If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love to blog and how much I appreciate my readers. Blogging for me started as a passion project (not a business) and has really remained a passion - even though I've turned it into a business. Honestly, this is why I think I've seen so much "success" with my blog.
Chances are that, by now, you've heard that I was a winner (for the second year in a row!) of Social Media Examiner's Top 10 Social Media Blogs of the year. This is a huge accomplishment with a ton of highly talented competition vying for the top 10 spots. And, somehow, I've ended up on the list 2 years in a row. Oh... and I've only been blogging for two years.
I don't say this to "brag" - I say it because you can learn from me. Heck, that's why I write this blog. To help you. To teach you. To make your job easier.
But I didn't want to write a blog post about the traditional blogging "rules" or even something about how to create an award-winning blog. Because, in all reality, that's not what matters. Yes, it's nice to have a set of rules (or guidelines) to follow. But, in social media and marketing, there are no single set of rules that apply to everyone.
And it's not about winning awards, making lists, or getting certain recognition. Don't get me wrong, these things are great! But there are so many amazing blogs out there that don't get the accolades but that give better information and produce better results than those that get the recognition.
For me, what blogging is really all about is creating a community around your blog. Whether it's for your business, your brand, your passion, your hobby, or any other reason, it all comes down to building your community.
Your community - your readers, your audience, your supporters, those who read, share, comment, and promote your content. The people who should push you everyday to write more, write better, write with more intention. These are who you should care about.
And so, that's what I want to focus on today.
How to create a community around your blog.
Have Some Personality
How many times have you read a blog that just read like corporate jargon? Big words, legaleeze verbiage, and absolutely no personality. And how often did you go back to that blog? I'm guessing not much, if at all.
There are literally millions of blogs out there. Everyone seems to have one today. And yet so many of them are highly successful. Why? Because they have a personality!
One thing that people will always get from my posts is exactly who I am. I use emojis. I use slang. I use odd sentence lengths. I write the way I talk. I have typos (sorry, it happens). I rant (sometimes 😉 ). I share my personal experiences.
And if you look at the other 9 blogs who all won the Top 10 list, they all have their own personality. Reading their posts, you know it's them writing. You connect with them. You feel like you know them. If you came across one of their posts somewhere else, you could probably even tell who the author was based purely on the personality and writing style of the post.
This is what you should aim for. Something that is so distinctly YOU, that there's no mistaking it.
And your personality is what will make you stand out. Whether you're quirky, outspoken, conservative, long-winded, humorous, sarcastic, blunt, or any other trait - those personality traits are what make you who you are. Take advantage of this and use this in your blog.
Don't be afraid to show people the human side of your business and your brand through your unique personality.
Know Your Niche
I'm going to say this very clearly: You MUST have a niche! No, you cannot write about "social media" or "fitness" or "executive coaching" or "the IT industry" or any other broad topic. Yes, you can pick a niche within this topic. But you must define that niche.
Are you targeting working moms? College students transitioning to the workplace? Entrepreneurs still working a full time job? Parents of teenagers? Small business owners? Business executives in the later stages of their careers? People in the hospitality industry? I could go on forever...
I don't care what niche you choose. Just pick one, define it, know it. OWN IT!
Know your audience. What do they care about? What are their pain points? What are they struggling with? How can you help them? The more you give them what they need, the more you get what you want.
The most successful blogs I know have a very clear niche and a very clear message to entertain that audience. And that goes just as well for the other 9 blogs in the Top 10 list.
For me, I focus on small business owners struggling to do social media for themselves. And, of course Instagram. Ok, so I have two niches... but they are clear, concise, and I tailor ALL my posts to these audiences. You will not see me go into crazy detail about tools, analytics, data configuration, and other complicated aspects of social media. Because that isn't where my audience needs help right now.
Yes, my audience may very well "graduate" out of my niche and into a more complicated niche. And I'm totally ok with that! Seriously! That's what I want for them! I want them to grow, learn, and become self-sufficient at using social media for marketing their business. And there will always be plenty of other small business owners struggling with social media who I can cater to as the others grow and move on.
But in all honesty, a lot of those who "move on" still stick around. There are a couple reasons, we'll get to those....
In order to actually build a community around your blog, you need to show up. Consistently. Regularly. On time.
You can post once a day or once a month. It's not the frequency that matters. It's the consistency that matters.
Every good blogger I know (from the Top 10 list and the countless others I admire) is a consistent blogger. On schedule. Every time. Like clockwork.
I have been blogging for two years. I used to post three posts a week - every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In that first year and half, I think I missed maybe 5 posts. Then I reduced my schedule to twice a week. But I informed my blog readers via email and social media that this change was coming so that they were aware of the changes.
And, yes, recently I missed a couple weeks of posts due to a nasty-ass cold that kept me away from the computer for much longer than I'd have liked. But again, I took the time to let my readers know what was going on and why there was an absence.
But you know what? Because I am so consistent, I had people emailing me and reaching out on social media to check in and make sure things were ok before I even sent out those communications. Because they are so used to seeing me in their inboxes and social media feeds that when I didn't show up, they were concerned. Now, that I tell you, is a community built around a blog!
Ask yourself seriously. How many people would notice (or care) if your emails stopped showing up in their feeds and email?
I don't know how many times I've spewed this over the years. The ONLY way to really see online success is to actually respond and engage with your audience!
Yes, there are a few situations recently where certain blogs have closed their comments. They each have their own reasons - some preferring to direct the comments to social media platforms rather than the blog itself. Others have other reasons. I'm not here to judge them or decide if it's right or wrong. And even in these situations, many are still finding ways to be engaging and responsive so my overall point here still stands...
When your community takes the time to ask you a question, add some input to a post or topic, thank you for your help, refer you to someone, or even to complain or disagree with you, it is up to you to keep the conversation going.
If someone walked into your store or business location and walked right up to your face to ask you a question, would you stare blankly at them and then walk away? I sincerely doubt that. So, for the love of everything that is good, do NOT do it online! Especially on your blog! Your blog is your virtual business store front. It represents you and your brand.
Take it seriously and respect those who take the time to engage with you.
Respond. Answer questions. Provide advice. Thank them. Suggest a solution. Offer to resolve an issue privately.
Just respond. Keep the conversation going and let them know they matter in your community.
I don't find it coincidental that one of the criteria on the Top 10 judges criteria was post engagement and community involvement. Do you?
It's All About Trust
How does that saying go? People will buy from you if they trust you.
In any industry, but especially in an online world and highly competitive environment, it's ALL. ABOUT. TRUST.
You don't have that, you don't have a successful blog.
Sure, you can have a blog. You can have a ton of posts. You can blast those posts all over the place. But if you do not have the trust of your community, those are just words on a page.
Trust is what builds a community. Trust is what brings people back time and time again. Trust is what gets people to tell their friends and business associates about you. Trust is what will set you apart.
I've learned some lessons the hard way. I've figured things out and learned short cuts. I have very clear opinions on some things. I have conflicting opinions on other things. I have been wrong - and had to admit it. I will rant about the people advertising business tactics I disagree with. I know my way isn't perfect and there's something for everyone out there.
But no matter what, I will always lay it all out in my blog posts. And my readers know that. They know that when I put the research out there, I've done my best. When I share my experiences, I'm doing so openly to help them. When I share my opinion, it's just that - an opinion.
But this all works to establish trust. Trust in who I am, what I stand for, what I represent, how I work, and how I look out for my community.
Trust creates a comfort-zone. A place your community feels safe. A place they can rally around you - and each other! A place they recognize. A sense of a community they want to be a part of. Think of your favorite blogs or websites... doesn't it just feel comfortable when you read their latest post? You know what it's gonna look like, how it's gonna sound, and what you're gonna take-away. This is the trust factor that brings people back time and again!
You don't have to be a big name or heavy-hitter to be trust-worthy. In fact, I often question the motives of a lot of big names. It gets almost political in their level of influence that I begin to question their allegiances and motives.
The most trusted sources I turn to aren't the big names. Sure, I'll read and stay up on their research, input, thoughts, and comments. But the majority of the blogs I actually "trust" are the hardworking, dedicated bloggers who put in all the work I've mentioned above. And, yes, these are the people I turn to for help, support, and questions when I need it.
I know this is a lot of "stuff" without a lot of details.
No, this wasn't meant to be a list of the 10 things to do to build a community. No, I don't want to tell you how long a post should be, or where you should promote it, or how often you should post, or how videos or photos increase engagement... blah blah blah. There are plenty of those posts out there. And they're all fine or even great advice. But that advice is so unique to each individual business and blogger.
And, I really wanted to talk about the underlying layers of what it takes to build a community. And while these things aren't "easy" in the sense of a checklist of items, they certainly aren't hard to do. They just require your commitment.