“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” ~ Dorothy Day
A recent study found that “when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly.” Another nine-year study discovered that “those with close social ties and unhealthful lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise) actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more healthful living habits.”
Creating opportunities for true connection is not just a nice idea. It’s imperative for our personal and societal well-being. If part of your work requires an active online presence, why not use it to build a community whose success is measured by meaningful interactions, not just size and sales?
Based on the response to my post “Let’s make blogging about connection again,” it sounds like there are many of us who are hungering for an online world that builds connection rather than division, and relationships rather than clicks.
But how do we do that?
Below are 6 Tips for Building Community on Your Blog
#1 Have a vision for your community
It doesn’t have to be all fleshed out, but it helps to have a general idea of the kind of people you’d like to be a part of your blog’s community, what need it might fulfill in their lives (e.g. education, inspiration, support, entertainment), and what a successful community would look like for you. Your vision will evolve as you go, but having even a basic plan for your blog will help you make decisions about post topics and how to grow the community.
#2 Engage your readers
Social media is supposed to be just that, social. Its purpose is to encourage connection and conversation. We all have at least one friend who talks only about herself and never asks how you are. After a while, you don’t want to hang out with her anymore because she wants an audience, not a relationship. Don’t be that kind of friend to your readers. They may be shy and prefer for you to do a lot of talking, but they will appreciate that you asked about them too. Some ways to engage are:
- Ask questions at the end of your posts.
- If a reader’s comment inspired a post, mention them in your post (note: If their comment to you wasn’t public [e.g. an email, a private Facebook message] ask their permission before you mention them).
- Include a poll, or survey in your post, and/or if you have a Facebook Page for your business or blog, post the poll, or survey there, and share the results on your blog.
- Ask a question on social media and compile the responses into a blog post. Share the post with the contributors and thank them for their ideas.
- Host a Facebook Live chat so you can interact in real time.
- Host a group project you can do together (e.g. a 30-day challenge).
- If your readers live in your area, or a place where you are going on a trip, host a local face-to-face meet up. Please use good safety sense. Meet in a public place and don’t share where you live.
- Share your posts on the social network where your readers spend the most time (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram).
#3 Be a generous blogger
Attention is the currency of the online world, and it has become increasingly valuable. Part of building an online community is reaching out to your peers and highlighting their work and writing. Some ways to do this include:
- Interviewing them
- Inviting them to guest post on your blog
- Linking to them in “link love” posts that includes a series of links to multiple bloggers.
These acts of generosity may lead to your being interviewed or asked to write a guest post in return, and allow you to build a bridge between your communities. Oh, and when you share these kinds of posts on social media, don’t forget to tag the folks involved to give them even more love and attention.
#4 Make it easy to subscribe and share
Imagine you’re at a party. You’ve met someone you really like. They make you laugh and you find everything they say interesting. You’d love to keep in touch and see them again, but when you ask for their phone number or email they say, “You’ll figure it out,” and walk away. You’d probably move on to another person, right?
Don’t make it difficult for a reader who enjoys your blog to subscribe, or share your posts. Put prompts to subscribe in an easy to find place (e.g. in the header, or sidebar) and on the bottom of each post. Each post should also include buttons to share it via email and social media.
#5 Respond to your comments
If you struck up a conversation with someone at that same party and they answered you with silence, you’d feel pretty poopy, wouldn’t you? If a reader takes the time to write a comment on your blog, reply to it. It doesn’t have to be an epic response, but it’s important to acknowledge them.
I know this might sound basic, but I’ve seen too many unanswered comments on blogs over the years. When I give this advice in workshops, someone always says, “But what if I get so many comments I can’t reply to them?” My response is, “That’s not a problem, that’s an aspiration.”
#6 Read and comment on other blogs
If you moved into a neighborhood and wanted to become part of the community, would you sit in your house and hope someone would come by? No. You’d introduce yourself to your neighbors, join the local listserv, and attend community functions.
If you want to become part of the blogging “neighborhood,” you need to go out and “meet” other bloggers. Just like no one likes a pushy neighbor, don’t overdo it. Read their posts regularly, leave comments when you are inspired by their content, and send them a personal note if you truly want to get to know them better. If you want people to read, comment on, and share your posts, you need to do the same for others.
I’d love to hear your tips!
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