Build an online community that you love #pbevent

When I started blogging, I didn’t really know what blogging was.

I was the accidental blogger. I had a website on a blogging platform and I added content but I wouldn’t have called myself a blogger.

Mostly because I didn’t know what a blogger was.

That all changed about 18 months on. The reason for that change was discovering (mostly via Twitter – it was a lovely place at that time) that there was a whole community out there waiting to connect with you … if you only opened up to be a part of it.

I’m a part-time foodie so I liken blogging to preparing, cooking and serving a lovely meal.

Yes the meal will still be delicious if you’ve prepared it with love and wholesome ingredients but it will be even more tasty – and the eating experience more enjoyable – if shared with at least one other person.

For me, I’d go one step further and say that a huge dinner party with like-minded friends is an even better  – and infinitely more memorable – way to eat.

So, when I discovered that there were other bloggers out there, writing interesting stuff about all manner of things, I basically invited myself to the giant dinner party that is the Blogosphere.

From that moment on, I loved every minute.

My own online community was teeny tiny but it was lovely and continues to be lovely, even though five years down the track I need way more place settings at the SY virtual dinner table.

In my session at Problogger Training Event 2014, I was asked to talk about how to build an online community that you love.

It’s a topic I’m happy to talk about as I really do love my online community. It’s a community that has built organically over time. And it’s largely free from snarky stuff that so often gives the internets a bad rep.

The are five key pillars, if you like, that I think help you concentrate on building an online community.

Read on to see what those pillars are and ways you can work on each to grow your online community.

Build an online community that you love

Know your reader

1. If your blog is brand new you don’t have the advantage of accessing stats on your readership but you can create a profile of what your ideal reader looks like (see below for a link to a worksheet to help you with this).

2. If you’ve been blogging for some time then make friends with your demographic stats in Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. This will help you to get a clear image on who you’re connecting with on a daily basis.

3. Even if you have access to these demographics, it’s still a great idea to have a good picture of your ideal reader. Frame that using the worksheet as it will really help you create content that is relevant to your ideal reader.

Set your blog’s tone

1. Consider the voice of your blog – voice is crucial to connecting and growing your online community.

2. You have the power to set the tone of that voice and this will have the biggest impact on how you create a community that you love.

3. Your voice has to be authentic – it has to be YOU.

4. Consider what your blog voice is. Is it funny, thought-provoking, inspirational, caring or ranty?

5. On the worksheet, I ask you to think about your primary voice, your secondary voice and your “other/surprise” voice. It’s ok to mix up the tone from time to time – in fact it keeps things fresh – as long as you keep your primary voice as the main tone that people are used to connecting with.

Engage your readers

1. Blogging is not a broadcast. It’s a conversation. This is the single biggest difference between blogging and traditional journalism.

2. Ask questions on each blog post. The invitation then is clear that you want to talk to your readers – and that you’d like them to talk back!

3. Respond to comments on your blog and in social networks (see time management below).

4. Survey your readers – formally with an incentive – or via simple questions on social media.

5. Listen with respect to any feedback – good and bad – and understand that you can’t please everyone.

6. Create a social media challenge.

Be a part of the wider community

1. The more you give, the more you’ll receive applies very much in the blogging and online community. The giving and receiving is two-fold. Think about how to give back to your readers and think about how you can give back to the blogging community.

2. For readers: giveaways, your time (for responding to comments or emails), understanding your reader and delivering content that is of interest and relevance.

3. For the blogging community at large: read and comment on other blogs, get involved in Instagram challenges, share other bloggers’ content on social media or link via your blog.

4. Create a blogging buddy group. You don’t need a 100 bloggers. Even having a group of six bloggers who can all bounce ideas off each other – and support each other in blogging – is a great way to keep on track with your goals and share wins and disappointments without judgement.

Manage your time

1. There is never enough time but it’s a good thing to be mindful of the time you have to devote to blogging. Work within that and be ok with that.

2. Consistency is key but you need to get clear on the level of consistency that is going to work for you within the time you have available to blogging and the social media activity around blogging.

3. Test and work out which times of day get the best response on social media – when are your readers more likely to be around and respond to your social media posts?

4. Create the habit for your readers – both in your blog publishing and social media publishing.

Over the past month, I’ve had the absolute privilege and pleasure to meet hundreds of Styling You readers in person. Or IRL (In Real Life) as we purveyors of the online space say.

Many of these readers have been regular commenters, so being able to put a face to a name has been amazing; others have never commented but read EVERY day … the fact that they bought my book and a ticket to come to one of my events blows me away.

One 67-year-old reader brought along her three daughters to an event – they all read the blog but they told me it was their mum who would read my posts and then phone her daughters to talk about what she’d discovered.

Another mum came to my Sunshine Coast event; her daughter was at my Sydney event the week before.

Quite a few have shared very personal stories of gratitude with me – gratitude for my blog helping them personally find their confidence. I’m a complete emotional softy and am prone to tearing up at the best of times – these moments have wreaked havoc on my professional makeup jobs.

All of this has underlined for me why I blog.

It’s the community.

It’s the community that keeps you logging on each day. It’s the community that makes the conversation. It’s a community that makes a difference.

Do you blog? Tell me about your community. If you’re a blog reader, what do you most like about the community of the blogs that you love?

PS. You can download the worksheet from my presentation here.

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  • Namrata Somaiya

    An absolute pleasure to read your posts and actually getting to know you. Love it.

  • Julie @ Off to the park

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your tips. I have been blogging nearly 4 years, and have a small community of readers/likers which I am grateful for. It’s nice to find people who appreciate what you write and let you know that they’ve enjoyed your post 🙂

  • Birgit

    Thank you for this terrific post. I’m just re-starting in blogging with a friend of mine and you have such good experience to share about building a good community.

  • My readers have always fallen into the 25-35yr old category with about 85% of them being women (and Im sure all the men are just relatives of mine). It just happened to work out that I got pregnant and had a baby the same time as a bunch of other bloggers did last year so we all went on a similar journey at the same time. Since bub’s come along I’ve naturally fallen into the mummy blogger category, but I’d say before that my posts were along the inspirational line because it was about how I’ve overcome all the negative things in my life. Now its mainly babies, babies and babies of course.

    • For a personal blog, I think it’s very ok for you to follow the natural path of your life and see how it evolves. You may cement a niche, you may not.

  • I was gutted to miss your session, Nikki. I’ll be looking for your recording!!! x

    • Thanks Maxabella … thank goodness was a recording, not video, as for some reason I decided to do the grapevine on stage.

    • Thanks Maxabella … thank goodness was a recording, not video, as for some reason I decided to do the grapevine on stage.

  • It was a wonderful session Nikki, enjoyed learning from one of the best xxx

  • Hi Nikki, I love how you position blogging as more conversational vs broadcast. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s definitely not a one way street. I love feeling part of a community, especially on a subject I’m so passionate about http://foodiesagenda.com/

    • That’s so true … and people love joining in with their thoughts … we give people a way to do that!

  • Malinda

    I am actually starting to see a community form on my blog. Yes, it is tiny but I love it all the same. Thanks for the worksheet, it should help me get on the right track to growing my awesome little community of people.

    • Community is not about size it’s about the gathering, so that’s awesome!

  • Catherine J Archer

    What a generous post – so full of fantastic information. You are an inspiration!

  • Favourited this post even though I was actually at the presentation and lived it IRL! It was SO GREAT to finally meet you! Thanks for everything that you’ve done for the blogging community and I can’t wait to see what’s next! Hope to see you soon! xx

  • StyledbyBec

    Ha. My mum emailed the worksheet to me not realizing I had seen it already at your session. For Styled by Bec, my ideal reader is pretty easy to visualize, but for The Plumbette – the ideal reader is a mixed bag. I have 55% male readers and 45% female readers similar aged. I view my blog as a connection between plumbers and readers explaining why plumbers do what they do and advice for readers when it comes to property maintenance and engaging with a plumber. I love my community too. I find that it’s mainly the women that reach out and want to know more, but a few male plumbers have emailed me personally. I’m looking forward to doing Chantelle’s cookie school to work out do I keep blogging as I do to maintain both audiences, or do I focus on one?

    • Bless – your mum is the best! With The Plumbette, I do understand that split as I think it would be mostly women booking plumbers when things go wrong in the home? Clever Cookie school will be fabulous!

    • Bless – your mum is the best! With The Plumbette, I do understand that split as I think it would be mostly women booking plumbers when things go wrong in the home? Clever Cookie school will be fabulous!

  • That’s so helpful, thankyou! I’ve been blogging on and off since I was fifteen, but I thought of it more as a personal space to process,share and vent. I’ve only recently joined the blogging community, and I love it! It’s so nice to share our meals than eat alone 🙂

  • As you know, I LOVED your presentation. So much useable, useful information given to us in a way that just made total sense. x

  • 26 Years & Counting

    Thanks for this post Nikki. I’ve bookmarked it and the worksheet to come back to when I listen to your post in the recordings.

  • I totally respect that you reply to comments and get involved in and with your community. Leaving a comment and never getttng a response makes you and your time undervalued and you certainly do not do that to your readers. You’re a great inspiration for bloggers out there aiming to achieve what you have

    • Thanks! I’ve always considered it a part of the whole blogging thing and feel bad when I don’t get to them!

  • Karla Jones

    I really want to have my own style blog – you’ve inspired me so much. I even started one, did a few posts and then stopped because I felt I was coming across as an advertisement!! I’m quite a private person and I do struggle putting myself out there really. Then I have the self doubt rear it’s ugly head and make me think, what have I got to say that’s really of interest to others??Working on my own journey right now to self confidence – so I’ll wait till I find some more or perhaps THAT is what I should blog about!

    • Karla, yes! I think if you are struggling with confidence then blog about that. There are bound to be so many women feeling the same way.

  • I can honestly say that if I hadn’t found Styling You by chance one day in 2012, I would never have started Iris May Style. Nikki your Saturday morning blogging tips gave me the confidence to explore and become inspired to follow my dream. The sense of community is incredible and I feel blessed to have made truly wonderful connections with so many gorgeous souls. Thank you so much xx

    • Oh Bev, I remember when you started. I bet you can’t imagine not blogging now?! The community makes it!

  • Jo

    This is a great post. Thank you for sharing your insights. I’ve just started my blogging world and I’m keen to grow it further. The more tips I get from you and other bloggers the more confident and excited I am.

  • Donna Jones

    Thanks Nikki you have been the inspiration for me to start my blogging. I am in Interior Design and not fashion but with your very REAL interaction with your readers it has created Mrs Jones (that’s me) the blogger who relates to her readers and wants them to also feel inspired about their homes. So you not only reach your fashion followers but many other women entrepreneurs who admire your very REAL approach to helping other women shine in their brilliance. Donna x

    • Oh that’s fantastic to hear Donna – yes, it doesn’t matter what your topic, it’s about being approachable and connecting with others!

  • Nikki I’ve been blogging since 2005. At first it was a hobby to connect with fellow figure competitors around Australia. Then it was to share with family & friends my life due to constantly moving around the country with the Royal Australian Air Force. Now it’s about sharing my experience with breast cancer, anxiety, depression & fibromyalgia.

    I want to take my hobby to the next level with a complete website redesign and focus on raising awareness by sharing my experiences. It just hasn’t come to me yet how I’m going to do that. Over the xmas break (6 weeks) I plan on dedicating the majority of my time to my blog. If you have any words of wisdom for me I’m all ears.

    Thank you for this blog post, I always enjoy reading your perspective on things. It makes me think. 🙂

    • My biggest piece of advice is don’t wait for perfection. Get the design but just start publishing. Too often we worry it’s not perfect enough when it is perfect for now.

  • Kathryn

    I love your blog, I jump on early each morning while I have a coffee. For me, it’s your friendliness, willingness to give advice, and share your knowledge. I really like how you have suggestions for all budgets too. You have taken me out of my rut – skincare, makeup and clothing! I love how you reply to so many comments. I’ve got your book on my bedside table, I’ve read it a few times now, and have gone back to certain sections for reference. I love that you encourage women of all sizes and shapes to be themselves. You deserve every bit of your success Nikki xx

  • Lot’s of great info here Nikki- thanks!
    AS you know I am a loooooong time reader & a very new blogger.
    I have loved being part of the community as a reader, you guys feel like friends & all your posts make my day better, funner & more interesting.
    As a blogger my community is tiny & I’m still figuring them out. So far it’s a some of my real life friends with others popping in here & there. My real life friends tell me I write the way I speak & I think that’s a good thing. Right now I just feel like I’m sussing things out, trying to get a handle on it all but hopefully making some connections with people & building a space they want to come back & visit.

    • That’s exactly the way to do it Reannon … find your groove, find your level of consistency and grow. I think you’ve done it the best way … you got involved in the blogging community in a big way first and now it’s time to spread your wings!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this Nikki! I’m hoping to be at the next PB event but having this information (and all the millions of tweets from the event) available to all of us who weren’t able to be there is so helpful.

  • Nikki you are just fabulous. As you already know I could not make the PB event and I am ever so grateful that you can share your insight, ideas and articles here through your blog and that I grab little snippets form social media. I just love the blogging community and we all help each other feel good and offer ideas, strategies and loads more. Thank you so much for being all kinds of awesome. V x

  • Lovely article. Lot’s of insights 🙂

  • Petra

    What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing that as it all seems to be a world of “the popular girls” if you know what I mean. This post makes it more “real” for everybody, literally!!!

    • The blogging world has been a beautiful way to connect with others you wouldn’t otherwise have get to connect with.

  • Cheryl

    I’m not sure where to start Nikki but I think I will. Thank you for the insight and the inspiration x

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