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.
After the keynote address, I went into a couple different sessions and walked out. It seems as if today is mostly about social media as opposed to creating content. Both sessions were pretty weak.
HOWEVER, I eventually ended up in the Problogger series that Darren Rowse is taking the lead in. His content has been fantastic.
He stated early on that a successful blog basically tends to find the sweet spot between four areas – Content, Finding Readers, Building Community, and Monetization.
Here are some quick notes from the session on FINDING READERS…
Take the time to identify who your target audience is. Create a reader profile with picture and include demographics, needs/challenges, how they use the web, motivations for reading, experience level, dreams, and financial situation. Improve these profiles (personnas) by surveying your new subscribers. Set an auto-responder that will ask subscribers three months after subscribing “what have you not found that you wanted”?
Give your readers a reason to subscribe. Anticipation works very well. One of the best things he has done is letting people know that a series of posts is coming. They should subscribe to not miss any.
Darren encourages creating a page that links to the deeper content on your site. He calls this a “sneeze” page. He then puts this page as an option in the primary navigation.
Regarding increasing readership, Darren also discussed some of the primary drivers, including controversy, social proof, and event-based content.
Lastly, he encourages linking to specific posts in your email signature and even your link in your twitter profile. Speak specifically to those that came from there.
It is time for the opening keynote address at Blog World Expo 2010. I’ve already gotten to meet some very interesting people before it started.
Scott’s keynote is named “Stand up, Stand out, Stand together”. It is about the importance of blogging with passion and emotion.
Who is Scott Stratten? He is the author of the book “Unmarketing – Stop Marketing, Start Engaging”. He goes by the same name on Twitter. He is giving a opening keynote address with a T-shirt and sandals on. (That is the nature of Blog World Expo. It is fun.)
“Marketing is not a task.” It is not a department. It is every time anyone has a touch with you or your company. The individuals that are at your “front counter” are your marketing.
How do we get people to spread our blog posts? Make something awesome. People spread awesome. Don’t mistake frequency of blogging with quality. Blog when you have something to say. If you aren’t passionate about what you blog, don’t blog. When you don’t blog awesome, you stop people reading your blog. “People don’t spread meh”. If your post is just “meh”, it does not get spread.
The reason people spread things has not changed. People spread emotion. HOW they spread things changes. Some use Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc. These things can get you traffic. Social bookmarking still works, for example.
People ask me what is the next big thing? I say that the things we do now suck. Let’s get better at what’s now. We have had great tools for years. Stop being so fancy pants and get better at what is available today. Social media is about talking. People talk about what’s awesome. It’s that easy.
“It is not my job to tell people how to consume my product, I just want them to consume it.” Stop pushing your RSS feed icon. People use email. Also, if you do not have your blog mobile-enabled, you are losing readers. (Over 150 of the 500 million facebook users use it via mobile regularly.) Pull your blog up on your phone, then pull it up on other phones you don’t own. Make sure that works.
He is now lecturing us on not to write just for SEO, not to use AdWords (it causes people to leave), don’t use difficult captha codes, and not to include popups when your visitors go to leave your site. (He is making people laugh and I guess most people here do need to hear this stuff.) No offense, but it’s a bit elementary to me.
“Social Media Success Doesn’t Exist.” Social media is just a vehicle. If your product sucks, social media makes it suck worse. If your stuff is great, it makes it better. It simply makes what you do louder. If you hate people, social media is a bad place to be. If you hate your target market, don’t talk to them. Social media is just conversations.
People do business with those they Know, Like, & Trust. (One of my favorite quotes.) So true.
Scott did about 7,000 tweets in one month a couple years ago. (That’s over 200 per day.) About 75% were replies. He ended up with thousands of followers. (No real surprise there, either. However, I personally think that worked better a year or two ago. Quantity does not work as well as quality, now.
He is now explaining how to handle trolls. For those that say mean things to you online, don’t reply to them. They have few followers and if you engage them, you are giving them attention they don’t deserve. Let them hate.
Blog with passion. Ignore the haters.
MY COMMENTS: Overall, it was a nice keynote. The content was a little elementary to me. But then again, there are probably a lot of newbies here. Scott seems to be a little cocky and extreme. Then again, that is what works well online.
At the end of September, I had a great opportunity to speak at Charlotte events, namely ProNet (which helps professionals in career transition) and SCORE (which provides counseling for small businesses). For the SCORE event, I was one of two speakers and Charlotte’s Mayor Anthony Foxx opened the event with a keynote speech. (That was cool.)
Then, my wife and I spent the past 10 days visiting family and friends in New York and Massachusetts. I got back to NC on Sunday.
But now (Wednesday) I am off to Vegas for BLOG WORLD EXPO!!!
This has got to be my favorite event of the year! It is my third time going. (I missed last year, so I’m especially excited about attending tomorrow.)
Interestingly, my non-geek friends have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to attend a conference for bloggers. But for those of us that are in the industry of creating content online, this conference is amazing. Some of the best tips for blogging, podcasting, and creating video online can be found here.
Why do I personally love attending BLOG WORLD EXPO?
Unlike most heavy conference attendees, I don’t go just for the networking (aka drinking). I actually go to listen to the keynotes and sessions. I go to learn. I do enjoy meeting other bloggers and inevitably have very interesting conversations at lunch, etc. But my main goal is to learn something. I want to learn from the sessions and speakers.
When I get on the plane pretty soon, I’ll be trying to make a list of specific things I want to accomplish. But for now, I’m just excited to be attending again. One of my best clients will be there too, so that should make it especially interesting.
Are you attending?
If so, please say hello to me. I’ll be the one typically in one of the front rows with an iPad and wireless keyboard. (Probably not the only one, though.)