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How to Grow a Community around Your Blog

Every online community needs leaders or facilitators. You can use your blog to create an online community centered around the interests that you blog about. Encouraging growth in any community requires a certain level of patience, persistence, and attention — but when it works, it really works.:

  • Write. If you’re writing actively in your blog, do the same thing in the comments you get on your posts by joining the conversations that start within the comments. Also, establish a regular schedule for maintaining your blog; this really helps readers to know what to expect and when.

    Write on other Web sites, as well. See whether other blogs might need a little help with a few additional posts. Also, help keep the conversations going on other blogs you enjoy.

  • Reply. If someone asks you a question, either in the comments or through e-mail, make sure to reply. Thoughtful responses to questions and comments can do as much to build your community as original blog posts.

  • Visit and participate. If you want to build a community around your blog, you need to participate in others' blogs. Find blogs that are related to the topic areas of your blog and jump into the conversation.

  • Add guest bloggers. If your blog readership is up and running and you’re attracting a significant number of daily readers, you can request members of your community to help you out by guest-blogging on your site.

  • Try e-mail and newsletters. You can allow users to sign up for e-mail notifications when a new blog entry is posted, or you can create an additional e-mail newsletter.

    Many blog software programs have a built in Tell a Friend or Email a Friend functionality. Your reader can fill out the name and e-mail address of a friend and send an e-mail notification about your blog post to him or her.

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  • Track and customize. Watch to see what element of your content is most popular and what gets the most comments and responses. Don’t confuse this with what people like — you want to know what people are interested in and willing to comment on. Controversial blog posts are most likely to generate conversation and feedback.

  • Develop solutions. Pay attention to what’s going on in your community so that you can find solutions to problems when they arise. Communities grow and change, but they won’t thrive unless you resolve issues like spam or technical problems.

  • Check your code and software. Your blog should be accessible to all Web users. Your HTML code needs to be flexible enough to display in the many Web browsers, and it must be written to accommodate browsers used by the blind.

  • Have contests. Everyone loves to get free stuff! If traffic is lagging and needs a boost, try holding a giveaway or contest to spur more interaction.

    If you’re running a business blog, be sure you understand the legal issues surrounding contests; rules can vary state by state, and there might be national issues as well.

  • Ask your readers. Giving people a way to let you know whether the community aspects of your site work for them is important, so a Contact Me page is a great idea. But if you really want to hear about how things are going, try just posting a blog entry asking people for their thoughts and criticism about what you’re doing.

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