As you've probably noticed by now, there are quite a few steps in community building…at least if you want to go about things deliberately and with a sense of purpose, as opposed to accidentally and “hoping for the best.” Now that you're done with all the prep work though, it's time to talk about some actions you can take as the founder and leader of your blog's community. This post isn't about prescribing tactics, like a certain number of guest blogs or specific kind of tweet. Rather, we're talking strategy, or the big picture ways of thinking and interacting that every community leader needs to have. Here are three places to start:
Be consistent in talking about the topics and issues that are relevant to your community.
Become a leader in your niche by being the blogger your readers turn to for a new perspective, a unique point of view, or coverage of those often-ignored topics. Position yourself as a blogger who isn't afraid to be different from everyone else, even if it means standing out or being controversial or unpopular. Of course, authenticity is important here. You should talk about those issues that you genuinely care about and are truly relevant to your community. Controversy for controversy's sake isn't the goal here. Ask yourself what core themes or key questions your community members (or, if you don't yet have a community, the people you eventually want to be there) might have. How can you help them? What do you want your blog to be known for? Which subjects are you passionate about? Yes, you may alienate some people, but that's okay. Remember, the goal isn't to make everyone a part of your community; it's to attract the right people to your community.
Be available and accessible to your community.
There are lots of different ways of being available and accessible, and you have to figure out which way is right for you. The important thing, though, is to figure out a way you can be available and accessible over the long term…as in months or years (assuming you're still blogging, of course). For some bloggers, being accessible means replying to tweets or blog comments. For others, it means answering emails or Facebook questions or Tumblr ask. For some bloggers, it's all of the above! The point is that you want to remember your blog community is composed of real, individual people who are paying you the compliment of their time and attention. Sometimes, it's easy to lapse into thinking of your readers as a group, especially when they number into the hundreds and thousands (or hundreds of thousands), but you never want to completely lose that one-to-one touch. No, it's not very scalable, but when people feel like they matter to you, they're more likely to stick with you. Here is a good place to make a quick note about burnout and boundaries. Burnout often comes from not setting good boundaries (and by “good,” I mean what's good for you), so be careful and self-aware about how and when you choose to be available. If you find that a particular form of accessibility depletes you (or that a particular person is using up all your personal resources), consider being available in another way or temporarily taking a break instead. Remember, we're thinking on the scale of months or years here…this isn't the super quick guide to building a community in less than a week.
Be a connector.
You should always be thinking of ways you can help your community and it's individual members. Can you help your readers discover other things they may like? What about connecting people within your industry or your niche to each other? Can you help a new blogger get started? What about supporting someone else's Twitter chat or giveaway or Kickstarter? Even if it seems like a small thing, it matters. Thinking beyond visitors and page views may sound counter-intuitive, but it can actually help your community grow. Express a genuine interest in helping your readers, talking with them, and in building those bonds of community on your site.
Do you have any questions about community building that I didn't cover in this series? What about tips or advice for fellow blog community builders? As always, please share them in the comments so this post can be a resource to everyone!
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]