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.
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.