This post is based on episode 60 of the ProBlogger podcast.
One of the most common questions I hear from my readers is “How do I get my readers to interact with me?”
Of course, there are plenty of answers I could give to that question. But for the next couple of weeks I want to talk about one particular method: building a community.
And I’d like to start by giving you nine reasons why you should build one around your blog. (Next week I’ll show you how, I promise.)
1. It increases your blog’s usefulness
I’ve always believed that the way to build a successful blog is to build a useful blog. And in my experience, building a community around your blog makes it more useful.
In his book The Wisdom of the Crowds, James Surowiecki said that together we are a lot smarter than any single one of us. And I’ve seen the truth of that statement on blogs many times, especially my own.
I once received an email from a Digital Photography School reader asking for advice on how she could photograph her dying grandmother with dignity. Her family didn’t have many photos of their grandmother, who in hospital at the time and expected to pass away in the coming week.
The trouble was, I had no idea how to even begin answering her question. But I wanted to give her an answer, and so I posted her question (with her permission) on the blog.
Within a week we had 90 people offering all kinds of interesting and useful ideas on how she could photograph her grandmother during this incredibly tough time.
And that’s just one example of how a blog’s community can make it more useful.
2. It builds social proof on your site
If you’ve ever walked down a street looking for a restaurant to eat in, you’ve probably seen the power of social proof. We’re generally drawn to the restaurants with people sitting in them rather than ones that are empty.
And the same is true with blogs.
It’s much easier to attract new readers to your blog when you already have readers who are engaging – commenting, engaging in polls, engaging in your social media channels, etc.
3. It increases your page views
If you’re monetizing with your blog with advertising (e.g. AdSense), the number of page views you get often dictates how much money you can earn. And having a community regularly making comments on your posts can certainly increase that number.
Let’s say someone views one of your posts and decides to leave a comment. That’s two page views straight away – one for the initial visit and one for when they publish their comment. And that’s just for starters. Chances are they’ll come back to read other people’s comments (especially if you use something like Discus that notifies them when someone has replied to theirs). And the more people you have in your community, the more comments you’ll get and the more page views you’ll rack up.
4. It makes your blog more attractive to advertisers
Over the years I’ve found that advertisers are much more likely to advertise on your blog if there’s a community of readers they can engage and interact with directly.
Once a year we run a competition on Digital Photography School with the New York Institute of Photography (one of our advertisers). Initially they approached us and said, “We might want to run a comments competition.” As part of the competition, people had to go over to their site and choose which course they wanted to win, and then give a reason for wanting to win that course in the comments.
The first time we ran the competition they had hundreds of people leaving comments to try and win. And they’ve been coming back to us every year to run the same competition ever since.
5. It makes it easier to sell products on your blog
Whether you’re selling a product or a service, people will be far more interested in buying from you if they feel like they know you and have engaged with you and your community.
Over at Digital Photography School we have more than 35 e-books for sale. And the people who tend to buy them the most are those who comment in our forum, leave comments on our blog and engage with us on social media.
It also makes it a lot easier to decide what you should be selling. After running the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series of posts a few times, my readers started asking if I could build a product around it. I eventually turned the series into an e-book, and it became my biggest selling e-book ever.
6. It makes your blog more attractive to sell
Over the years I’ve had a number of companies offer to buy my blogs. Naturally they want to know about our traffic and the income I earn from them.
But in a couple of cases we talked about the community I’d built on my blogs, and the engagement I have with my readers. And every time their eyes lit up, and the offers became far more generous.
7. It gives you an army of advocates and evangelists
There’s another big advantage to building a community around your blog. That community can help you grow in both readership and popularity.
Soon after starting Digital Photography School, a highly engaged reader who commented a lot on the blog emailed me and said, “Hey, I know a journalist at the New York Times. Would you be interested in being interviewed by them? They’re looking for bloggers at the moment to interview.”
And why did they make such a generous offer? Because I knew them, and had engaged with them many times.
8. It can help you to build user-generated content
You’re far more likely to attract guest posters and contributors if you engage with your readers. And there are other ways they can help you generate content for your blog.
I’ve asked my social media followers to share their advice on different aspects of blogging on social media, and then turned their responses into blog posts. I didn’t need to write much at all, because my readers gave me most of the content.
They can also help you start conversations that will in turn generate even more content. We once asked our readers on Digital Photography School what brand of camera they used, and then created a follow-up post where we ranked them in order of popularity amongst our readers. Of course, that opened up a can of worms and created a number of debates and interesting discussions.
9. It brings more personal satisfaction to your blogging
One question I get asked a lot is, “How have you managed to keep blogging for so long?”
And my answer is always the same: “I love my readers.”
If I didn’t have the community, comments and engagement that I’ve managed to build over the years, I may not have stuck at it for this long.
One more reason to build a community around your blog.
But don’t expect it to happen overnight. Building a community can take years. And when you’re pouring your heart and soul into your blog and no-one is commenting, it can be very disheartening.
There may even be times where your community goes sour. I’ve seen it happen to a number of bloggers over the years. Sometimes it’s because they haven’t invested much (if anything) into the community. Other times it’s because they did something wrong and weren’t transparent about it.
But overall the benefits of having a community far outweigh the costs.
And now it’s time to start building
Now that you know the benefits of building a community around your blog, it’s time to start building one. And in next week’s post I’m going to give you tips on how you can do just that.
Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash