Every blogger knows that building a devoted audience isn’t easy. You may be great at creating epic blog content, but getting readers to actively interact with your content is another thing altogether. If you’re writing your blog content for yourself, your family, or your friends, then this post isn’t for you.
But if you produce awesome content that you want people to find and interact with, then read on to find out how you can build a thriving community of readers. In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the specific things you can do to start building a community on your blog right now.
1. Ditch the Monologue
If you haven’t been doing so already, it’s time to start writing your blog posts in a more conversational tone. While this may seem like something obvious to some, there are some bloggers who still talk ‘at’ their readers as opposed to talking ‘to’ them.
Avoid falling into this trap and learn the secret to great conversation, which is to be as ‘interested’ as you are ‘interesting’.
A great conversationalist asks questions, pauses to let others speak, and listens to what they have to say. Writing in a conversational tone encourages your readers to respond. Of course, every blogger has to find their unique style and tone, but there are some things that are generally proven to help anyone write in a more conversational voice, such as:
Writing like you speak – Imagine you’re talking to a friend as you’re writing. This will make your post a lot more personal.
Telling stories – You don’t have to do this in each and every post that you write, and the stories don’t have to be personal, long, or detailed, but it’s often a great idea to inject a personal angle into your post. It draws readers to recount their own stories.
Using personal language – Whenever you talk to another person, it’s normal to use words like I, you, and we. When writing in theoretical language, these types of words often disappear. Try to use more of these words, even in your titles.
Sharing Opinions – If you want to get strong reactions from your readers, try sharing your opinion! This automatically triggers the reader to think about his or her own opinion, and whether or not they agree with you. Just keep in mind that opinion pieces can result in a heated debate, so be ready for that.
2. Invite Audience Interaction
Writing in a tone that is more conversational than monologue invites readers to take part in the conversation. While some of your readers may comment without interaction of any kind, others will interact with you just because of a simple call for them to do so.
You can boost your readers’ interaction on your blog in numerous ways, including:
Asking them to comment – (don’t just do this at the end of the post, make it clear right from the beginning that you’re interested in their thoughts on the topic)
Asking specific questions – the more specific the question, the better the response you’ll get. For instance, instead of a generic, ‘What did you think of my post?’ why not guide your readers using more specific questions on the topic you were writing about? You can even include some examples or alternatives to make it even easier for them to leave that first comment.
Writing entire posts around a question – If your whole post is the question, it absolutely has to get a response. When it comes to boosting engagement on your site, this type of ‘discussion’ post is gold.
Setting a challenge – Depending on the industry you’re in, this could be anything. For instance, if you’re a fashion blogger, you could create a monthly themed challenge for your readers to take pictures of themselves in their ‘sexy black dress’ and then share them. This not only generates a high number of comments, but it also gets your readers excited, and actually doing something. That’s a sign of true reader engagement.
Running polls – Running a poll on your blog is one of the simplest ways of getting first-time readers to take action. They can choose from a simple set of multiple choice options, and while clicking the ‘vote’ button doesn’t seem like mulch, it shows your readers that you’re very interested in their opinion, and that pushes them a little further down the road to full engagement on your blog community.
Take it a step further:
After your readers have voted, you can take it one step further and ask them at the end, why they voted the way they did. For instance, if you asked your readers if they have ever used Keyword Research Tools to find the best keywords to rank for, you can then ask them which tool they used, and why they chose it – or something like that.
Telling them about your blog’s community – There are many ways you can do this effectively, such as posting the results of the poll you just ran on your blog. This not only reminds your readers that they participated, but it also shows them where they fit in your community’s diverse membership.
Yet another good reason to share poll results on your blog is to signal to your audience that there are (hopefully many) others engaging with you. It provides you with great social proof.
Inviting interactions away from your blog – Your ‘blog’ community doesn’t just need to be on your blog in order for it to be worthwhile. Some of the most engaging community discussions might take place on your Facebook page or any of your other social media platforms.
Social networks have conditioned people to interact more, so it’s a good place to start conversations and build relationships that will fuel an ongoing community for your blog.
Make sure to regularly invite your readers to interact with you on your blog and on social media, email, and whatever other channels you’re using. This will gradually draw out more passive readers and encourage them to interact with you. This is important, and it’s something that you should take the time to do on a frequent basis because those passive readers can one day become your most engaged fans.
3. Create a Dedicated Area for your Community
To some degree, allowing readers to comment on any post means that blogs already have ‘community’ built into them. With some blogging tools these days, you can even have threaded comments. These help to enhance your readers’ experience by allowing mini-conversations to take place in a way that is very easy to follow.
But, as your community grows, there may be a need for you to give your readers the ability to start new threads of conversation, in addition to being able to comment on what you or other readers have to say. In order to do this, you will have to consider creating a dedicated community area.
There are many ways in which you can do this, but one of the best and most effective ways is by creating a forum on your site. Just keep in mind that even though forums do come with lots of advantages, they also bring a set of challenges, too.
Pros of starting a forum on your site:
- Improves reader engagement
- Boosts user-generated content
- Increases your page views per visit metric
- Appeals to various types of readers
Cons of having a forum on your site:
- Moderating is a lot of work as forums are often a target of spammers
- It can be hard work getting to that critical mass to make your forum active and attractive enough
- The maintenance and upgrades can prove to be a huge challenge, particularly for the techchallenged
Other ways of setting up an area for your community include off-site platforms like:
- Facebook Pages
- Ning Community
- Google+ Pages and Communities
- And so on.
Just remember that with options such as these, you’re at the mercy of someone else who has control over the platform’s hosting as well as the upkeep of your community. You also don’t have the same level of control over features and other things.
4. Use Accessible and Interactive Mediums
In addition to being able to use the various types of social media platforms available, you can also make use of a range of tools to build a community either on your blog or around it. Tools like Google Hangouts are a great way of giving readers an experience of you that is a lot more engaging. You can even livestream your sessions and sync them with your blog’s YouTube channel.
Another option is to try running webinars. You can use GoToWebinar to run your webinars with video, slides, or just audio. You can also do video conferencing for 100-attendee webinars, and larger plans are in the works. This means that those webinar attendees can actually see you live.
5. Run Challenges and Projects
Running challenges and projects not only gives your readers something exciting to do, but it also increases traffic to your blog. You’ll have an audience of super-engaged people eager to complete tasks related to your challenge. When you give your readers a common task that they can perform over a set period of time, it offers a shared experience that draws all of them closer together.
You can draw inspiration from the projects and challenges that are run in your industry. Simply conduct a quick search online or on some of your favorite blogs to find out what type of challenges are the most popular with readers in your niche.
6. Real Life Events
If you can actually meet your readers face to face, it’s a very effective way of building a strong community. Of course, for most bloggers, this presents massive logistical challenges, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it, then take advantage of the opportunity as this is probably the fastest way of building a solid community for your blog.
Once you interact with someone at an event, in the following days or weeks after meeting them, it’s much more likely that the person will engage with you either on your blog or on social media, and that the interaction will develop into deeper engagement.
You’ll never go wrong with face to face interaction and real-life shared experience. This can work particularly well for you if you travel a lot. Simply post or tweet out the time and place readers can meet you whenever you’re in a new city.
Sometimes you’ll have a small turnout, and other times it will be bigger, but every time will be a great opportunity to meet your readers and build real relationships with them – and also for your readers to meet one another.
If you’re cringing at the thought of meeting your readers face to face, don’t worry. This isn’t something you absolutely have to do. It’s just an idea for those who don’t mind putting themselves out there in order to meet their readers.
Another way you can do this is by attending events that your readers might be attending. You can either buy a ticket like everyone else or, if you’re great at public speaking, you can actually speak at such events. This will instantly position you as an authority on your topic and earn you even more readers for your blog.
If you can run your own real-life events, that will be even better! You’ll have the added bonus of being able to run virtual events right alongside your real events, and you can sell tickets to both. Not all your readers will be able to get to wherever you are, but they will still have access to the event no matter where they are in the world.
There are many strategies you can use to grow a community on and around your blog. It’s simply a matter of choosing what works best for your blog, and going with that.
Once you’ve mastered one tactic, move on to the next, and so on until you have a thriving community of avid, engaged readers who will consume your content and interact with your brand on every channel you’re on. Use this article as your resource to help you get started building a solid community on your own blog.
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