When I started my blog, I felt like I was publishing blog posts that immediately vanished into thin air. No one read them. No one commented. My Facebook page was just a symphony of crickets and my Twitter had like 3 followers (one was my mom. I’m serious.). But over time, things started to pick up and suddenly I was making new friends, getting comments that were more insightful than the blog post they were left on, and really feeling a sense of community with my readers. Today, I’m sharing what worked for me as well as my tips for how to build community on your blog.
1. Be Yourself. Aww isn’t that cute advice? No, but really. I see lots of blogs with great ideas and neat content, but they write their posts as if they’re drafting a textbook. I barely read my textbooks in school (sorry mom and dad) and I definitely don’t want to read them now. Write like you normally speak. Share your opinions. Be personable. Imagine your readers are sitting across from you at a coffee shop. What would you say? Also, punctuation is your friend! Reinvent it. Ohmygod. YOU.can.write.like.THIS. WEEEEEEEEE Frrreeedommmm!! Just do whatever feels like you, because it’s hard to build a community when readers can’t connect to the blog’s author.
2. Add a question for your readers at the end of posts. Asking a question gets your reader involved and best of all, gets them to think about your content in terms of their life. Think of something specific, but open-ended.
3. Include readers in your posts. Did one of your readers recently write a post that’s on the same wavelength with one you’re about to publish? Share it! Did a reader leave you a totally inspiring comment? Highlight it in your next post! Most of all, be genuine. Only include your praise when it’s something you know you’d do even if you didn’t have a blog.
4. Social Media!!!!!!! This is humongo! Connect to your readers and blog friends on Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else your peeps (or regular human beings) hang out. Yes. It takes a freakin’ LOT of time. But it is one of the most fun parts about blogging…I mean, you get to make friends! *awkward grin* Always ask yourself, “how can I build a conversation here?”
My tip in #2 is totally applicable to other forms of social media, too. Recently, I’ve started asking questions on my Facebook Page and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite social media outlets (I hardly used it before!). But now I am able to interact with my followers there and most of all, it’s totally about them! Get creative and build those connections, which brings me to….
5. Be a connector. Remember, YOU are the link between your readers. If your readers share themselves with you in the comments and you happen to notice that Susie and Bertha are both military wives or snail lovers or diehard Radiohead fans, then send them a shout-out on Twitter, or recommend their blog links to each other in a comment. This idea is full of possibilities! Did two people just share similar blog posts? Link ’em up. Are two people expats in the same country without knowing it? Link ’em up. Find ways to connect people and they will be excited to come back to your site AND they will have made a new friend. All in a day’s work, right cupid?
6. Respond to comments. Be thoughtful! Remember, these are real people sharing their lives and opinions with you. When I consistently don’t get replies from certain bloggers, I eventually just stop commenting on their blogs. I am looking to connect with someone, not talk to myself. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but it also takes time to read your blog posts each day and leave insightful thoughts. Also, I know that if you get a zillion comments a day, it’s not possible to stay sane and reply to ever commenter. I totally get it. Do what you can manage, but also realize that this is one of the biggest components to building a community on your blog, especially at first.
7. Speaking of blog comments, consider which comment platform you use. I use Disqus and I love it because it’s easy to leave comments, readers get an e-mail when I respond to them, and you can have threaded comments, where people can reply back and forth. Some comment systems put your replies in a weird place or force you to login to a random account you created three years ago or ask you to decipher the hieroglyphics of a random string of numbers just to leave a comment. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Make it easy and find a system that encourages community instead of one that takes it away. Also, I have a confession. I really hate the default Blogger platform comment system. There, I said it. Don’t judge me.
8. Host a linkup you’re passionate about. Some of my friends host a travel link-up, a self-portrait link-up, and one is even hosting a blogging inspiration linkup. These are all great ideas because they’re things that have a theme that’s actually important to those bloggers. I started a link-up called Weekly Wishes and it was one of my favorite things about this blog because it focused on something I’m passionate about. Are you passionate about photography? Art? Books? Create a link-up that reflects that and gets your readers involved.
9. Be creative! Mix things up. Add a poll or a reader survey and share the responses the next week. Or start something new. One of my favorite things I ever did with this blog was send postcards to my readers. All I did was ask them to leave a comment if they wanted one, and I was astounded by how many people were lit-rally thrilled with the idea. And besides that, I got to write a letter to each reader and build a stronger connection with many of them. Some other ideas? Start a hashtag that readers can add to their tweets or Instagram pictures (Use #TNChustler to be featured on my account!), create a monthly challenge, do a reader showcase, or photoshop your readers’ faces on their dogs’ bodies (possibly too far…). Think of something that resonates with you, because if you’re passionate about it, other people will be excited too!
As you can see, building a strong community on your blog can take a lot of work and time. Don’t kick yourself in the face if your posts get 1 comment and 14 pageviews. Keep at it.