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How to Build Community on Your Blog By Giving Readers Jobs

Posted By Darren Rowse 5th of December 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Creating Passionate Users has a great post on building community which I think can be applied to building community around a blog.

“The best way to grow a user community is to get even the beginners to start answering questions. The more they become involved, the more likely they are to stick with it through the rough spots in their own learning curve, and we all know that having to teach or explain something to another person accelerates our own understanding and memory of the topic.”

It reminds me of something that I learned in my early days of being a church pastor (tangent time):

Many churches have a welcoming strategy for new people that aims to ‘serve’ the new people in any way that they can. They go to extreme lengths to do welcome people in ways that make them feel included but that keep the visitor passive.

I found in my early days of church work that we had a much higher rate of integrating new people into our community if they were given a job right from the start. The jobs they were given were always small but they didn’t allow new people to remain passive for long but instead encouraged them to belong by actively participating.

So at LivingRoom (the community that I currently lead) you are asked to bring something to eat/to share from your first or second visit and are even encouraged (not forced) to lead (or co-lead) a night’s discussion in your early days.

In contributing in small but real ways people almost immediately felt like they’d invested something in the community and were more likely to continue to do so over the long term.

I’m pretty sure that a similar thing applies in building all kinds of community and can’t see why it wouldn’t apply to blogging.

My ‘group writing projects’ this year have been a great example of this. Many (I’d estimate up to 30-40%) of those who participated did so on their first visit to ProBlogger – and many of those have stayed on and have become regular commenter and even guest posters in my recent ‘quick tip’ series.

In a similar way over at Digital Photography School I have run a number of threads in our discussion forum asking readers to submit images with tips on how they were taken – I then feature some of these on the main blog. This has the benefit of me having user generated content – but more importantly the feedback that I’ve had from those who’ve been featured on the main blog indicates that they have been won over as loyal and active participants in the community there. One or two have even offered to contribute more posts.

Take home lesson – it’s never to soon to get readers actively participating in your blog!

So how do you do it? Here are a few ways off the top of my head:

• encouraging comments
• inviting guest posts
• running ‘projects’ for readers to contribute to
• run competitions
• emailing readers asking for feedback on aspects of your blog
• using polls and surveys
• inviting readers to email suggestions/questions
• asking questions and involving readers answers in future posts

I’m pretty sure that others will come up with a lot more ways than that – feel free to add your suggestions below.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Reward them by having a top commenter section on the sidebar. Allow readers them to see active discussions… all powered by plugins of course

  2. Hello Darren have found this link too at del.icio.us, but before I have found a link at your side from january this year, where u described how to find actual trends, very cool.

    I also thought about a jobboard at my blog have the possibility but the problem I think is, that the software from JobCoin is only in english available.

    I als have read today a german post, where they told us that it is better to write in Chinese or in Korean language than in German to earn money.

    What i wanted to know maybe you can tell me.

    How depends the traffic of the blog for a good working jobboard!

    Could it be that the jobboard can increase the traffic or should traffic be there, before starting such business?

  3. I like the top commenter idea, that would be very useful from a commenting point of view.

  4. Darren,
    I tried to capitalize on the huge surge of traffic for my new blog by doing a group writing project. It’s been 2 days or so, and no takers yet. It also seems that my traffic is finally starting to stabilize (a.k.a. die off).

    My main goal with this blog was to try to eventually rank high for SE traffic. I’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

    If I was averaging 1,000-2,000 Uniques per day, for the first week of the blog, wouldn’t it be REASONABLE to get at least ONE submission for a writing project?

    I just hope I haven’t gone and foobar’d the whole thing up.


  5. I’ve been trying to do this for a long time and now it seems it’s finally paying off. Slow by slow my readers are starting to respond to my questions and getting involved.

    Thank You

  6. Trying to develop interaction from readers is difficult. I tried a few polls on my site, which generated some respsones — not bad. I have had a 10-question survey online now for 2 weeks and am getting meager responses. I’m wondering if people see a poll as a quick little responce, but a survey more taxing and probing. Any thoughts?


  7. Excellent post!

    It’s so true. Being welcomed warmly is the best feeling in the world. Bloggers should show more heart. Spread the love around!

  8. Mike Wheel says: 12/05/2006 at 7:58 am

    Hi Darren,

    I agree and would add that a widget like http://www.whooiz.com or mybloglog offers
    Building a community is something that is organic and will grow over time…increasing the uptake will help with great little widgets like this.

    These widgets in my opinion are better bing than adsense ads and so forth :)

  9. Darren, I had to chuckle when you acknowledged that you gleaned this strategy from your earlier years in church work. My gramma was the consummate pro at getting new church members involved. They felt so welcome and included I don’t think they knew what hit them. Even though she was a stay-at-home mom and gramma, she was always out recruiting people for this or that project for church or the League of Women Voters.

    When I became a business owner, I tried to emulate her incredible self-taught networking style when I attended chamber or other mixers and events in my area. It worked GREAT. I had never thought of applying that to blogging until this post.

    I shall try it – Thanks!

  10. Darren – Thanks for your thoughts. As a pastor, with a recently started blog, I appreciated your thoughts both on church and blog involvement. It needs to be easy to become a part of a community, but that community must have high expectations. There is a balance between being accessible to all and maintaining expectations of an active community. Thanks!


  11. Hi Darren !
    I just created my first ‘interactive’ blog this weekend where I’m asking for
    a lot of input from my readers, and then I checked your posting for today
    and found this article ;)
    Great timing for me – I appreciate your advice & insight as always.

    Take Care,

  12. A very popular blog can do well giving small jobs to their readers.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on asking your readers for work as a way to build readership and traffic.

  13. My challenge is that a lot of the people who come to my site are casual web surfers, who don’t have their own blogs, sites or a lot of confidence. How do I give them a job?

  14. Building a community is essential for successful blogging -I’ve experienced it my hungarian blogs-. In my humble opinion it’s harder to reach a community of 100-200 people than to reach a community of 1000-1500 people…

  15. mohdsham says: 12/05/2006 at 7:26 pm

    Very good idea for thought., but the respond are very slow.
    Anymore tips?


  16. This idea must be floating around! because befor reading this, I just posted a 1question interview to readers of my blog!

    people like to share, i am learning… and that makes me want to share more too

  17. Hello Darren:

    Your post has merits in so many ways. And it attracted responses, which validate your points.

    First I’d like to address the question by Andrea the Consultant, if I may. People hunger for connections, an opportunity to connect with you and other like-minded individuals will be welcome if sincere. The other two things people all have in common are:

    * opinions (here you ill need to be a good host)
    * skills (and they may not be aware of them – you mention lack of confidence)

    These commonalities need a platform and a skilled facilitator to shine through in whatever form they may come.

    The other great point you (Darren) make is making people feel useful. That can also be done by embracing *their* project. Two examples:

    * online – you mentioned this in your post. I participate in other people’s projects. I did so on CK’s blog [http://www.ck-blog.com/cks_blog/] and David Armano’s blog [http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/]. Both have shared the results of the conversation with their readers/community and given us all a chance to extend the thinking further. So they made us feel included and useful in a professional setting. This can be transferred to any kind of project, of course.

    * live – I also moderate a listserv for a professional community that meets on a monthly basis. This is Fast Company magazine readers’ network in Philadelphia. This year, the way I allowed people to participate at leadership level was by supporting *their* projects. This led to the creation of subgroups within the community. These are specialized networks that are interested in a specific topic or type of project. One, the Career Transitions, caters to a well-defined audience both inside and outside the original network. The other, Purple Cow Brainstorming Circle, is a vehicle to take to market ideas and I brought in from the outside. Now we have the benefit of many voices at leadership level — yes, I ruffled my own feathers as the two co-conspirators are quite different from me and that is good. And structured and processes that can sustain better the greater community.

    We all have a desire to feel useful and to count vs. be counted. A good thought to keep in mind… and act upon.

  18. THanks for the tips. I’ll think about how I can put them into action.

  19. This is one of the best posts you’ve ever written in my opinion.

    It’s all about getting your readers to own your blog. Then they feel like the content is – in a way – partly theirs.

    I think I implement every idea you listed above. I’ve been plugging away at it for several months and am steady, progressive, organic growth.

  20. I have started doing the guest posts as a way of introducing more content and different “voices”

    I have found that posing questions gets a good response, e.g. Do your ever overeat?

    I have a question on a related issue. How do you build good community in forums? I sometimes provide a link at the bottom of blog entries if I think it relates to my forum topics (emotional eating, insomnia, mental health, stress management) but someone suggested to me that blog readers and forum users may be a different audience.

    Any help appreciated

  21. Hey another great idea man. I’m all about networking and mentoring which is how this comes off to me in a virtual sense. Definitely going to work on ways to include it in the new blog.

  22. Another helpful hint. Thanks dude.

  23. […] The blogger who owns the blog wins because they get to take a break and keep their blog ticking over, they get to involve another blogger (remember giving readers jobs can be a great way to increase ownership of your blog by them) and they get a fresh perspective on their topic. […]

  24. […] setting tasks or homework for your users as a way to increase participation in this post and this one. If you already have a blog with a large amount of loyalty and participation this can be a good […]

  25. Thanks for the helpful tips……I will try it sure!



  26. […] Give readers a job to do on your blog – bizarre but it works […]

  27. […] but one of the best ways to build a sense of engagement and ownership within your readership is to give readers jobs. You can’t do this with everyone of your readers but it is amazing how many people […]

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