This past Friday I attended another Alabama Bloggers lunch meet-up. We discussed how to build your blog community—the perfect topic for a newbie blogger like me! I know many Alabama Bloggers couldn’t make it, so here’s a quick recap.
We had an entire room to ourselves at Nabeel’s Café in Homewood—perfect for fostering some great conversations. I had been to Nabeel’s once before and was less than impressed (though I think it was the group I was with), but Friday’s lunch made me a fan for life. Maria Gambino, the manager, warmly welcomed us and took care of our every need, and the owner, John Krontiras, introduced himself to us, thanked us for coming, and was the sweetest man ever! Nabeel’s also was kind enough to give everyone a bottle of their Greek dressing, and raffled off a cookbook and gift card.
Once the food came, Rachel opened the floor to any questions people wanted to specifically address. Here are my key takeaways:
- Focus on creating a loyal readership base – Engage with everyone who reads your blog, reply to every comment, thank them for reading, send individual messages asking for input. If you nurture your current readers, your community will naturally grow.
- Return the favor – Follow up with readers, ask how they are, read their blog and comment on posts. It’s not a one-way street.
- Find a unique way to share your posts – Don’t just push every post on your social media sites in the exact same way. That’s boring, forced, and doesn’t do a thing to build relationships. Come up with catchy headlines, ask questions as conversation starters, invite people to give their opinions.
- Define your own goals… – You and Sally may blog about the same topic in the same city, but have two very different goals and readership bases. Find your own niche, and write about what you love and what makes you happy. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else.
- …And stick to them – Create a business or marketing plan to put your goals in black and white. Figure out what you want out of your blog, because what you do now is what your readers will grow to expect. Don’t start a blog that’s picture-heavy and then suddenly move to all text, or say that you will write about fitness and then only blog about your love of butter-laden foods.
- Leave the comfort of your home – Is there a more popular blogger whom you admire? Ask if they’d be interested in guest blogging, or if you can interview them. Figure out what you’d want to get from the experience, and then go after it. Don’t ignore traditional media either—try writing a column or an article in a local publication.
- Monitor your data – Use a plug-in like Stat Counter or Clickee for daily analytics, or Google Analytics for broader data. Look at what topics resonate with your readers, where they come from, and how long they stay on your site.
- Don’t get hung up on numbers – If you’re blogging just to see your stat counter hit 100,00 per month, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Blog because you’re passionate about a topic and don’t care if a single person agrees. Readers will know when you’re heart isn’t in it, and your writing will suffer.
- Self-hosting is an island – When you self-host, you’re on your own to build a community. You will see a dip in readers and hits because you’re not linked to a built-in community like WordPress.com has. Don’t let that discourage you.
- Don’t fret about bounce rates… – Your bounce rate is partially influenced by your regular readers who have most likely seen your previous posts. When they read your new post and then click off your site, that’s considered a bounce. Privacy settings can also skew your bounce rate.
- …But pay attention to what they may be telling you – Make sure that you do everything you can to keep unique readers returning to your site. Link to other posts within your blog, or write a series of posts that keep readers interested and coming back. Use your stats to figure out what your readers respond to best, and give them more of what they want.
I’d like to keep this conversation going, since I love learning from more experienced bloggers. What do you do to build your own blog community? What are some musts that every blogger should focus on, and what are things that aren’t as important?