Empire Building 101 Series: Growing a Prosperous Community

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?

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Related Posts:
Empire Building 101 Series: Designing a Custom Content Strategy
Empire Building 101 Series: Unleashing the Power of Pillar Content

52 Responses to Empire Building 101 Series: Growing a Prosperous Community

  1. James June 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    I must admit, that building an online presence and an online community is easier than an offline community. This is a great post.

  2. Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella June 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    I can't help but agree with this post, Jean, you nailed it again. You're giving us excellent advice on community building. In fact, I don't believe you can grow a really successful blog unless you have a strong community underlying the whole structure. So this is something none of us can afford to overlook.

    I also want to take a moment to thank you for the tip to “lift them up”. I noticed this, because it is something at which you yourself excel! Especially when you leave comments on other peoples blogs. Thank you for your encouraging style!

  3. Jake LaCaze June 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    I think that sometimes we forget the importance of our community and following. When we do, we need posts like this to keep us on track.

  4. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Thanks, James. It felt weird to me at first going out and talking to people I didn't know online. When I figured out I could just be the same person I was offline, it sure got to be a whole lot of fun.

  5. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    H Joella. Everything is so much easier and more fun when there are people standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us. I was on my own when I first started out, so that's made me even more appreciative of community now. To me, any time I spend helping someone else succeed in their business is time well spent!

  6. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Hi Jake. Sometimes we can put our noses down in our work and forget that we don't have to go it alone. Hope you have a great weekend!

  7. Ms. Freeman June 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Sometimes we tend to think we are successful and self made, but it truly is the environment and community in which we surround ourselves that lift us up and push us forward. :)

  8. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Now that's the truth! I get inspired and motivated by people around here all the time. It's exciting just to be a part of such an energetic group.

  9. Dev | Technshare June 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Hey Jean,

    Awesome post Jean. The most impor­tant part of build­ing a strong, pop­u­lar community is by con­nect­ing with your readers. Building relationship with other bloggers.

    Thanks for sharing this great Post.


  10. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Thanks, Dev. I think it's the most rewarding part of blogging too (or at least tied with writing), but then again, I like hanging out and yakking with people.

  11. Vince June 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    Hi Jean
    I have spent a good few hours reading your blogs today … this is another great one. I think your comparison to offline and online is spot on. I am very new to this but have noticed the strong sense of community that exists arround certain blogs this one most definiatly being one of them.

  12. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    Hi Vince. Another good thing to remember about community is that you get to shape it and set the tone from day one. People who do a lot of ranting on their blogs can quickly end up with a community that's prone to bickering and negativity. That's cool if it's what a person wants, but not so cool if a person wants to promote positivity.

  13. Kaizenvision June 11, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    Cheers to “communities thrive and sizzle” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love this Empire Building Series!
    Great tips on how to build an online community. I'm blessed that I fell into a great one and for those who aren't experiencing that yet – your tips are fantastic!!! – they are fantastic for those that have community as well – ever growing, yes

  14. Onibalusi Bamidele June 11, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    Really Great Post Jean!

    One of the best way to grow a blog is by engaging both in and outside your blog and part of it is leaving well-thought out comments on other blogs.

    Thanks a lot for the nice comment,

  15. Donna (funtourguru) June 11, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    Thanks for the easy to read tips Jean! Another aha moment, it is not just another blog, it is about building a trusted community. I am glad I stopped by.

  16. Angela Artemis June 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Jean, what a fabulous post! I think it's off the fabulosity charts actually!

    I love this great advice. I especially love the idea offering my guest something delicious to munch on while the are visiting. You have such a wonderful way with words – you know that right?

    I look forward to each and every one of your posts.

    Thanks for the tasty morsels today.

  17. k0zm0zs0ul June 11, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    Excellent post Jean, and just what I needed to hear. I've been working on coaxing my readers out of the woodwork to comment more and get involved with each other, but it's definitely a bit akin to pulling teeth at times. lol Which can be highly discouraging some days!

    But your post just renewed my purpose, so thanks for getting in my brain and pulling my needs out into an awesome post! ;D


  18. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Hi Aileen. Yeah, thriving and sizzling is good :) I'm grateful to have you as part of this community and also to be a part of the growing community on your blog!

  19. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    Hi Onibalusi. If I hadn't stepped out into other communities and started commenting on blogs I'd probably still be sitting here talking with myself. Not that I didn't have some interesting conversations :) Thanks for stopping by.

  20. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    Hi Donna. I'm glad you stopped by too :) Yes, we have the opportunity to do so much more than just build a blog. We can build a lasting resource, a positive community, and a healthy business too. Hope you have a great weekend!

  21. Brandon Connell June 11, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    I wish I could provide some good insight into what I'm doing for my blog community, but this time it's huge and I gotta keep it a secret 😉 Blogs need to innovate and adapt to survive. If you come up with a crazy idea for your blog, jump on it instead of sit back and wonder how it could have turned out.

  22. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    Hi Angela. I think I must be hungry with the way food keeps being referenced in so many of my posts :) Actually, I grew up in a farm community where if someone crossed your threshhold you started practically throwing pieces of pie and cake at them and drowning them in coffee. And, if you didn't, word got around about your poor hospitality. I guess those memories stuck with me (along with a couple of extra pounds. haha).

  23. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    I know what you mean, Kim. It's sort of like a snowball, I think, where it's tough to get it started but after awhile it picks up momentum on its own. Actually, I think you've got the makings of an excellent post for your blog in your own comment. Anyone who is in any type of business has felt what you're feeling so you've got a universal vibe going on right there with the feelings of discouragement, perseverance, etc. I bet that post would get 1.3 gazillion comments. And if not, we'd have to sit down and eat some cake and try to figure out why :)

  24. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Now you've got me curious, Brandon. No fair! Well, whatever you're up to, I'm sure it's worth waiting for because you always do seem to have something good up your sleeve. And you're right . . . be different and run with your fresh ideas.

  25. k0zm0zs0ul June 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Actually I did write quite a lengthy post on problogger
    talked about that very thing a bit.. got a good response, but perhaps I need
    to revisit on BGB! lol But regardless… I think cake is an excellent idea!
    Or even better… brownies! ;D

  26. Dave Doolin June 11, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    Funny how that is. =)

  27. Angela Artemis June 11, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    Hi Jean, Then I guess being Greek is a lot like growing up on a farm. We have a gene that compels us to feed people and open up diners. You simply cannot leave the house with some baklava or pastries and Turkish coffee.

  28. Katietallo June 11, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    Love this post, Jean. I agree wholeheartedly. You are the master of community building and you are a master of convincing others of just about anything. I'm so glad I'm part of your community. Have a great weekend.

  29. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    That does it. I'm signing up to be Greek in my next life.

  30. virginbloggernotes June 11, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    Hi Katie. I'm glad we're in this together too. Up and down and around and around we go. Wheeee :) Geez, remind me not to eat before my next roller coaster ride . . .

  31. Jeannie June 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    I think the best part of this post is seeing the proof right here in how much of a community you've grown so quickly! Definitely an inspiration.

  32. virginbloggernotes June 12, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Thank you, Jeannie. I'm definitely appreciative of the folks here who take time out of their day to read posts and then comment on top of that or send an email. And thank YOU so much for taking the time to participate. Have a great weekend!

  33. Lisa at Practically Intuitive June 12, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    Hi Jean, I think you make some great points here. What resonated with me strongly was the part about lifting others up. One of the things I love about communities like this – those who gather together to learn from each other, is that sense of camaraderie. We're all in this together, you know? I hope I can learn enough in my travels to offer someone else goodies like you give us all the time! Thanks for this!

  34. virginbloggernotes June 12, 2010 at 1:42 am #

    Hi Lisa. I love the camaraderie too. The community understands things that offline friends and families simply can't. Plus, the sharing and wealth of knowledge is incredible too. Glad you're here!

  35. Dia June 12, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    Thanks Jean for those very useful tips. Asking questions and “serving great food” as you call it are very beneficial. Afterall, we are all hungry for good content. Thanks for sharing

  36. Sally_Neill June 12, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Hey Jean,

    I had never really seen the teasing before to be honest, until I came across you, Mark, Scott and Alex.

    I must admit it's addictive and fun and really does build up an online relationship really quickly.

    As you know my blog serves old, stale donuts to Scott and a nice fresh banquet for the rest of you ha ha,

    Sally :)

  37. virginbloggernotes June 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Hi Dia. The asking questions thing is easy to forget sometimes. I hear people mention that they aren't getting comments and when we look at their posts, they all end with a final statement/conclusion and don't invite readers to answer a question or share an experience/thoughts. It does make a difference.

  38. virginbloggernotes June 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi Sally,

    I'm a bit of a tease (not that kind!) by nature, so finding that little group has really livened things up online. I enjoy the banquet at your online house but will try not to indulge too much when Scott is eating his old crumbly donut. Haha.

  39. Sally_Neill June 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Ha ha, I bet you are in tease in all senses of the word!!! (kiddin) Your comment made me laugh, poor Scotty, I feel mean now, but he started it, as always! Sally :)

  40. Scott Barron June 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Hi Jean,

    I'll admit that writing for my blog has changed over the months because of this exact topic. When I first started – I was writing to write.I didn't really have anyone pictured in my mind when I wrote. I honestly didn't think anyone was going to read the first few posts anyway; most of us feel that.

    But as the months went on and I started getting comments, I knew people were reading. Which I found scary! Now when I write, I picture 6 main people. Alex, Brandon, Sally, Mike, Mark and you. Thank God we have more readers than that, but so far it seems the 7 of us go everywhere together :-)

    Oh, to make a long story short (too late) is that I now write to my readers. Funny enough, I find that more difficult!!!!! There are many times I have an idea and want to write. Then I think, “Jean doesn't care about that.” Like my last blog post. I know that it doesn't affect any of you guys, but I had to vent.
    I didn't even ask questions on the post (as you mentioned above, it's good to ask questions) because it was just too depressing of a subject. All comments are welcome, but no questions :-(

    Hey, thanks for reading and stopping by anyway. I always use your blog for inspiration.

  41. mark June 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    Hey Jean,

    I think that the ideal community is one where there are many people who actively and purposely come together. It is one which has many members from many backgrounds, and one where everyone feels comfortable stating their views openly and without censorship.

    My question to you is this. Do you really think that it is possible to have someone's back and their front at the same time?



  42. virginbloggernotes June 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Hey Scott. I freak out too if I think about a lot of people reading my writing. Instead, I try to get an 'average reader' picture in my brain and think about what kinds of challenges they have, what their day is like, etc. Usually I draw the conclusion they're dealing with a lot of the same things I am, which makes the writing process a lot easier.

    When I was reading your comment just now I was thinking about how your unemployment post could actually tie in really well to marketing issues, such as, 'What the Senate is Teaching Me About Customer Service,” or “How to Keep Working With No Life Support.” Geez, I should start charging for titles. Haha.

    Regardless of the subject matter, I try to hop over from my feed reader to your blog ever time you post. It's you I care about . . . the posts, no matter how good they may be, are secondary . . .

  43. virginbloggernotes June 12, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    Hi Mark. When you said 'censorship,' I thought you might try slipping in a salty word or two to test things out :) I agree with you though. Agree or disagree, every point deserves to be heard, or why even bother having open comments? There are limits, of course. I wouldn't let people threaten other people (or me!) on here, although they could probably get away with calling me a ditch-licking weasel :)

    Having the front and the back at the same time is an advanced ninja tactic, Mark. It's easy when you get the hang of it, although having the 'everything in between' part gets a little messy sometimes. This is why most ninja outfits have a hidden pocket for wet-wipes.

  44. Scott Barron June 13, 2010 at 2:06 am #

    I sure know how to write a post that scares people away! A few months ago I was asked why I don't blog about unemployment. My answer then and still is that it's too depressing and I don't expect it to last forever. Thanks for listening.

  45. Manal June 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    Great advice Jean. A great example of building community is your blog. Lots of freshly produced delicious content, a great host and a wonderful dialogue.

  46. Louis June 14, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    This is a great post and it definitely is giving me a wake up call to invite more people to my blog. Excuses is not good enough.

    – Louis

  47. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Thanks, Manal. You're sort of making me blush here :) I'm grateful to have you as part of this community, and I'm equally grateful to be a part of yours!

  48. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    Thank you, Louis. And yes, we really do need to get out there, be seen, and let people know we have a blog and would love for them to visit. I thought people would just 'find me' at first. I was very, very wrong :)

  49. Maggie June 29, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    I just bumped into your blog and I really appreciate the good advice! I never thought about ending with a question, but once I started thinking about it, a lot of the blogs I read regularly use this suggestion. I will start doing that too. Thanks!

  50. virginbloggernotes June 29, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    I'm glad you found your way here, and I hope you'll come back again. We tend to have a bit of fun around here, and the more the merrier :) Questions really do make a difference. I guess we all like to feel like someone is interested in hearing from us. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  51. Haley June 13, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    Building an online presence and an online community is easy to do than offline community.Thanks for your great sharing
    Haley recently posted..What Are The Different Types Of Loan You Can Apply


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