This is a guest contribution from Jonathan Goodman.
There are other people blogging about the same subject as you, maybe better or maybe worse—but, as you probably have figured out by now, content is no longer king; context is.
Getting repeat readers who become brand ambassadors for you is pertinent to the success of your blog. So is getting repeat customers. It allows you to focus on what you do best: make great art—writing material that people enjoy reading and writing material that will help thousands of people around the world.
All successful blogs are communities and if you want to turn your blog into something special, something that will grant you financial freedom, and something that will help countless people then you must create a community out of your blog.
There are a lot of great blog posts about creating communities, but this one is different. The 8 steps I describe below is the exact process I used to build the world’s biggest collaborative blog for personal trainers, in less than 2 years, with no connections and no technological acumen.
Whether you’re starting anew or you already have a blog you can apply these steps, in any order, to build your audience, network, and repeat readership.
Step 1 – The Idea
All good blogs are based on a powerful idea that fulfils or hits on a need. Perhaps there’s a knowledge gap in your industry or, in the case of the personal training industry, there was a lot of information but it was all boring text-book material.
The gap I filled was teaching personal trainers the soft side of training but adding in jokes, usually about how much I hate that stupid useless green bird in Angry Birds. Seriously, let’s talk about that bird for a minute. Anybody else hate that thing? He adds an element of difficulty into the game that I don’t appreciate. I just want to smash pigs and move onto the next level.
But I digress.
Build your community on a single powerful idea. Understanding the blogging medium requires a lighter and more approachable tone — don’t be afraid to approach your topic with humor and wit.
Most of all don’t ever hide your personality. People buy into what you do because of the 1% that makes you different, not the 99% that makes you the same.
I should also note that once your blog grows, it might grow out of your initial idea so you need to flexible about its evolution. An experts power doesn’t come from knowing, it comes from knowing where to find and that’s why step 2 is so important.
Step 2 – The Sea Lion System to Build Your Network
I’m reminded of a family trip I took to Alaska. We found ourselves watching a group of whales bubble feed — it was spectacular — but something grabbed my attention and it wasn’t the whales; it was the Sea Lions.
You see, Sea Lions wait patiently on the outside of the vicious bubble feed and catch the fish that the whales fling out. Sea Lions are opportunistic.
You must be the Sea Lion
In any industry there are existing influencers who I’m sure you can name off of the top of your head right now. These people have social media pages and blogs. Existing on those pages are what I call connectors.
When an industry influencer posts a status update or a new blog, there’s a flurry of activity. Instead of trying to get the influencers attention, be the Sea Lion and find the people who are avidly liking, commenting, and sharing the influencer’s material — there are your connectors.
Over a short period of time, you’ll notice the same names keep appearing. Likely they have blogs and even if they don’t they will probably be open to network. Read and comment on a blog post or two of theirs and send them an email saying hi. Or, if they don’t have a blog, send them a message saying that you would like to connect.
Step 3 – Implicit Understanding, Explicit Meaning
Choosing a name for your blog or community is an important step. Even if you blog in your basement at night, the name should make it sound like it’s bigger than you. You’re building a community here that others will want to be a part of.
In addition, you want to have the option to sell the blog later on. A community blog is valuable and it’s a nice option to have. JonsAwesomePersonalTrainerBlog.com isn’t going to be easy to sell but the Personal Trainer Development Center is.
Lastly, your blog name should be something that is intuitively meaningful for your audience. It should also be something that will make them feel like they look good by passing it on to colleagues, friends, or family members.
Step 4 – Contact potential contributors
Now the fun part starts.
There are 3 different types of contributors that you want for your community blog.
1. Camp Busters
In every industry there are established camps that you should be able to identify. There’s probably an influencer at the top and varying levels of followers underneath him or her. Ideally, you want to break into every camp that serves your industry. To do so, try to find somebody that’s well connected in that camp and is currently lower down in the pecking order.
2. Up and comers
In step 2 you identified your connectors. Many of these people will be up and coming bloggers. Have a read through their material and note which ones are good. In addition, look to contact the ones who are hustling the hardest and get them on board with your community.
3. Established authorities
There’s a Catch-22 here. You need readers to attract established authorities to write for you, but you can’t get readers without established authorities right?
Here’s one approach: When you sign up for my free content course, you also get to download my free Diamond in the Rough System Ebook. This is how to use Twitter to get the attention of the people behind the people.
When contacting authorities you probably can’t pay them but you can offer them value. Usually these people have years of archived high-quality material on their blogs. Sell them on your powerful idea in step 1 and ask them to come on board as a “coach” or “advisor” for your community. Assure them it is 0 work on their part.
Tell them that you want to go through their entire archive and will send them a list of all the material that you would like the opportunity to use. You will re-edit and re-format the material so that it’s different enough that Google doesn’t view it as duplicate material and post it to your blog attributing it to them as the sole author with links back to their site.
Some people may say no, but many will agree.
Having established authorities on your site does two things: It establishes credibility for other contributors and you gain the audience of the authority.
Step 5 – Planes, trains, and automobiles
As personal as social networks are (sometimes too personal) nothing can ever replace meeting, shaking hands, and having a conversation with somebody in real life. Look for more intimate industry events that leave time for networking. I’ve even been known to skip entire afternoons of talks to sit down and network with one person at a conference I was looking forward to meeting.
Step 6– Develop a course
What’s the biggest issue or misconception facing your industry?
Identify it and write a course that you will integrate with an autoresponder sent over 10-20 days. Here’s a breakdown of how to plan out the course:
To start, I suggest some brain mapping software (I use the MindNode App) or grabbing a note pad and writing it down the old fashioned way.
- Put your topic in the middle of page and write down everything you can think of surrounding the topic. Don’t consider whether or not you want to include it at this stage, just write it all down.
- Upon finishing, come back the next day with another blank piece of paper and copy the exact same formula.
- When you’ve finished this 2-4 times, take all of your brain maps and create a master map out of them eliminating all the obvious dumb stuff you wrote down and keeping the good stuff.
- Then grab some cue cards and write out each sub-topic on a cue card or in Scrivener (an awesome word processor for organising large projects like this). After you’ve organized the course on cue cards or in Scrivener, it’s a matter of filling in the blanks.
When you’ve finished writing each section, tie them all together.
Start the course with an introduction email saying hello and telling the person what to expect. At the beginning of each email refer back to the previous lesson for a line or two. At the end of each email, let the person know what they can expect for the next email.
Go to fiverr.com and get a cover created for your course and integrate with your email marketing software. Create a simple squeeze page for your course — this will be important in the next step.
Step 7 – Build up a fanpage for social proof
You’ve probably already created a fan page on Facebook, but now it’s time to get it cranking and, to do so, you’re going to get a brief lesson in Facebook advertising.
Create a Facebook status update with a link to your squeeze page for the course. Keep it short and include the following 3 things:
1. Have a punchy headline that grabs attention.
2. Give 3 points that are secrets or that you “reveal” in your course.
3. Tell the reader to click the link to grab their course right away and provide the link.
Then you need to target your Facebook ad.
Step 1: Identify your audience. Is it 25-30 year old females who workout and are interested in holistic fitness? Be as specific as you can.
Step 2: Identify any other pages on Facebook that specifically serve your audience. Be as precise as possible.
Step 3: Think about parallel industries that your lead may be interested in. For example, somebody interested in holistic fitness is probably interested in Lululemon clothing and Yoga. Identify the main pages here.
Step 4: For $10-$25 you can run an ad promoting your post to each of these pages individually, for at least 3 days. After creating your first ad, you can copy the ad and simply change the targeting. You should see the option in your control panel.
Step 5: Take stock of which pages gave you the best response rate in terms of click-throughs . Write down all pages that had at least a 0.3% click through rate.
Step 6: Run an ad to all of the pages that had a good response together and run that ad continuously for more money.
Bidding for clicks is a bit of a science. The better you target your ad, the less you’ll have to pay. Reason being, if you have a high converting ad then Facebook will show it to more people for cheaper.
If your ad isn’t converting well, you’ll have to pay more per click to get Facebook to show it to people. If you’re targeting a big audience or a big page, clicks will cost more than an audience in countries outside of North America interested in oddball stuff. Ideally, you want to pay no more than 25 cents a click.
This ad will both get people to like your Facebook page and add a slew of new subscribers into your email list.
Step 8 – Viral!
This is where my real interest lies.
Now that your Facebook ads have gotten a following on your page, you have an avid audience to spread your materials — so make them viral.
The easiest way to get status updates to spread throughout a niche industry audience is by following these steps:
- Write down any issues or misconceptions that face your industry. For example, in the fitness industry the fact that too much of the public still thinks that women shouldn’t lift weights is a sore spot.
- Note beside your topic, which side of the debate the majority of your audience sits on.
- Write a status update or upload a picture 4-6 times a day (you can schedule them) that articulates the majority of your communities views on the issues you’ve identified. Don’t be afraid to be one-sided and somewhat brash. Emotion drives sharing. People will share if they love you or hate you.
Step 8 – Post 1-2 times per week
Post 1-2 top quality blog posts on your webpage per week (or even less). You can write them or have contributors write them. Continue to spend the majority of your time growing the community through your email list via the course and through Facebook through ads and viral material.
Take in guest contributions on your own blog so that you can spend your time writing awesome material for other blogs in your niche creating link juice and getting traffic back to your site.
Rinse and Repeat.
It won’t happen overnight but when you plan your strategy and dedicate the time, you can turn your blog into a community.
Jonathan Goodman likes Turtles… and Deadlifts. He’s a 2x author and explores the psychology of social media over at Viralnomics. Oh, and he’s on Twitter too.
I am the walrus (or in this case, the sea lion!) Really liked the post. You had some unique ways to describe the steps needed.One trick I have learned for Facebook ads is to look for magazines your target niche might be interested in. Target your ads for readers of those magazines. Hope this helps!
Ahh, a magazine is a great idea–thank you! I’m going to make some targeting tweaks right now.
The first thing that I must say is that you have a unique writing style. An interactive cum interesting style of explaining things. One thing is for sure that these tips are simply great!
So you’re saying that you hate that stupid green bird too Keshav? Haha, thank you. May as well have some fun with writing amiright?
Nice post Goodman. Your name looks Like that Of the president OF Nigeria, goodluck Jonathan Lolz
Thanks For the Tip
What a great post, it’s given me lots to think about and great ideas about building a community around my blog, thanks!
This is a unique idea. I was aiming to do something like this on Facebook, the page is up an running, but had no way of going forward. Thanks for your advice. I’ll go over it step by step to build a community.
Great, glad I could help Denzil.
Finding a sponsor, or an adviser is my best part of this tutorial. I will add that to my methods today, that way they will be aware of your blog,..
agree with you to some extend i mean when your Blog becomes a community people uses to mess with each other which makes a bad impact on the new visitors i have a personal experience on that i use to drive traffic from Facebook..
Great tips and suggestions. Connecting with fellow bloggers and expanding your business both on online and offline helps to improve your presence and authority. I Also liked the idea of being a sea lion, so let me move and connect wit some connectors.
The sea lion system is something I have not heard of, will try to utilize it and make a better community at my blog :) Thank You :)
these are the best tips to make your idea planted and make it full fledge community thanks darren for this tips.
“Be the sea lion” -This is the best and newest idea that i find in this article. I really like this post and Thanks to you for sharing these tips. All these are really very helpful to turn a blog into a community. Once again Thank You for making us the Sea lions.
Post only 2 times in a week? I post twice in 2 days. Is there anything wrong in doing that Darren?
I get so much mail these days, if I sign up for a blog and start receiving two posts a day, I will unsubscribe. I would suggest you trickle out your posts.
There are a host of different strategies. Seth Godin has been posting every day for years and nobody can argue his success. Personally, I’ve slowed down my writing and ensure that I only produce high quality content. If this means I only blog once every two weeks, so be it. Most of my time is spent making connections and then when I produce content, I make sure it’s great.
thanks for the advice and tips. Last bit touched me, I guess making two posts per week will equal greater depth and quality. But for starters, like me, I find it useful doing at least four to five articles, that way I can learn from my community quicker. If that makes any sense, anyway!
Jonathan, this is great. I am currently contemplating how to build a community on my community site, Shorty: Your Chicago South Side Resource. Actually, my goal is to build on online community from my offline community. This will take a lot of education but I’m committed to giving it a shot. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
I’m sure a lot of bloggers out there, who want to build up a community, have checklists for things that they do within their own business.
A checklist of things to remember when writing a blog, a checklist of things to consider when choosing the right fitness regime, etc. etc. You know the sort of thing.
Anyway, as an alternative to brain mapping, these sorts of things could also make a great starting point for creating a course, free download or other content that could prove to be of great value to followers.
What do you reckon?
Checklists are great and I agree. Personally, my condo started to become something out of a beautiful mind with sticky notes and checklists posted everywhere. Brain maps help me organized in a more condensed fashion but both absolutely work.
Good tips, but the succes depends a lot of your blog’s niche.
You can bulid a comunity if you have a general blog, a blog about pets or maybe about I don’t know, birds lovers but you can’t build a comunity if you have a blog about health for example.
The visitor will come, read your article, and will go away to buy his meds. No chance to have him back :)
Yes You Are Very Right. We need to follow all these eight steps if we want to change our blog into a good community. and without a community a blog is fails. we need to concentrate at these all eight steps. thanks
Thanks for these ideas Jonathan – some useful stuff to consider. But this post, like many other bloggers, when they talk about “communities” got me thinking….
The whole concept of blog sites being communities is an interesting one. The building of the community is one of those core tasks that many successful bloggers promote as being essential to the success of the blog. And that part certainly makes sense to me. But my question is, can a blog, no matter how wildly successful it becomes, ever measure up to the definition of community in the truest sense of the word? Sure, a great blog will generate a number of interactions/exchanges with its subscribers, and there may be some interactions between the subscribers themselves, via a few lines in a comments box, (such as this), or a few separate email exchanges even. And there are a few very rare occasions that subscribers might choose to meet face to face at a blogging conference or seminar. But overall, are these interactions (or whatever we want to call them), which are usually confined to the virtual world, really of the substance that would constitute a community? And if a successful blog suddenly shuts down tomorrow, for whatever reason, does that community continue to exist? Do members/subscribers continue to build connections of substance with each other, that really endure across the years, and can those interactions flourish separately and independently from the blog where they originated? Maybe I’m getting too bogged down with this word ‘community’….Thanks again!
Wow..a nice and inspiring post. But i want to ask: concerning the e course which one is a better delivery system: auto-responder or membership site
Hey Mark, and thank you.
For an Ecourse as an ethical bribe, an autoresponder is better. If you’re producing a course as product, a membership site is probably a better option but it really depends on the make up of your course. You can also go with platforms like udemy.com for hosting your course depending on the content matter and complication.
I read that article all the way, it’s great piece of information. I’ll try to apply some of those things right away.
Creating a forum is also a great way to build a community around a blog or a website. They do however require quite a bit of work moderating and don’t usually earn that much in themselves. However they can attract great attention to you and your brand.
Forums can work but are a heluva lot of work to build and maintain. I hate trollz and forums seem to breed them. So until you can get a bunch of band ambassadors to be moderators, I feel like a forum can be more of a headache than anything.
Excellent guide to community building! Great advice like finding contributors, helping to build… well, it is priceless.
Thank you Deborah. I’m glad you liked and found the piece useful.
Nice way to make a community out of a Blog.
This is a Guest Post , Can I guest post on Problogger please any reader or problogger member tell me regards
Building an online community isn’t possible without your outreach efforts. Learn to provide value to your audience and they will trust you in return.
Thanks Jonathan for this guest post! ;)
I like the concept of community in a blog. Sometimes simple idea can turn big. For example is by enabling comments on our blog. A successful online blog is more than just a place where we post our thoughts and writing. With the right tools and interaction, we can engage our readers to become a community. This happens when readers become consistent visitors and write comments to our posts. Over time, readers begin to recognize other readers and interact with them as a community through our blog’s comment system. This type of community can often help retain returning readers, but it takes time and patience to foster.
Using some Controversial Articles or Supporting a thought Does best to make a blog into Community. But Following every reader becomes necessary as readers are what makes it into community
I have failed once to get results from my blog. But this time i don’t want to. Thanks for this informative blog. I think, this will help me get what i missed last time. Very nice and informative blog.
Do you by any chance have that photo in a better quality:
very interesting post, indeed.” Build up a fanpage for social proof” I really liked this point. you are right that heading should be catchy. Give 3 points that are secrets or that you “reveal” in your course. I think these are too much effective points. Moreover identifying your audience is an other important aspect. These tips must be followed by all.
Thanks for sharing.
Hey, these are great community-building steps! I just love how it covers everything from conceiving an idea around which one can build a community to getting your community actively participate and spread the word about you. I’m looking into (re)building my own blog and fan pages soon so this will really help a lot.
Amazing post bro! This is really conversational and highly intriguing
This is a unique idea. I was aiming to do something like this on Facebook, the page is up an running, but had no way of going forward. Thanks for your advice. I’ll go over it step by step to build a community. Die Cut Boxes
Always a good read from Jon Goodman. My community is slowly switching gears. With the help of yourself and Noah Kagan (top two marketers I read into), it’s working! Can’t wait until the day I get to shake your hand.
Great post as usual Jon.
I really like the idea of developing a course as a way to get subscribers. As someone involved in the fitness industry myself, it can be very difficult to find aspects of the fitness world that are “un-tapped”, but I guess I just have to deliver the information in a unique way.
Thanks for the tips!
I’m agree with author, these two points is practically proven…
* Build up a Fan Page for social proof
* Contact potential contributors
Thanks for such a nice post…
thanks for the tips , been having alot of difficulty building my own community. trying to get a relationship with the visitors
I like the point you mentioned about contact potential contributors. It is a good article about community establishing.
I understand Community perform well. These are really wonderful article to build blog into a Community. These are wonderful ways to build :)
Great advice. I’ve done most of this and it’s helped my blog grow into one of the largest in it’s niche, with over 25,000 daily visitors and 13,000+ subscribers.
This is a great step-by-step plan to help people take action with their blogs. Thanks for the tips!
i really like the Sea Lion System . it so stands true.
Thanks for your suggestions
Nice inspirational post. That’s what exactly i have tried to write it my blog as a first post. It is important to start to go ahead.
Nice inspirational post. I really like the sea lion….