10 Ways to Grow Your Blog’s Community
Every blog community needs leaders or facilitators to keep the discussions lively, upbeat, and on topic. Taking on the role of community leader or even founder can be a tough job, and sometimes the rewards come slowly. Don’t let these realities discourage you, though. Encouraging growth in any community requires a certain level of patience, persistence, and attention — but when it works, it really works.
Get writing! (Or podcasting, or posting photos, or whatever it is you’re doing on your blog.)
Establish a regular schedule for maintaining your blog. A schedule really helps readers know what to expect and when. A regular schedule can even build anticipation and excitement. Be open to ideas, provide a welcoming environment, and keep yourself on topic so that interested, engaged readers get what they’re looking for when they visit.
Listen and respond to readers
One of the best things that you can do for the community is to make sure that everyone’s having the best time he or she can. How do you know whether your readers enjoy their time on your blog? Why not just ask?
Give people a way to let you know whether the community aspects of your site work for them by including a Contact Me page. But if you really want to hear about how things are going, try just posting a blog entry asking people for their thoughts and constructive criticism about what you’re doing.
If someone asks you a question, either in the comments or through email, make sure to reply. Acknowledge what the person says in your reply and take the time to answer properly, even if only to thank him or her for the comment. Thoughtful responses to questions and comments about your blog can do as much to build your community as original blog posts can.
Visit and participate
Join other communities. It’s that simple. If you want to build a community around your blog, you need to participate in others. Find blogs that are related to the topic areas of your blog. Jump in to the conversation by offering a different perspective or some feedback to the blogger or to the folks who leave comments. Mentioning your site on other blogs is fine, as long as you make sure that your comments relate to the subject at hand and add to the conversation.
Building community is just as much about supporting other bloggers as it is looking for support for your blog. Jeremy Pepper’s blog includes a list of PR blogs and resources for his readers, supporting his audience as well as other public relations blogs.
Also, don’t just write and leave. Keep active in the communities in which you’re a member and use that time to connect with others. Take what you can from the community, but also give back what you think can benefit everyone as a whole.
Guest blog and invite guest bloggers
If your blog readership is up and running and you’re attracting a significant number of daily readers, you can request that members of your community help you out by guest-blogging on your site.
This kind of blogging trade-off can let you have multiple voices fill out the content on your site and provide a richer experience for your readers.
These relationships are great to have when you get sick or want to take a vacation. Tap your guest-blogging community for help covering your blog when you aren’t around to do it.
It’s also a great idea to look for opportunities to write on other websites as well. Also, help keep the conversations going on other blogs that you enjoy. Each time you comment on another blog, you get exposure to a few more potential readers for your own blog and build links back to your blog.
Be sure to have a guest blogging policy in place for your site, covering topics such as length of post, topics to be covered, and payment. Make sure that the site you’re guest blogging for has a policy as well, and that you understand the rules before committing to the post.
Communicate via email and newsletters
Offering newsletter delivery through email of some or all of your blog content to your readers can attract users who aren’t comfortable with some of the fancier technologies, such as RSS. Try these three tactics:
- Offer readers the chance to subscribe to bonus content that does not appear on your blog.
- Allow your users to sign up for email notifications when you post something new to your blog.
- Let your readers sign up for an email newsletter that recaps recent blog posts of interest.
Many blog software programs have built-in Tell a Friend or Email a Friend functionality. If you turn this feature on, every blog post includes a small icon or link that, when clicked, lets your reader fill out the name and email address of a friend and send an email notification about your blog post to that friend. It’s like free marketing. Here is this Email a Friend option on Vera Sweeney’s blog, Lady and the Blog.
You can easily reach users who have mastered email but aren’t up on newsreaders and RSS by setting up your blog to allow users to sign up for email notifications when you post a new blog entry. The FeedBurner site lets you set up an email notification/subscription tool.
Taking the time to create some kind of additional email newsletter can also get people interested in your website. You can create this kind of newsletter in several ways, but it’s most effective if you sign up for an email service provider such as Constant Contact, Topica, Emma, or MailChimp, to name a few.
You can find a few free mailing-list options out there, but most of them involve a monthly fee. Shop around to find one that fits your price range.
One of the best ways to build your blog’s community is to plug in to communities that already exist, including social media platforms. Social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook are home to millions of potential blog readers who may want to make your site one of their favorite online destinations.
If you haven’t already created social media accounts related to your blog, it’s time to get started. Find the niche groups that apply to your own interests and begin connecting. Look for Facebook groups that may be a fit, including local blogger groups or promotions groups in which members share each other’s blog content.
Hoping to build your online community by leveraging the communities of others? Be sure to promote and support others more than you ask for help yourself.
Involve your readers
Watch to see what element of your content is most popular and what gets the most comments and responses. Consider periodically polling your readership or using a survey creation tool such as Survey Monkey to find out what your readers would like to see on your blog.
Knowing what’s popular in your blog can help you when you write later on because you can draw on this knowledge to create more posts that get responses. Keep an eye on those posts that get lots of comments, and understand their appeal to your audience as you make decisions about what to post about in the future.
You may also want to involve your readers by asking a leader in your online community to be in charge of responding to comments or leading forums.
It may sound counterintuitive to work on building an online community by connecting offline, but making connections in real life rather than just on your computer screen can go a long way in building your online community.
Do you have a local readership that is growing in leaps and bounds? Consider holding a local meet-up, even reaching out to a local restaurant to suggest a sponsor partnership. You may also want to find local blogger groups or social media clubs holding events and make plans to attend. The blogging community is notably supportive, and connecting with your fellow bloggers offline is likely to help you build your online networks as well.
Finally, look into blog conferences, typically held around the country throughout the year, and find an event that may be a fit for you.
A 2015 Pew Research Center report found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, with 10 percent of smartphone owners having no other way to access the Internet in their homes. With the rise of readership on mobile devices, it’s critical that your blog be mobile ready.
Many WordPress themes are mobile ready, but for those of you whose platforms or themes are not mobile compatible, it’s important to take the steps necessary to make accessing your blog on a mobile device possible. To find out whether your blog is mobile compatible, check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, which allows you to test your blog for mobile compatibility.
Some bloggers choose to create a second version of their blog, created just for mobile. It probably makes more sense for you, however, to either select a mobile-optimized blog theme or install a plug-in to bring your site up to speed for mobile access.
Unless you are writing a hyper-niche blog, it’s a good idea to mix things up every now and then to reach new audiences and build your community. Consider periodically creating new content themes in your editorial calendar from time to time to pull in readers looking to read about different topics.
For example, do you write mostly about crafts for kids? Consider branching out and occasionally posting recipes that are family friendly and get the kids involved in the kitchen. Maybe you write mostly about travel. Have you thought about also starting a series for readers looking to get the most out of their local attractions? The bigger your potential audience, the bigger your audience’s potential!