Everyone talks a good game about the benefits of building a community around your blog. Yes, the benefits are obvious. However, the “building a community” thing isn’t quite there yet. We’ve learned how to build a following on Twitter and another following on Facebook and our loyal blog readers have subscribed to our feeds. But they’re still not really connected to us. They’re closer, for sure, but I wouldn’t call it a “community”.
What we have right now is a group of interested bystanders, sometimes coming together in the comments section of our blogs and, so far, this has been our goal – to get these people to come to our blog and engage in a conversation in the comments section. Even a conversation on Twitter or Facebook would be nice, as long as it’s about our blog.
However, up to this point, the conversations have been a little lopsided, centering on whatever is the topic of the blog-post-of-the-day. Everyone leaves a comment with their reaction to that post, but there’s no interaction, no group conversation, it’s just “Here’s my comment. Thanks!”
In my opinion, we’ve all done a good job of bringing people to our blogs and social networks, but we still need to work on getting them to interact as a community, to discuss among themselves, because that’s when they’ll truly feel a sense of belonging. So it’s time to re-thing our game and set a new goal. How do we turn a group of interested bystanders into an interactive community?
I believe that bloggers need to let these loyal readers play an active role in the blog. Perhaps choosing the top commentor for the month and allowing them access to create a blog post. Offering a reward encourages participation and when the rest of the readers see they’re being addressed by a member of the very own community, well, it helps build that sense of community. “He’s one of us!”
Polls are nice but they’re not enough. What do we do with the results? Most of the time nothing, or we rattle them off in a quick post. But what if we asked readers to leave their answers as comments and then listed those comments in a special blog post, refering to each commentor by name and linking back to his blog if he has one? Now we’ve personalized a typically anonymous situation and turned it into a community event.
My point is, we’re only half-way there when it comes to that community we’ve all been trying to build. The people are out there, they’re hanging around the edges and they know they’re welcome. Now we need to find someway to bring us all closer together and bind us together into a tight knit community.
But so far, our loyal followers think they have to do everything on our terms and you and I both know that gets old pretty quick. I think, like any good community, we have to find a way to let our readers know that they have a certain amount of control of what goes on on our blogs. We have to let them see that they influence our direction and we value their input, even if we don’t agree.