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Building a Community on Your Blog
Community building on a blog is similar to community building on a social network or any other online forum and requires time, attention and patience. Not every company can successfully build, much less manage, an online community. Plus there are many legal considerations to review before embarking on building, monitoring and managing your own blog community. Check with a lawyer familiar with Internet law to understand your liabilities when you host or moderate an online community on behalf of your company.
Why would you want to cultivate a community on your blog? Here are a few reasons:
Online communities take time to cultivate. In fact, some can take months to see any growth or discussion at all despite all best efforts and best practices. Many people who have started and run online communities talk about their actions in terms of a garden such as:
Seeding Add conversation starters into an online forum where a community can build. In the case of a blog, each blog post is a seed, however, you can also seed the comments section of your blogs in meaningful ways to get people over their shyness of being the first to comment.
Weeding Eliminate inappropriate comments, but first establish your blog rules and define what constitutes a bad comment on your blog. Is it profanity? A link to pornography or other inappropriate material? A verbal attack against you or your company? A personal attack against another community member? Rules for engagement in your blog community should be part of your blog's terms of service or guidelines and policies and linked prominently from your blog.
Fertilizing Add your two cents to the comments. Even if someone else starts commenting, people want to hear from the blogger, a company rep or from you. Comments can stall out quickly when you don’t acknowledge when other people communicate on your blog.
How can you leverage a blog community? People usually join communities to communicate with others who have shared interests. Be transparent about your “ulterior motive” for forming and hosting an online community to build trust with your readers. Here are some ways to leverage an online community:
Get feedback. Your online community may be willing to tell you what they think about your company. Listen to what they say and ask for their opinions.
Do market research. Your online community can be a captive audience willing to fill out a questionnaire or respond to a survey or poll to provide you with market insights.
Provide customer service. A blog community can be a good place not only to identify issues customers might have with your company but also to resolve them publicly where everyone in the community can benefit.
Tap into word of mouth. Each member of your community is connected to dozens, hundreds or thousands of other people through social networks or their own blogs. Publish quality content and add easy ways for readers to share what they’ve read on social networks.
Hosting and managing an online community on your blog can be one of the most time-consuming parts of social marketing so make sure you are ready, willing and able to engage for the long-term. With the proper policies in place, quality content available for your blog readers, and thoughtful management of the comments and conversations, a blog community can become a powerful communications asset for your company.