So far in our Empire Building 101 Series we’ve focused on creating and organizing quality content to build strong foundations for our built-to-last-forever blogs. Today we turn our attention towards the beating heart of any true empire–a strong, prosperous community.
In the offline world, we tend to think of community as a bunch of folks who hang out together because of a common interest (i.e., cake, men in tights) or a location. Well, that’s pretty much how it is online too. And, just like in the offline world, some communities thrive and sizzle, while others shrink and fizzle.
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to avoid that whole shrinking and fizzling thing.
Instead, let’s look at how to grow passionate (no, not THAT kind of passionate), prosperous communities that will bloom and flourish right along with our blogs.
When I think of a prosperous blog community, I picture members rich in talents and generous in knowledge and support. I see people connecting through the blog and growing together, boosting and promoting each other wherever possible.
Granted, bringing a vision like that into reality takes time and energy, but I’m not planning on going anywhere soon, and I’ll bet you aren’t either. And just in case you’re still not convinced that building a vibrant community is worth your while, here are a few more benefits to consider.
A strong, abundant blog community provides:
- Ongoing emotional support. From teasing us out of a funk to laughing with us over our never-ending blunders, there’s nothing like community to prop us up on this marathon.
- Social proof. When new visitors see an engaged community they figure they’d better stick around and see what all the fuss is about.
- Increased reader value. An active community offers readers a pile of extra info and insight through ongoing discussions in comments and on forums.
- Promotional power. With a strong community, your blog is no longer a boulder you’re pushing uphill on your own. No, now your posts are tweeted far and wide, your products are promoted, and your articles get linked to as community members freely share your work.
- Income opportunities. When community members grow and thrive, opportunities abound for joint ventures and other profitable endeavors within the group.
With all those benefits, you might think that building a community is something that can’t happen until you’ve been blogging for about a hundred million years, but that’s not true. Lucky for all of us, it’s never too early to start growing your blog’s community.
Here’s how to do it:
- Invite people over. One of the easiest ways to start building community is by visiting blogs in your niche and leaving frequent, thoughtful comments. Over time, visitors to those blogs will get used to seeing your smiling face next to your wise and witty comments and will want to to pay you a visit.
- Serve great food. If you invited a bunch of people over to your house, you’d offer them something tasty or thirst quenching, right? Well, it’s the same thing online. Serve up plenty of fresh, delicious, satisfying content so visitors will want to return again and again for more of this new-found goodness.
- Ask questions. Everyone enjoys a little after-dinner conversation, so end your posts with a ‘what do you think?’ type question.
- Continue the conversation. Community is built on respectful conversation, so when readers leave comments on your blog, prove that you value and appreciate them by greeting them, thanking them, and responding to them.
- Encourage involvement. Invite members to participate in polls and contests, write guest posts, or be featured in interviews. Ask for regular input and feedback and seek out ways for people to work together on projects on and off the blog.
- Lift them up. If there’s one ‘secret’ to building a prosperous community, this is it: Do everything in your power to help your community members succeed. Visit and comment on their blogs. Tweet their posts. Be their affiliates. Brag them up to every breathing creature in the galaxy, and never, ever let there be one speck of doubt that you’ve got their back, their front, and everything in between.
Your turn: What’s your idea of the perfect blog community?