Do you hear that?
The sound of crickets in your comment section.
The radio silence on your Twitter feed.
The deafening sound of a lack of engagement on your blog.
Don’t you wish you had an “off” switch for those discouraging sounds? Or maybe a dial you could tune to the sound of chitter-chatter and activity?
Well, it may not be that simple, but there is one tool you can use to dim the noise of a lack of engagement on your blog:
How community turns casual followers into raving fans
Imagine you were to move to a new place.
Weeks and months go by and you didn’t make any friends. Your neighbors aren’t welcoming, there’s no community gathering places and people didn’t respect one another.
In other words, there’s no community.
Would you like that place? Would you be a raving fan of that place? Would you want to ditch your PO box in your previous city because you’re there to stay?
Now think of your blog like that new place. When somebody begins to read your blog, they need that sense of community to stick around. And just like a sense of community turns a visitor of a new town into a resident, a sense of community on your blog turns casual readers into raving fans.
You don’t want your blog to be a rest stop on the way home. You want it to feel like home for your readers – like a place they wouldn’t mind sticking around to comment and share and dim that noise of a lack of engagement.
The good news is that with a few basic principles, you can build a community around your blog.
In this post, I’ll teach you the tricks of the trade of community building, so you can start making magic with your blog.
1. Implement an open-door policy
Have you ever worked for a company that seemed to be run by a robot?
The CEO was untouchable, questions and concerns are rarely addressed and the staff are not engaged or loyal. Trying to foster a community in this type of environment is like trying to squeeze water from a rock.
But a company with an inspiring CEO with an open-door policy who supports, recognizes, and responds to their staff? Now that company is far more likely to enjoy a strong sense of community.
Communities aren’t run by robots. Nobody likes to be a member of a community where the leader of that community is absent and untouchable.
So implement an open-door policy for your blog. Make readers feel comfortable connecting with you as the blogger, and feel safe coming to you with questions and concerns.
Be a human. Answer questions. Respond to emails and comments. Readers who feel heard, supported, and understood are far more likely to become community members.
2. Foster engagement between community members
You’re the leader of your community.
If your blog was a physical community, you would be the mayor.
And in real, physical communities, people don’t just engage with the mayor! They communicate with each other, too, and form relationships. One of the cornerstones of building a true community is facilitating relationships and engagement between your readers.
Most bloggers struggle with creating a true community, because the only communication that exists is between the blogger and the reader.
Foster engagement between community members. Encourage them to respond to one another’s comments and social media posts. Bring them together.
3. Bake your new readers a virtual pie
You know those movies set in the 1950s, in which a new neighbor is introduced to the neighborhood, and the family next door brings them a pie?
Yeah, that doesn’t really happen anymore. But it’s a nice concept, and can you imagine how welcome that would make you feel? If you moved in and you were welcomed by your neighbors with a sweet treat or even just an effort to say “hello”.
If that happened to you, I bet you’d feel a sense of community, right?
I know I would.
I’m not suggesting you send a freshly baked pie to your new readers, but whether or not a new reader feels a sense of community with your blog is determined as soon as they “move in” (or subscribe, in your case).
Instead of letting new readers navigate the waters of your community by themselves, welcome them! Your blog is still growing, so chances are you still have time to send quick welcome emails to your new subscribers as they come in.
This will go a long way to turning those casual followers into raving fans.
4. Don’t make your readers talk to themselves
I get it. You’re busy.
Between writing posts, answering email, and juggling social media, it feels as if you can’t rest for even a moment. Something’s got to give, right?
So you give yourself a break on answering those comments. You let the emails slide and you cut yourself some slack from engaging on social media.
That can’t hurt, right? A few unanswered comments here, a neglected email there…
But this is one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to build a community from your blog.
Overlooking your reader’s attempts to engage, you’re making them feel like they’re talking to themselves.
When they engage by leaving a comment or connecting in another way, it’s important to respect that they took time out of their day to do so and respond to them.
Chris Guillebeau answers every single email from readers. In his guide, 279 Days to Overnight Success, he writes:
“One of the things I’ve been surprised about is how approachable many of the “top-name” bloggers and social media experts are. My suspicion is that their success and the approachability are related.”
This certainly seems true for him, and for many other popular bloggers out there. Until you’ve built a community where the community members are active with one another, you need to be at the frontline of your community, answering questions and making your readers feel heard.
5. Strengthen your cornerstones
Think of your community as a building.
Your blog is the foundation. It’s what the community is built on.
Then you have the walls, which are made up of the community members. But the walls need something to attach to – a structure to hold them up. And that structure in a building is the pillars or cornerstones. In your community, these cornerstones are the strong community members who act as informal leaders.
Every community has a few cornerstone members who are more involved than others.
As the foundation, it’s important that you maintain their strength. Instead of taking them for granted, recognize them! Thank them for being so active in the community and for contributing so much.
Without them, the structure would collapse.
Strengthen those cornerstones and they will hold your community up.
6. Get readers out of your living room
Having everybody engage only on your blog is like only fostering community by hosting gatherings in your living room.
It can be difficult for others to connect with each other, because your living room is cramped. It’s not meant to hold hundreds or thousands of people. Community members don’t feel as comfortable in your living room as they would in a more neutral space.
So to get readers to become community members, get them out of your living room, and off your blog.
Foster community through Twitter chats, a Facebook group, a free forum or a Google Plus community. Encourage meet-ups by hosting your own in your city.
Getting readers off your blog will give them the space they need to really engage with one another and with you in a more natural setting.
Get out there and start building that community
Building and leading a community isn’t easy.
You’ll have to put in a lot of hard work and elbow grease to create a community that will turn those casual followers into raving fans.
But as you connect with your readers, spark connection between them, and make them feel welcome and heard, you’ll find that your blogging career becomes far more rewarding.
And a community is the gift that just keeps giving for bloggers.
Your blog’s engagement will skyrocket. Community members will begin to see you as the expert and authority you really are. And sales of your product or service will climb. All because of that little tool you worked so hard to build.