Welcome back to class everyone! I hope all of enjoyed your Thanksgiving weekend, or if you’re not American, I hope you enjoyed your regular ol’ weekend.
Today’s class is going to focus on building a community around your blog. What I mean by community is this: The people who visit and comment, the meaningful interactions with other bloggers, and positive word-of-mouth about your blog. Building a community around your blog is vital to attracting and maintaining readers. You want to create an atmosphere on your blog where people feel welcome and want to come back.
To build a community around YOUR blog, though, means regularly venturing out and participating in OTHER blog communities.
In the past year, I’ve neglected commenting on blogs and replying to comments left on this site. I KNOW that my lack of reciprocity and communication with others has negatively affected building this community. So, everything I’m recommending? I need to take these suggestions and actually start putting them to use again.
1. Comment on others’ blogs
I think that this is THE NUMBER ONE THING you can do to attract and maintain readers to your site. Commenting on other blogs is especially important when you’re first starting out with your blog. In fact, behind well-written content, I think it’s THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do to generate traffic. Find other blogs in your niche and let the comment love flow.
People LOVE receiving comments and your comment let’s people know that you visited. Consider your comment your calling card. Not only does the blog author see your calling card, but so do other visitors to the site. If you’ve left a particularly witty or well-written comment, you’re likely to get people’s interest piqued enough to click through to your site. Beware of leaving very obviously “traffic-seeking” comments, like “Oh that was funny. Be sure to check out my blog at Practically Comment Spam!”
With that said, there does come a point when commenting and reciprocating comments can take over your life. Literally. There does have to be a balance between commenting, social media participation, and writing on your blog. In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss time management.
2. Promote others’ posts via StumbleUpon or Twitter
If you don’t have time to leave a comment, but think that what you’ve read is worth sharing, then promoting a post via StumbleUpon or Twitter is almost as good as leaving a comment. Some people who really value their traffic numbers may even think it’s better than your comment. The one downside to this, the person whose post you’ve promoted may not ever know that it was you who sent them an increase in traffic. However, I definitely believe in blogging karma, what you put into the community will be repaid in full, which leads to my next point…
3. Devote time to social media interaction. Be accessible to your readers!
These are great places to interact with people in your blogging community. I know that there’s many schools of thought on following/following back people on Twitter or friending people on Facebook and Flickr. My personal opinion is that if you’re trying to seem accessible and truly participate in the community, you should follow (most) people back on Twitter and accept friend requests on Facebook/Flickr.
In regards to Twitter, with so many applications that allow you to set up lists so as to keep track of those you are closest to, then not following possibly relevant people back is kind of rude and can be interpreted as elitist. This means that you should follow back people in your blogging genre (mommyblogging, food blogging, craft blogging…). That doesn’t mean that you have to follow every Tom, Dick, and Harry that claims to be a social media expert or random guys with no profiles set up. You can also always unfollow people that you realize you have nothing in common with.
4. Join weekly meme’s/carnivals
(There is some debate as to what these weekly participation things are called…from here on out for ease of reading, we’re going to call them carnivals, okay?)
There are so many different carnivals you can join to promote content on your site each week. Participation in these carnivals can be a great way to generate traffic, especially when you’re first starting out. Being a regular contributor to a particular carnival is also a way to developing relationships with the other participants. If you do choose to participate, it is a good thing to also visit the other sites participating.
As great as participation in weekly carnivals can be, it can easily be overdone. Carnival postings should be interspersed with original content.
Here are just a few carnivals in which you can participate:
Not Me Monday at My Charming Kids
Mouthwatering Monday at A Southern Fairytale
Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family
Things I Love Thursday at The Diaper Diaries
Top Ten Thursday at My Messy Paradise
Girl Talk Thursday
Fight the Frump Friday at Blissfully Domestic
Photo Story Friday at My Chaos My Bliss
Weekly Winners at Sarcastic Mom
You Capture at I Should Be Folding Laundry
If you know of any others to include, please let me know and I will add them!
5. Reply to emails
If someone has emailed you, REPLY. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emailed another blogger only to get *crickets chirping* NO REPLY. This has also happened too many times to count, when someone has emailed me for advice or assistance, but never bothered to thank me for my reply. *shakes head in disgust*
Listen people. It’s rude not to reply to emails. If you don’t have time, then reply back and say, “Hey, I’m so swamped right now, I’m sorry I can’t reply right away, but when I get a chance, I will!”
(If you think I’m talking about you, well….) Speaking of replying…
6. Reply to comments left on your blog
Replying to comments lets your readers know that 1) you actually read your comments and 2) appreciate each comment left. Before learning about the greatest comment plugin ever that emails my reply to the commenter, I would just reply via email. Most of us don’t have time and it also isn’t necessary to respond to every single comment on your site. Some comments don’t require replies, but those comments that ask a question or that just make your day, SHOULD GET A REPLY.
The ability to respond to comments is also a point of contention between different blogging platforms. In fact the whole replying to comments issue is one reason I switched from Blogger to WordPress. I think that Blogger’s key flaw is that you don’t have to include your email address when you comment. Tsk, tsk.
6. Show your readers you care about them by linking to them
The greatest way in the world of blogs to let someone know that you admire their work, besides commenting! and promoting their posts in social media forums, is to link to their site. If a post of someone’s inspired you to write your own, LINK TO THEM!
7. Link to your own posts to help explain the backstory to new readers
Have you ever walked up to a group of people who are all laughing about some situation and people that you’re clueless about? You stand their feeling awkward and left out… This happens on blogs all the time. I regularly read new-to-me blogs and don’t understand what they’re referring to, then in the comments section I realize I’m the only one who doesn’t know the back story.
Remember that many people just randomly happen upon your blog and do not know your life story. If you want to make your new readers feel welcome and you’re talking about something that has a backstory or could be clarified by something you’ve already posted about, then LINK TO THOSE POSTS! Don’t let new readers feel like the new kid who doesn’t get the joke.
So basically what I’m trying to say…Building relationships in blogging is exactly like building relationships in real life. Be nice to others, return favors, and make others feel welcome. The goal should be to develop meaningful relationships with those to whom you relate.
I also think it’s important to mention that the size of your blogging community is only as important as YOU make it. If you have 10 loyal readers, that is AWESOME! If you have 1,000 loyal readers, that’s AWESOME, too…not awesome-er. When a blogging community becomes very large, it’s hard to maintain those readers through reciprocity in comments, replying to comments, or linking to new sites.
What do you think fosters a welcoming blog community? Who are the bloggers you feel like do a particularly good job building a community around their blog?