Buildling Community on your Blog
Interestingly, Darren used to work as a minister in Australia. He mentions that building a good online community is not that different than offline. It’s about caring, listening, and relationship skills. This session on how to make a good community is basically about being a good human being.
Adding community and user engagement makes your site more useful and provides social proof. It also creates increased page views, which can assist with advertising income. When you have a community, your readers become advocates. Your users generate content, which adds value.
When you begin, you have a very small community. You should email them directly and try to stay engaged with them individually. The next stage is that your readers become advocates that start bringing in other readers. At this point, the community become self-sustaining. You can actually take a step back.
Early on, it’s important to BE the community. People will follow your lead. If you are positive, people will be positive. If you are snarky, they will follow your lead. Ask questions, invite interaction. Early on, ask questions to people in person. Ask them to comment on your posts.
To help build community, Darren often asks readers if they have a blog. He will create a post that asks them to leave a link to their blog in the comments. He asks readers to give advice or tips on subjects. This gets readers involved. Recently, on his photo blog, he had someone ask if they should take pictures of a person that is about to die or at a funeral if asked. He turned it around and asked his community. Many people had similar experiences and offered their advice.
Start offsite community areas. Darren started a Flickr community, which led to a forum. He got regular commenters to start the forum before launching it to everyone else. He also uses Twitter and Facebook and sends traffic to those areas and back again. He keeps people moving between them. This builds social proof.
Write in a personal and engaging tone, yet relative to your audience. He has had guest bloggers talk about personal things as it relates to his audience. He has also created videos that show him with his newborn child, for example. He often talks to his blog readers as “you”. Yet, in his newsletters, he uses the word “us” and “we”.
He encourages creating a page that explains how to “join” the community. He uses RSS, RSS to email, email newsletter, Facebook, & Twitter. List all these methods on one page so they can choose the one they like best.
Darren has asked his readers to create educational YouTube videos. Those that did had their videos posted on the blog. He occasionally gives them homework like this. He also involves readers before making changes to the site. He also asks advanced readers that are not happy with beginner posts to help others by guest posting.
Darren uses Ustream to answer questions live on a weekly basis. This limits questions from being asked so frequently via email.
Don’t respond to trolls and haters. (This seems to be a common theme today.) To the contrary, be sure to reward good behavior. If someone leaves a really good comment, email them directly. You can also turn a good comment into it’s own post.