections (and therefore the community) that happens on your own blog.

A quick example of this: earlier this year on DPS I asked readers to list their Twitter accounts. To this day over 630 readers have listed their accounts. Many have also gone through the list and added every other account.

What happened in the weeks that followed this post was that I noticed more and more of our readers getting to know each other on Twitter. While it’s difficult to measure the anecdotal evidence that I’m seeing is that it’s improving the quality of comments being left on DPS. I’ve also had numerous thank you emails from readers who tell me that they’ve met great new friends as a result of that post. There have even been a few readers who’ve started working together as a result of these connections.

As I say – it’s difficult to measure the impact but from what I’m seeing the community on my site has improved because I’ve played match maker with our readers and helped them to get to know each other.

While it’s still early days on the ProBlogger.com forums a similar thing has happened there with a thread asking members to share their Twitter accounts. I figure the more connected people are with one another the more likely they are to stay connected with the community.

More Suggested Reading

Check out Dan Blank’s post – Group Hug: How to Build Community Using Forums and Social Media -while not blog specific it contains a lot of Gold on building community online.

More Advice from YOU

I’d love to hear your advice on how to build community on a blog. I’d also like to highlight some advice from my Twitter Followers who answered this question on building community on Twitter last week. You can see a collection of their suggestions here.

Over to you – how do you build community on your blog? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t? Looking forward to seeing your ideas and experiences!

Read the full series on how to build a successful 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.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. Mathdelane says:

    One thing that I could think of is to start treating your readers and commentators as you’d like yourself to be treated. If you know how to give back, then you’ll surely reap something in return.

    It may not be in the immediate future but it’ll come one day. There are countless of ways though. We only need to exert some effort if we wanted to–build a community.

  2. At the moment I am working realy hard on that. I try to encourage my readers to leave comments on my blog. However, It is important to make your reader feel as they are adding something to your blog rather than making feel them as customers or making them feel as readers who are another number on a RSS Reader Counter Widget.

    If i can make them feel as they are part of my blog and they add value to my blog with their comments and suggestions, I would feel happy and satisfied about my blog.

  3. ali* says:

    I’m a nooB, but as my blog is kind of activist oriented I’m considering allowing user-created blogs in the subdomain, with WPmu. Has anyone else done this?

    Actually, if anyone ever did choose to hang on my blog it would be a real honour and create a lot of responsibility. I mean, my creation and whole POV is their home, for some time.

    As yet I’m still wondering how to get more than 30 visitors a day – just started though.

  4. Having the right blog plugins to help foster comments is important. The first step is to make the doorway to comments as easy to open as possible. Once opened, you then have to post material that people just cannot refrain from commenting on. This means going beyond the standard blog posts you see in your niche, and almost daring people to join the conversation.

    All it takes is a handful of thought provoking posts to get people commenting. Once they do, make sure your follow-ups as the author provoke further discussion. Be insightful, contradict a point made, or ask people to expound. Once you make the reader feel important, it becomes an outlet for them that they want to re-visit, time and time again.

    Rob – LexiConn

  5. SDC says:

    A good community builder idea my friend at http://www.jtbourne.com had was to build a fantasy hockey league for his readers, which took off quite well.

    http://davecunning.wordpress.com

  6. The main hurdle is getting the first visitors to your blog to ‘join’ the community.

  7. Hey great points mentioned by you.
    Joining in a community can build a better relationship if relationships goes further then it can develop better friendship.
    In the blogging field the community plays the vast role to improve and develop blog reader base.
    Even comments can develop better community on the blog bu discussing on the topics.

  8. I just joined the forum. http://www.WarriorForum.com I have also just completed an article on my blog at=>http://bcodyfrugalityadvice.blogspot.com/FreeWebsitesforstartinginternetbusinesses Feel free to comment on my articles and my blog. The online community is similar to the 1990′sTV sitcom “Cheers”. Instead of a local neighborhood feel the online community neighborhood is worldwide. blogging satisfies the communal need of of belonging to a community.

  9. I was skeptical about the online communities at first also but I’ve learned that the community is one of the things that really separates blogs from standard websites.

    The ability for people to be able to amplify their voices, as you phrased it, it one the things that make blogging so much fun and engaging…Not just amplifying the authors voice, but the voices of those who comment and connect with the author.

  10. Brandon Cox says:

    I think one discouraging thing is the natural rotation of a community in which some long-established readers just move on. So it’s not just about building a community, but retaining them through relationships and by listening to their needs.

  11. Stan says:

    I will have to start focusing on building the community then. Mine is a very young info/tips blog (2 months) and I have people commenting and it usually is a good dicussion. However, I need to draw in other people beside the six or ten that are reading it now.

    Thanks for the tips Darren.

  12. When I was running the staffing cooperative blog I was using Linked connections and groups to build community. I’d post blogs in Linkedin groups, and post questions and generate discussions in relevant industry groups. Then I’d incorporate respones in blog posts.

    Everett

  13. Ronblogger says:

    Thanks for sharing the story,i agree building community can really be a big help in bulding relationships.That’s one of my goal and thanks for your tips here

  14. HomeBiss says:

    Very informative!

    Only have one thing to say. Community leaders especially those based around their blogs should have open minds and more than ready to face hot debates. What I have seen right now from some communities is the opposite and that’s a crying shame.

  15. Yum Yucky says:

    I noticed a surge in my community when I began to show an interest in my readers’ own blogs. I don’t comment everywhere everyday, but I think it means something to my readers when I “visit” their own works every now and then.

  16. SkinCare says:

    Nice information shared. I’m getting continues knowledge since I joined this blog. Wonderful platform to increase knowledge… Cheers

  17. Kris Malena says:

    I believe that commenting is one way for the readers to interact. sometimes the spammers sneak in but I think I’ve taken care of them. Play Matchmaker, I like that!

  18. Ever IRC now?

  19. This is true. It is more easier to recommend a product to your community to make money from them, than you to recommend a product to search engine traffic expect you are a very good sales man.

  20. Wow, glad I’m not the only one that spent hours in IRC chatrooms. Up until today, I forgot about them, but you make a great analogy here.

    People gravitate towards communities, which means the closer you can bring yours together, the more people will want to hang around.

  21. At last year’s Blogworld Expo you mentioned that it’s important to invest in your readers if even one at a time. One of the things that I like to do is welcome new readers to the blog by sending them a video email with a link to my follow up comment on the site. What I’ve come to find is that video email is often times received with much more enthusiasm than a standard email! And in regards to follow up, folks appreciate the response and thought that goes into a follow comment/conversation on the site.

    Sure it takes time. But it’s also well worth the additional effort (in my opinion).

  22. Lani says:

    You sure show some true value content in how to set-up your blog profile. Plus so much valueable information to read up on. I stumbled on your blog, building my 2nd blog and I sure like the way yours look. I understand you been online since 96′ that sure is a while and I am sure you have grown in time and advanced to more things online.

    I’ll bookmark your blog to fall back on. Cool stuff. Aloha, Lani

    http://www.travelbusinessaffiliates.com
    http://www.makingmoneyresource.blogspot.com

  23. riders says:

    I think that everything around me can use to find out to develope my blog and cheer up your articles.

  24. Yeah, agree that community can bring our blog become big player in blogosphere. Community is loyal indeed.

  25. kumo says:

    I think this is very much related to your own characteristic and personality. In stead of doing it face to face directly, we just do it online. I say blog is just a media for us to communicate to people around the world. Besides I think people are the ones that make a blog successful.

  26. hdmi cable says:

    Thanks Darren
    Valuable info. I have just entered the blogging world as part of our web marketing strategy…

    I am enjoying the writing, and from blogs such as yours, Good luck out there…

  27. New blogs nowadays are not easy to build their brand due to numerous famous blogs out there. The blog sphere environment now really competitive, however, with the right mindset and persistence, bloggers will still be able to build their name in the long run.

  28. brooger says:

    Building a sustainable community requires patient,determination and discipline. No short cut at all, after all no short cut to place worth going.

    Thanks for great post

  29. Umar says:

    i want to be a successful blogger. tel me how can i increase my adsense earning?

  30. krissy knox says:

    Darren,

    How I build community on my blog:

    I get the word out about my blog, and the community I hope it will bring, even before the blog goes online, or perhaps at it’s inception online. Good advertisement of blogs, whether by word of mouth or any other way, is very important. And continuing to advertise one’s blog will continue to drive readers to a blog, and if it is already a vibrant community, more vibrant community members will also join!

    One way I build a vibrant community is to provide my readers with a blog with a subject / niche that they are not provided for by everyone else. Sometimes I may want to stick to a popular niche, so I create a meme. This type of meme not only makes the blog very creative and interesting and fun to read, but it also gives your readers something to do. If your readers like your assignments, they will return to your blog regularly to do them again and again to be a participant in them. Soon they will be a participant in some exercises in your blog and feel like part of the community…

    Another way to give make everyone feel part of the community is to give out occassional links to a reader’s blog. Don’t do it with everyone, It wouldn’t be special anymore, do it sparingly.

    Be yourself.

  31. Believe it or not but every people is looking for those person who have same interest as of them and after that they started to build the relation.

    One interesting thing about these kind of relation and community is your words will build the relation and your words will destroy it as well.

    There is no place of beauty (in IRC season, today its not the same)

  32. Mal Keenan says:

    I’ve only just started, but my first thought on linking to another blog from my posts was ‘am I not sending these readers to my competition?’. I resisted the urge to withhold the links though as I had found the resources on these sites really helpful.

    Now that I’ve read your post I’m glad I did.

    Mal Keenan

  33. Ryan says:

    Whenever I can, I respond to a comment or send a personal email thanking the commenter. This opens a dialog, which builds friendships, which forms a community.

    If someone takes the time to comment my blog I feel grateful, and when you express gratitude with action your influence grows. So will your community.

  34. I think that interaction is the key. Not just with you the writer, but promoting it with your readers as well.

  35. MizFit/Carla says:

    You got a big ole shout of AMEN here on everything you said.

    I may never have the ‘most’ readers but I have a thriving tight community for all the reasons you’ve mentioned above.

    I can’t echo enough the importance of the matching of readers.

    I did MizFit Motivational Matches (accountability partners w/goal setting) and it was GREAT.

    For readers.

    For me to watch their relationships blossom.

    For bolstering the sense of COMMUNITY at MizFit.

    Carla

  36. Web says:

    Having a community is extremely valuable for a website or blog. One main reason is that it gives repeat traffic to your website. People come back to your website time and time again. Getting good traffic is one thing, but the websites that get the most web traffic are ones that people check back to often. This is beyond a valuable thing to have for your website.

  37. Dave Doolin says:

    I am definite “matchmaker.” I’ve introduced that have gotten married, others have become long term friends. Probably introduced business partners as well.

    If being a matchmaker is helpful, I’ve got that part hands down.

  38. Goldschmiede says:

    So far I set up the homepage of my business as a one way information channel to my customers. Now that I read this article (and comments) I might reorganise my stuff to some sort of blog … or rathter community.

    Great information here!

  39. That’s really an informative post I have come across.i totally agree with the word that building community can be a big help in building relationship.Anyway thanks for the information.Keep it up.Keep blogging.

  40. my business says:

    thank you for suggestion and useful advice networking and create big community is very great strategy

  41. This is such an important topic, I wish more people would write about it, and not just spam other people’s ideas. Researched content is hard to find on the Internet these days.