Growing a Community Around Your Blog

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Square Peg in a Round Hole | Bradley A. Harmon

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The first lesson anyone who wants to have a successful blog must learn is that their blog is not just about them.  It sounds like a simple enough lesson to learn, right?  Yes, but you’d be surprised at just how hard it is to master.

Learning how to build a community around your blog is a lot like learning your shapes as a baby – it’s trial and error.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the blocks fall through the right holes, but we all seem to find a few square blocks that we’re determined to jam through that round hole.

Your Blog is More than a Journal

At some point in your blogging career, you’ll come to the conclusion that even if nobody reads your blog you’d still feel the need to write it.

Allowing your thoughts to flow out of you onto the page is a cathartic process.  Bloggers often experience a calming, cleansing feeling after writing a post.  It’s like someone has just released the steam from a pressure cooker.

It’s long been a favorite technique of therapists to have their patients write down their feelings in a journal for a similar effect.  If this catharsis is the primary reason you’re writing a blog, change your settings to private and convert it to a journal.

You’re So Vain

I highly recommend that every blogger maintain a personal journal anyway.  There are some thoughts, feelings, and experiences that you need to express in writing that don’t necessarily need to be shared with your readers.

While we’re on the topic of sharing, most of your readers don’t care much about everything happening in your life (even if you’re famous).  It’s easy to become vain as a blogger.  There’s a fine line between sharing yourself with your readers versus becoming obsessed with yourself forcing your readers to turn into Carly Simon and break out in a chorus of You’re So Vain.

Using a journal will help you walk the line.  You may consider using your social media accounts to share a little more of yourself with your readers.  It’s a great way to augment your blog and connect with the core of your blog community.  Just remember you can be too social there too.

Stop Confusing Your Readers

This has probably been the square block that I have most often tried to force into the round hole.  This past week, I migrated all of the faith in the workplace content to my new blog marketplace christianity. This process was an eye opener.

As I watched my archives build on the new site, I noticed there were periods of time that I didn’t write about faith in the workplace – some periods were up to two weeks in between posts.  It wasn’t hard to imagine the frustration the people who were interested in this topic must have felt as I wrote about blogging or social media.

Two different communities had grown up around my blog with very different interests.  I made the mistake of thinking that just because I was interested in these topics my readers would be as well.  It must have been confusing trying to figure out what my blog was really about.

You Have to Really Listen Carefully

As a blogger, you have to be able to listen to what your blog community is telling you – and what they’re not.  After just a few months, there were signs that my blog was attracting two different set of readers.  It was reflected in the comments (or lack thereof) and who was commenting.

I think I knew at that point I would need to split the blog into two sites, but I decided to rename the blog and sharpen my focus on one community.  Great plan, but I executed it poorly.  I thought most of the other blog community would simply fall away, but many stayed and I started writing for them again.

Since then, I have been trying to juggle both communities on the same blog.  Had I really listened I would have heard the need for two blogs and avoided some frustration for myself and my readers along the way.

The Golden Rule is Still Golden

Luckily for me, the round block for the round hole was easy for me to pick up.  Despite all of the mistakes above that a blogger can make (and I made them all), doing for others what you would have them do for you saved my blog.

If you go out of your way to help your blog community succeed in their endeavors you’ll find they’re very forgiving of your flaws and will help you succeed too.

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want. – Zig Ziglar

It’s the only advice you really need to grow a community around your blog.  Every blogger will have their own square blocks that they try to force into that round hole, but practicing Zig’s philosophy will earn you a lot of patience from your readers until you get it right.

What Are Your Square Blocks?

So what square blocks have you tried to force into a round hole on your blog?  What approaches to building your blog community have been the most frustrating for you?  Which have worked the best?

Article by

Brad's Big Feet Marketing helps people on a limited budget enlarge their online footprint using blogging & social media. His other blog, Marketplace Christianity, examines faith's role in how we earn and spend money.

Brad has written 95 awesome articles for us at Bradley A Harmon

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tia - BizChickBlogs August 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Hey Brad – What’s worked for me is responding to comments other people leave on the blog, and going and visiting their blogs as well. This has helped to build a close knit community of regular readers, and depending on the type of blog, regular readers can make all the difference in the world.

I try not to hem myself into a corner when it comes to regularity or even specific content, but I just try to be as helpful and interesting to my readers as I can.

Cheers, Brad. Great post.

Tia

Reply

Brad Harmon September 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Comment marketing is a great way to generate traffic, but it’s so powerful because if done correctly it builds that relationship in the process. As bloggers, it’s easy to just comment for the back links, but if we’re not careful we’re soon spending half a day commenting on too many sites. If all you care about are the links this isn’t so bad, but if you want to build a community it just spreads you too thin. Your best option is to pick those sites where you want to develop a relationship and focus on them. Great point, Tia!

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial August 16, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Hey Brad, this is a lesson that I am now learning. For me it is a little more difficult, because I never thought of my site as a blog. I started a business to help people with their finances, and decided that a website full of articles would be a good complement to that. As it continues to grow and morph, I always struggle with what direction I need to steer it.

This is a very good article in that regard!
Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last [type] ..The Sufferings of Some of the Early Christians – Devotion

Reply

Brad Harmon September 2, 2010 at 12:11 pm

As much as I don’t like the idea of managing multiple sites or blogs, I’m really seeing the merit in doing so. Attaching a blog to your business page is a great idea, but just remember to keep it focused on what your business does. Creating a journal or personal blog is a great way to write about the other topics. I’ve learned the hard way that this is a necessary tool in a bloggers toolbox.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm

That is something I may have to consider as my writing branches out. I don’t have a “personal” blog – the only personal thing I write about is shopping trips, so people can learn how to save – but I may still decide to create a new one (just to stay focused). Since my site is still very small (and not bringing in money), I still have time to make that decision.
Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last [type] ..Should You Really Pay for These Things

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Ching Ya August 19, 2010 at 8:23 am

Well said, Brad. Along this blogging journey, it’s fascinating to see that there are more than just writing alone, but the beauty of communicating with people who are willing to drop a few words or even sharing a tweet/share on social media sites. Although nowadays time is short and everyone is busy, no matter how, I’ll try to visit a few blogs whenever possible – a community is not built in a day. To listen and assist if possible, not just about making blogging world a better place but a good chance to be humble and learn from one another’s experience.

Thank you for this enlightening piece of writing.

@wchingya
Social/Blogging Tracker
Ching Ya´s last [type] ..How to Separate Facebook Personal Profile from Business Page pt1

Reply

Brad Harmon September 2, 2010 at 12:17 pm

My pleasure. It’s definitely a struggle to find the time and then narrow down the sites you want to visit. It’s not one I have mastered. Brandon Cox likes to talks about thinking of your blog as being part of a cloud that includes your social media accounts. It’s an interesting concept that links all of your online presence together so that even though you may connect here on my blog, or on Twitter, or on Facebook, we’re still connecting. As a blogger, I’d love to filter everything to one place and preferably my blog. The reality is that the best I’m probably going to be able to do is to get it in the same cloud.

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