What Online Community Managers Can Learn from Blogging Communities - dummies

What Online Community Managers Can Learn from Blogging Communities

By Deborah Ng

Whether bloggers blog for themselves or on behalf of a brand or client, it’s up to them to manage their online community. The blogger writes up the topic du jour, and his community responds in kind. Content has to be open ended in order to invite a response. The blogger has to ask the right types of questions rather than post “my way, and that’s all there is to it” points of view.

Blogging communities are unique and incredibly loyal. Most members stand by and defend their favorite bloggers with a passion. In return, the bloggers ensure positive conversations centered on thought-provoking topics. They do so by making participation simple and inviting.

The best blogs have these features:

  • It’s easy to comment. Blogs that make commenting difficult eventually discourage that very thing. It’s understandable that commenters have to use a name and e-mail address to offer thoughts, but a rigorous registration process, complete with unreadable CAPTCHA and long waits for approval, may keep out trolls and spammers, but it will also keep a community from growing.

    You might notice other community blogs using commenting plug-ins such as Disqus (pronounced “discuss”) or Livefyre. These plugins allow commenters to register once. Thereafter, their information is remembered on every blog they visit. Watch how community managers are using the different plug-ins and consider using them for your own community.

  • The conversation is instant. Many bloggers hold comments in moderation to ensure that no spam comes through. If the blogger is away from his desk, however, it can take days for comments to be moderated, so a conversation isn’t happening. Commenters are reluctant to come back again and wait another three days for the conversation to take place.

    To remedy this issue, many bloggers will use a comment plug-in, or they’ll hold only a new member’s first comment in moderation to ensure that he’s not spammy. A blog’s comment moderation tools make removing abusive or spammy comments simple, so you don’t need to hold comments in moderation for more than a few minutes.

  • It uses questions and phrases to invite discussion. Bloggers and community managers take a different approach at stimulating conversation with blog content than, say, Facebook pages, forums and social networks. With these other types of communities, brevity is key. Blogs are more expansive, and discussions are centered around a particular topic or niche.

    On Facebook, you might ask questions of your community to elicit a response, and on blogs, you write much longer discussions geared also toward eliciting a response. To do this, bloggers ask questions throughout their posts and make sure that there is room for all to respond. Take note of how the blogger is communicating with his community and inviting a response.

  • It discourages negativity. Too many commenters see disagreement as a negative, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Bloggers love lively discussions and especially enjoy another perspective. However, there’s a difference between respectful disagreement and abusive or negative comments.

    Responding by calling someone names or making personal attacks isn’t disagreement. Many blogs prominently display a comment policy helps to keep this type of negativity at bay. Use these policies as a model for your own.

  • Respect is mutual. The most successful blogs are those blogging with community in mind. They don’t talk down to or belittle their readers, and they keep angry rants to a minimum. They also don’t make anyone feel as if they’re “doing it wrong.” When bloggers treat community members as equals in the discussion, the blog and subsequent community will flourish. Note the exchange between bloggers and community members and see how they encourage mutual respect.

Bloggers are fiercely protective of their communities and communities are fiercely protective of their bloggers. By creating discussions that make it easy to participate, members feel as if they helped to create the content too.