I have a friend who is building a nice niche community around natural hair. While not entirely new to communications or even blogging, she was new to the concept of building an intentional audience. She asked me for suggestions, and this is what I shared with her:
Four C’s to build a community
If you don’t have content, you won’t bring any new value. Concentrate on building out your content in the proportions that matter to your intended audience. You may have a lot to say about a particular niche, but odds are you won’t be able to grow until you widen it out further.
In some cases, you can “farm out” your weak areas to guest posters, but most of the time it just helps to be aware of your tendencies and react accordingly. Others here have written about the need for a real editorial calendar. If you’re on WordPress, there are plugins that help you visualize your publishing schedule and ensure that you’re not over-reliant on certain topics.
A business that wants to succeed in social media can’t do so in a vacuum. Unless you are a publishing dynamo, it’s too much to ask for you to write amazing essays several times per month. We’re just not wired to create completely fresh content. However, your real service to your audience comes through providing context.
Be the person who shares news about your industry (even if it includes your competitors.)
Be the person who points the way.
Be the person who reveals the trends, because you’re in a position to see around corners.
Be a resource, by putting your own context on what others say and do. And don’t forget to…
Your value to the community you build isn’t measured by keeping members within your fence. Your value is measured by how often they come back, and how often they recommend you to others.
Don’t be afraid to link away to someone else’s content. There is reward in being known as the Node that connects people to knowledge or insight. It also doesn’t hurt that you are forging relationships with others in your field of interest. That can open the door for guest posting, collaboration, or even outright referral.
Let’s say you write a piece that is read by 500 people. If you’re lucky, a couple of them will chime in and say “I felt like you were speaking directly to me.” That’s a powerful feeling, and it’s a degree of engagement that makes you “sticky” and unforgettable.
So why do so many bloggers refuse to engage in their own comments?
When someone leaves a comment on your site, you need to set your default behavior to “acknowledge and engage” unless there is a reason to not do so. You now have an opening to talk to that person directly, in a way they can never mistake for a mass communication.
There’s a secondary effect that builds on the first. The more your readers see you commenting, the more likely they are to comment themselves. Will it take more time? Yes… it can be quite demanding. But the people you are talking with are more likely to be the people you ought to be talking with.
All Together Now
These four behaviors don’t have to exist alone. You can make a lot of headway by doing them all at once.
I’m not a fan of “formula” posts, but there’s something very compelling out of this rhythm:
- Find something interesting
- Re-publish a snippet
- Interpret it, with your original perspective
- Link away to the original
- Mix it up with those who chime in.
It’s built on originality, authenticity and an understanding of human nature. Not quite as simple as Lather – Rinse – Repeat, but it works.