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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