According to WorldOMeter.com, nearly three million blog posts are published per day. That’s a lot of reading material competing against your blog.
A lot of blogs on the Internet are like a lone voice in the wilderness. The blogger comes up with witty, interesting and well-written content, publishes regularly, but no one seems to be reading the blog or commenting. By building a community for your blog, you can ensure that others are reading your work, get visitors engaged in conversation and increase your blog’s visibility.
“In 2011 we are seeing bloggers updating their blogs more frequently and spending more time blogging. The type of information influencing blogging has shifted from conversations with friends, which was the primary influence in 2010, to other blogs, which for 68% of bloggers are having more of an influence in 2011.”
Find Your Niche
Technorati’s surveys show that bloggers are interacting with other bloggers. Remember that writers are also often avid readers. If 68 percent of bloggers are having more of an influence, then finding an area of interest for your blog can help you reach out to other bloggers. In addition, knowing your niche will help you identify a target audience to market to.
Some things to keep in mind as you choose a specialty area:
Be specific but not too narrow. If you narrow your choice to something like “collectible coins from 1921”, you are not going to have very many topics to write about. A better choice would be “collectible coins”.
Look at what other bloggers are already covering? Are there any holes or gaps in information that you can target? Or, can you cover it better because you have more experience or inside knowledge?
Choose something you love or can learn to love. If you start a blog on furniture repair because you think there is a need, but you hate to do repair work, you are not going to enjoy writing. Your readers will pick up on your lack of enthusiasm.
Find Your Readers
The key to building a community is to reach out to people who are interested in the topic you are writing about. So, how do you find these people? First, be open to many different places to reach new readers.
Here are just a few suggestions:
Frequent forums where hobbyists or those interested in your topic hang out. Do not spam these forums. Contribute to the conversation. Get involved. If they allow, place a link and info about your blog in your user profile. Once you’ve been on the site for a while, if you are not competition, ask the forum moderators if you can share info on an article you think would be of interest to others there (make sure it actually is). Another tactic is to take a question people are discussing and answer it completely in an article and then share the link to the article and tell them they inspired you. Again, ask permission from moderators before sharing the link. It is a courtesy that you would want someone to give you before posting a link on your site.
Ask other bloggers with complementary (not competitive) topics to share your link with their readers. Not all will, but some might. Return the favor if asked, so make sure it is an excellent blog that you’re willing to put your recommendation behind. Your goal at this point is simply to find the readers. You can’t build a community if you can’t get them to your site. More in a minute on how to keep them coming once you get them there.
Go to conventions and trade shows on your topic. Connect and network with people. Tell them about your blog and have a business card on hand with your site’s name and address.
Family, Friends and Acquaintances
Don’t forget about your family and friends. You have a built in community of readers just from the people you know. Most people truly enjoy reading things by those they know. If they like it, they will share it with others. Ask them to share info on your blog. Drop an e-mail to those you know and tell them you are blogging about widgets and would they please share your blog with anyone they know who might be interested in widgets.
When you meet someone new, if the conversation naturally allows for it, tell them about your blogging work. Always have business cards on hand to pass out. Otherwise, the person will walk away from you and instantly forget the name of your blog. Your effort will have been wasted.
You Can Draw a Browser to Water…
You’ve probably heard the saying, “you can draw a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. The same is true with Internet browsers. You can buy ads, ask them to visit and get them to land on your blog spot. However, you can’t force that reader to read all your articles or to come back time and time again. If the goal is to build a community of readers, then you’re going to have to take this process to the next level and encourage them to become part of your online community. The online community of your blog should be made up of several different elements.
People love a good online discussion, so try to include topics that are a bit controversial. Let’s go back to the coin collecting scenario. What really gets some coin collectors angered? What about private mint coins? A lot of coin collectors hate those coins that are “meant to be collectibles”. Can you write an article about why some of them have value and then ask for feedback in the discussion area? If it is a pet peeve, be prepared for people to be passionate in their responses. You may want to put comments on moderation to be on the safe side, but allow readers to have a voice, even if disagreeing with you. The only posts I would edit or cut would be those with profanity or that don’t add value to the conversation, such as “you’re stupid” type comments.
The more a reader disagrees with you the better, because others are likely to jump in with their own viewpoints. Encourage those disagreeing to come back and add more to the discussion. Say things like, “You make a good point. You might be able to change my mind a bit. I’d like to hear more about…”
Social media is all the rage and the number of people on social media websites grows every year. Some of the more popular sites are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. How can you utilize these platforms to reach new readers? You will definitely want a page for your blog that is separate from your personal page. When a new blog post goes up, share it with your readers. Ask them to share or retweet to others. Encourage them to discuss the article on the social media site. While some people will never comment on a blog, they will post a quick reply on Twitter or a comment on your Facebook wall.
Start a monthly newsletter and invite site visitors to sign up for this free newsletter. To make the newsletter valuable to your readers, it needs to have material not available on your website. This might include articles not published on the blog, insider info on how much certain coins or worth (or whatever info is specific to your niche topic) and perhaps even a cartoon or contest. Be creative with your newsletter. You can utilize services like MailChimp and Mad Mimi for free for up to a certain number of subscribers. This will allow you to produce a professional looking newsletter in both text and HTML formats without paying out a lot of money. Once you hit a large number of subscribers, they do have slight fees to send out newsletters, but the cost is still quite reasonable.
It is vital that you offer freebies – a free report, guide, book or other electronic download that visitors will want. Not only will people come to your site specifically to get the free item, but you can ask for an e-mail in exchange for the download. Have the visitor check that yes they want to be added to your mailing list or yes they want your newsletter. After all, you don’t want to spam anyone as they will not appreciate it and it won’t grow you any fans. You’ll find that most of those who download the freebie will sign up.
Those who run truly successful blogs are always on the lookout for a new method to entertain and engage readers. On my blogs, we often run events, such as a chat with experts on a particular topic for the day. The expert sends an article and we notify all of our readers that she will be available all day. If they have questions, they should post them under comments and the expert will respond. This gets readers engaged and experts love to have their brains picked. It also makes your job easy as all you have to do that day is moderate instead of creating content.
Another thing I often do on my blogs is have contests that are scavenger hunts. The readers must visit articles in order, read them and gather clues to enter a contest for a drawing. The items we’ve given away include things like gift cards, iPad mini and e-book readers.
Keep your mind open, watch what others are doing and you’ll have a strong online community before you know it.
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.