Sunday, March 4, 2012

Guest Blogger Danny Iny

The Single Most Important Step to Building a Blog Community []

Community has got to be one of the top buzzwords of the social media era.

Companies are working hard to create them, we all want to belong to them, and they’re the holy grail of engagement for bloggers everywhere.

According to many, if your blog is a platform for a vibrant and active community, then you’ve hit the jackpot. You’ve arrived. Except, that most people haven’t. Most blogs don’t host vibrant and active communities… hell, most blogs don’t get read at all!

Usually, it’s because they’re missing a critical secret ingredient, without which the community is never going to form...

The Basics of Community

So what are the foundations of a community?

At its most elemental, a community requires two things:

A topic of shared interest.

Other people.

You can’t build a community on the idea that you’d like to have a community – there needs to be something to talk, think and interact about. You should already have this under control, of course – you’ve chosen your blog topic for a reason. You’re interested in it and have at least a suspicion that other people will be, too.

Now of course, you just need to find those people, which you do through social networking, forums, other blogs, and so forth, and you need to give them something on that topic of shared interest on a regular basis.

But is that enough? If you combine people with information related to their shared interest, will you have community?

Not quite...

The Missing Ingredient

A blog becomes a community when it moves away from being the place where people come to hear what you have to say, and start talking to each other about what you said.

That’s right – the key to a real, thriving community is conversations that you aren’t necessarily a part of (although you should try to be a part of them, if at all possible).

The content that you produce has to do more than convey information. It has to make people want to talk about it, regardless of whether you are there to hold their hands while they do.

You don’t necessarily have to have an actual “forum” for this to happen, just make it easy for people to comment on and share your posts.

It Just Takes One Spark

This won’t happen all at once, so be prepared to really nurture this communication in the beginning. Respond to every comment, and straight up ask for engagement at the end of your post. Ask a question, make a galvanizing statement. Be controversial. Piss someone off.

In short, make it irresistible for your readers to comment, share and engage with you. It only takes a few repetitions for an action to become a habit... so help them make interacting into a habit!

When people visit your blog without ever commenting, they do so because they are in the habit of being passive consumers of your content. You can help them change that habit and expectation into something more like: “When I read BLOG X, I comment.”

Look at the Huffington Post – most of their articles generate comments in the hundreds because their readers are in the habit of responding to the ideas and viewpoints they find there. And you can do that, too.

Ask for the engagement, and then reward it with your full attention by responding to every comment. In time, people should start taking some of that responsibility off your shoulders.

Many Paths, Many Examples

The ideas listed above are just a handful of the possibilities. There are as many ways to create the “spark” that turns your blog into a community as there are bloggers creating communities.

What will end up working for you and your audience may not be direct questions or inflammatory statements – it might be new ideas, contests, local or national interest, responses to your offline activities, or any number of other things.

The best way to get a really solid grasp of the landscape of possibilities that are out there is to learn from the people who have actually been there and done that. Like the new book that I just co-authored with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and a bunch of other great people. Just saying. ;-)

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available in paperback and on Kindle).


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