How to build your blog community with care.
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Communities and conversations are the glue that keeps people coming back to blogs. Have you ever wondered how successful blogs grow their blog communities, or even manage them?
There are many ways to build -- and manage -- a blog community. Why would you want a community growing around your blog? Because a blog is meant to be social -- not just you or your co-bloggers putting out their thoughts and ideas in posts, but also the readers commenting on those posts and conversing with one another. Without comments and community, your new blog might not gain the momentum to turn your blog into a valuable communications asset for your company or organization.
Growing Blog Community
Here are fives ways you can grow your blog community. But before you panic about the added workload a blog community might create, I'll follow these up with some ideas for managing the community.
1. Think Organic. Before you start trying to tap into some formula for building community, know that the most successful and long-term online communities happen more organically. Plant some seeds and allow things to grow without constant input. If you provide real value on your blog, others will want to be a part of your blog community naturally and encourage others to join.
2. Ask Questions. Blogging is not a one-way street. Pose questions directly to your blog audience. Coax and cajole them to respond, especially if you know you have a lot of lurkers out there. Blog posts that just make statements are less inviting of response than those that end with a question.
3. Be Provocative. There is a fine line between provocative and controversial. Touch on hot topics and current events if, and only if, that's appropriate for your blog and overall brand messaging and business goals. Visit sites like Technorati or BlogPulse Newswire or Twitter Search to identify trending topics in the blogosphere.
4. Listen and Respond. People who comment on your blog deserve attention. You could thank them for their comment privately via e-mail or publicly reference them or even respond to them in the comments section. You may find comments to be a springboard for new blog posts -- just be courteous and let the commenter know that you would like to reference them in a post.
5. Transplant the Community. Many bloggers have expanded their blog communities by transplanting them to Facebook, Ning or another social network where there are more tools for community building and interactivity as well as ways to feed their blog posts into the network. If you are serious about building community, at some point, your blog will no longer be robust enough to handle that community. Don't be afraid to take the meaty conversations elsewhere and point back to your blog.
Your blog community does not have to reside on your blog in order to grow the blog and brand.
Managing Blog Communities
Yes, it will take you time to manage your blog community whether it's on your blog or on a social network. Some quick and dirty tips for managing community are:
1. Publish a Terms of Service or some kind of easy-to-read document that spells out the rules of your community such as who has the power to delete comments and what kind of comments will be deleted.
2. Connect your community notices to an e-mail account dedicated to your community building and social networking. Use filters in your e-mail program to organize correspondence related to your blog content.
3. Assign an intern or assistant the role of sifting through community e-mails and message boards to alert you to only what you need to know or need to address personally. Not every conversation in your community need your immediate attention.
4. Identify key participants in your online community and provide them with incentives to help you monitor and nurture the conversation. Incentives can be anything from freebies to gift certificates to cash. Make sure you let the online community know who has the role of moderator.
Bottom Line: Online communities keep people coming back for more conversation and connection. Cultivating community on your blog gives readers one more good reason to return.
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Technorati - http://www.technorati
BlogPulse Newswire - http://blog.blogpulse.com/
Twitter Search - http://search.twitter.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/
Ning - http://www.ning.com/
Online Community image courtesy of Shutterstock