It’s Not Rocket Science. A Retrospect at One Year of Community Building

This is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic journey of over 75 guest posts.

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I’m still a newb to this whole blogging thing.

Those of you who know me might think I’m talking crazy, but no, seriously, this is still a relatively new scene to me when I think about the fact that a year ago – I wasn’t here, I didn’t have a blog, I knew none of you reading this, and I was at a completely different place in my life.

But in the past year – some pretty amazing things have happened both on and off my blog. I’ve met some amazing people, established a steady secondary income as a freelance designer and consultant, and have developed a fully interactive and thriving community of readers who genuinely push me to be at my best.

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple of people I really respect who wanted to interview me as an “up and coming” thought leader. It’s extremely humbling to be considered in that light – and in each of our conversations, I’ve been asked one common question: “How did you build your community?”

That’s the $100 question isn’t it? As bloggers we all want to know how to get people talking, how to get more RSS subscribers, more followers on Twitter, and so on. For most of us, we establish a niche, and they we start thinking about how to grow our community and spread our voice to a wider audience.

Now first and foremost – while flattered by what some may think – I’m no thought leader in this area. I have no professional credentials to back anything up – but a little bit of real life experience can go a long way. Looking back as I approach the one year anniversary of my blog – here are seven things I’ve done to build and nurture my blog community.

I set out to create “more than a blog” from day one

This was imperative for me. I’ve had my share of blogging flops in the past – with Life Without Pants, in what was maybe a desperate initial attempt to not become TOO specific in my overall theme, I set out to create a platform that was free form – much more than a blog – but rather a pedestal for people to come and share ideas. My style of writing actively promotes discussion – even going so far as to objectively ask questions in every post to get people thinking about a response. A blog should be a learning experience for both you and your readers – thus the more you can promote that level of engagement, the better.

I’ve found ways to relate personal experiences to applicable scenarios for my readers

At the end of the day – your readers care much less about your actual blog and much more about the person behind it (that would be you). I recently wrote a post on the topic – but in a nutshell, while you need to find ways to relate your content to the audience, you should never forget the one thing that makes your blog unique – YOUR perspective. Share personal stories, be opinionated, take a stance, use real life examples – and then open the floor for discussion.

I’ve replied to 99% of every comment received

From day one I told myself that I would respond to EVERY comment I’ve received and, for the most part, I’ve stayed true to this mantra. Even on posts that have had 100+ comments, I’ve invested the time into responding (thoughtfully) to every comment. The goal? Not to say “thanks for the comment” – but to take things a step further – ask another question, get people thinking even more. If you look through my archives – the comments section is always much more valuable and interesting than the post itself.

I actively promote the members of my community

Promoting, appreciating, and thanking the people who take the time to visit your blog is so important, yet often forgotten. We are absolutely inundated with the amount of content that is thrown at us from every direction, so for someone to pick YOUR blog read out of the million other ones out there should mean a lot. Take time to go the next step OFF your blog – send a personal email, follow up with your readers – visit THEIR blogs and get involved in their communities. Building a community is much easier when you have a group of readers who know you actually care about them.

I’ve gotten everyone involved with projects and ideas

E-books, video projects, guest posting – just a few of the things I’ve done over at my blog to involve my community. A community isn’t led by one dictator, but rather should be a place where many people can come and share ideas – not only in replying to comments and being good readers, but in creating some of the content itself. Share the wealth and volunteer your blog as a place for community to assemble and collaborate. It’s a 100% win-win situation for everyone involved.

I invent new ways to share content

Traditional blogging is still the way to go most of the time – people like to read and respond to blog posts – but I have integrated new media into my scheme as well. By using video and podcasting, I keep the content fresh and offer unique ways for people to enjoy the things I’m doing. Plus it challenges me as the manager of my blog to think of new ways to share perspective.

I see my blog as an investment

This is THE bottom line when it comes to blogging. A blog is a commitment, a community is an investment. You get what you give. You can still have a life outside of these online walls, but building a community comes down to being present and engaged in what’s going on throughout this space. Budget time every day to work on blogging initiatives, without distractions. Make it a real investment and when you do – the results will speak for themselves.

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  1. says

    Hi Matt,
    Do you think there will ever be a time when you think that it will be impossible for you to keep up replying to every comments as well as building your business? I know some bloggers become overwhelmed with tasks to do when their blog takes off.

    • says

      Great question, Gordie – time management is one of the biggest issues around building anything. Not sure about Matt; I always try and respond pretty much right away. If not, set aside time in the evening to go through every comment and respond where it’s best suited.

      What about you – any tricks you’ve found to work?

      • says

        Hey Gordie –

        Managing time is tough, not going to lie, but this is something I’ve done everything I can to stick true to throughout the past year. I don’t always get to comments right away (although I try) – but I do schedule time within 24 hours to make sure everyone gets a reply.

        And not “just a reply” – I always strive to continue the conversation – ask a follow up question, etc. I’m sure this will get more difficult to manage as my community continues to grow – but even on my most recent post – with nearly 150 comments, I’ve taken time to reply to ALMOST each one.

      • says

        If you choose both options, Ari, aren’t you essentially duplicating the message? Perhaps if the comment itself isn’t one that “merits” a response (perhaps a generic one), then I agree, a Thank You email is perfect.

  2. Pamela Baker Gratton says

    Thank you Danny… one again; open, honest, down to earth and useful bullet points… consistency is one of my biggest challenges… I know it is the foundation of building the best relationships… I have been able to accomplish this in my face-to-face community and now I am working to implement this with my new on-line community… giving back as much, if not more than I get … with your help I am looking forward to becoming a rockin’ rocket scientist! PBG (#TroubleTree)

    • says

      Hi Pamela, thanks (although all the credit for this post goes to Matt). :)

      Consistency is certainly one of the biggest challenges – get that right (either in writing, commenting, engaging, quality) and you’re more than halfway there to the rest following naturally.

      • says

        I know I’m following in Danny’s footsteps here – but consistency is KEY – with maintaining a consistent posting schedule, consistent quality of content, and consistent follow through (replying to comments, etc) – THAT is how you build community, when you set expectations and then consistently meet and exceed them!

  3. Frank Dickinson says

    This is a perfect primer and foundation upon which any new blogger can build their site and community. Take these steps, one by one – incorporate them into your blog – add your personal touch – and you have a great start to an amazing blog.

    Thanks Matt and Danny!

    • says

      Thank YOU Frank. I think the most important thing to remember is that ANYONE can cultivate community – it’s all about if you’re willing to put in that time commitment and really invest in cultivating and managing relationships.

  4. says

    Hi Danny.. Great g-post.

    Matt, I found your post to not only be honest, but warm and welcoming. No wonder you have had success with building a community around your blog. I think it’s important to respond to comments. When we comment on a blog- especially if it’s our first time commenting we want to be made to feel apart of that community.

    RT at Twitter and voted at BE.
    .-= Rose´s most recent blog post …Using Keyword Phrases =-.

    • says

      And yet that’s where so many bloggers let both themselves down and their community, Rose – you see names that haven’t appeared before (or haven’t commented in a while) and let them “disappear” without following up. Something to keep in mind 😉

      Thanks for the social sharing as well, glad you enjoyed Matt’s post (I know I did!). And look for a feature about BlogEngage from me next week. :)

  5. says

    Thank you Rose – glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve found that the most effective “tactic” is to simply be genuine and make time for the people who make time for you. There are a million blogs out there, so for someone to come and take the time to read and comment on your blog is valuable. Be yourself – the rest usually falls into place.

  6. says

    At last, a really inspiring story about starting a blog. I’m getting a little worn out with blogging about blogging posts that rehash things we already know. This post was refreshing and a different take on what we all should be doing to succeed. A reminder that it can still be done.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Hal. I firmly believe that if I can do this – anyone can. It’s just about investing that ever-so-valuable time into cultivating community and building relationships with your readers. Cheers!

    • says

      Hi CT – so, this post was actually written by me – but Danny is someone I admire and look up to as someone who is great and capturing that community atmosphere I describe above. It was my pleasure to write this piece for his blog – and has introduce me to a lot of new people, such as yourself, which is really what building community is all about – nurturing what you have, but continuing to reach out and expanding your voice and reach. Thanks for coming by!

    • says

      What Matt said 😉 (minus admire – that would just be ego)

      Thanks as always for coming around here, Christina, and hopefully you’ve found a great new blogger to read in Matt.

  7. says

    If you consider yourself a ‘newb’ then I can’t even imagine what you’ll be like down the road! Wannabe bloggers will do well to take your advice, a lot of wisdom there for a ‘newb’. One of the things I admire most about you is your endless enthusiasm, it’s inspirational.
    .-= Roger Hjulstrom´s most recent blog post …Which Twitter are you using? =-.

  8. says

    Danny, I really like what you say about using personal experience. I’ve tried so hard to keep ‘personal experience’ on my personal blog and professional things on my business blog – in an effort to remain ‘professional.’ I’m wondering now if it would make sense to merge the two, or at the very least allow myself a little more personality in the business blog.

    Thanks for this – it releases me from the ‘all-business’ mindset. I can be free to stop compartmentalizing my life!
    .-= Kathy Cozonac´s most recent blog post …NPR Does it Right! =-.

    • says

      Hey there Kathy, thanks, although full credit for this post and ideas go to Matt Chevy, who very kindly guested.

      If you’re comfortable combining the two, go for it. There will always be times when business and personal blogs need to be kept separate, but if your business has a human voice anyway (and shouldn’t all?), then reinforcing that via your combined blog is a natural fit.

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts, always apppreciated :)

  9. says

    I think this is where the “authenticity” piece legitimately comes into SM. People don;t want to hear about how your spouse snores but they do want to know through your words and actions that you are authentic about how you care for them as a commuinity.

  10. says

    Very insightful! I believe we are really overthinking what is or isn’t a “good” blog…at least I may be. I did just have an experience yesterday when I brought my vehicle for inspection. It was a fine experience, however, I experienced some subtle customer service issues that weren’t as powerful at the end as they could have been at the beginning. Everyday occurences are teachable events and I may just blog about that experience instead of overthinking it and try to guess how many people would be interested in that. Perhaps they will be simply interested in what I have to say!!

    • says

      Another great reason for having a community that trusts you (and vice versa), Diane. If companies see someone write about their user experience, and then their community adds to that discussion, it can only be a good thing for improving service all round. Which is never a bad thing.

  11. says

    Danny – I’ve been an admirer, now I’m a true fan. You see community where others see blog. By valuing the comments of others, and truly interacting with people, you have given hundreds more reasons for people to visit often. Thanks for such a great example, which I will follow as I work to grow my own community (blog coming soon).

    Jim Bowman – The PR Doc®

  12. says

    This has definitely given me some food for thought for my own blog as I really try to ramp it up this year. I like the ideas of creating more than a blog and treating the blog as an investment.

    I am going to go back to my own blogging plans for the year and reconsider what my goals should be, beyond things like “numbers of subscribers.” Also adding you to my Google Reader, Danny.
    .-= Mark Tosczak´s most recent blog post …The secrets of finding and sharing great content online =-.

  13. Laura says

    Thanks for the encouraging words, although you sure make it sound easy. I am in the midst of developing a blog plan for a non-profit organization and find myself stumped. Do you (Matt or Danny) have a blog plan and if so, how useful do you find it?

    • says

      Hi Laura. I think it’s always important to have a plan with your blog – setting goals and measuring along the way. It’s different for every individual and organization. I’d be happy to brainstorm with you if you want to shoot me an email – feel free. mncheuvront (at) gmail.

    • says

      As Matt says, Laura, a plan is almost a given. Some planning is easy:

      * Audience
      * Frequency
      * Goals (become a thought leader, just share some personal tidbits, etc)
      * Business motives behind it
      * Cut-off point (will you keep at it during early days of no audience)

      Then you can dig deeper into these levels as well as others. And it’s very kind of Matt to offer that outreach – you can’t go far wrong with any advice from him! :)

      • Laura says

        Thank so much for your replies, I will likley take you up on that offer to brainstorm with me next week. I suddenly feel motivated to take a more serious crack at this blog plan. Thanks, to the both of you for the advice!

  14. says

    This is such a great post. I recently started blogging on my company’s website and I haven’t been satisfied with the content. After reading this post I now realize it is because I was trying too hard to be professional and not focusing on being personal. Thank you for the great advice!

    • says

      Thank you Catherine – you hit the nail on the head. Even if you are blogging at a “professional” level – you have to infuse some of your personality into the mix – that’s what people will REALLY connect with. Cheers!

  15. says

    Hi Danny, These are meaningful tips and insights in your blogging lessons. There is such huge value on so many levels for business professionals to be wring blogs and taking advanage of video blogs. The critical thinking skills, writing, creativity and community will come together… if only we have the courage to begin and the patience to wait!Thank you for sharing!

    .-= Susan Young´s most recent blog post …5 Tips to Building Sales & Credibility with Vocal Vitality =-.