Nurturing Your Users to Grow a Blog Community

nurturing blog readers

Modern marketing puts the consumer first, right? How might you measure the success of your blog with this in mind?

An excellent blog is more than a traffic-attracting lead-conversion engine. Making and retaining customers might be your bottom line, but a thriving blog has a community feel to it. If you treat your blog like a tool for making money, it will show in your writing and your set-up.

You need to be aware of your blog's function within your business without forgetting that you are communicating with people with real lives and that you are a real person too.

If you treat your blog with care, like a place where like-minded individuals can hang out, learn and be entertained, then you'll be naturally and authentically doing the things that lead to conversions, engagement, and sales.

How Do You Nurture a Blog Community?

Your blog is your yard, your gaff, or your manor, or however else you want to put it. People will look to you as it's leader and expect you to set the tone.

Be the leader to gain active readers who are willing to start discussions and conversations, and who are invested in you as well as what you have to say. Behave the way you would like others to behave. If you want more engagement on your site, ensure that you are engaging too by liking and replying to comments.

Express your style and your ethos in everything you touch, in every communication you make.

Email

email marketing

Your email list is one of your most valuable assets because you own it - no-one can take this subscriber or customer list away from you by changing an algorithm. Hello, Facebook or Google.

Email allows you a direct line into the inboxes of interested parties. You may not see every post on Twitter, but if I send you an email, what are the chances that sooner or later you will see it?

A Twitter or Facebook post can be ignored, but in the end, people do something with email: they read the headline and then act on it, say by reading it, forwarding it, archiving it or flagging it for later. Even if you delete the email, you at least had a chance to see it and decide what action to take, which is unlike other forms of communication used by social media marketers.

If someone is on your email list, it's because they have opted into hearing more from you. That's a perfect place from which to start a conversation. You have already established some trust between the two of you.

Between the two of you - email is an intimate kind of communication. You could say that it's like being invited into someone's home. If that's the case, then perhaps it would be wise to act accordingly.

This is not the place for the hard sell that would have got you booted from the doorstep. Upset your readers now and they won't invite you in again. You want to be a regular, welcome visitor, so be considerate, maybe bring gifts.

Have you ever been surprised to receive an email from someone famous or extremely successful? A note from someone you respect or has helped you, even if only to say that they received and appreciated your message, can be uplifting. A personal note to a reader can take your communication, and thus your connection with them, to a new level.

Social

With social media, your audience has an audience.

When somebody likes one of your posts on Facebook, for example, that individual's followers also have the opportunity to see that he or she engaged with it.

Communicating online has become a bit like a public phone conversation carried out via loudspeaker, except that people listening are doing so because they choose to. Unlike in the physical world, the online audience can tune you out with the click of a button or the scroll of a wheel, and if you're coming off as an ass, they will.

Since you're conducting yourself in public, make an effort to be your most charming, won't you? Be encouraging and friendly. Be helpful and resourceful.

Check in on your social media platforms regularly and don't just stand in the corner; be active and engage. Read and re-post articles. Go ahead and like articles and leave meaningful comments in relevant groups.

By making an effort to engage on social media, you'll avoid using social networks only to post links back to your blog, which equates to holding a sign with an arrow on it. It's good to help readers find their way to your content, and this might grow your audience somewhat, but it's not nurturing your blog community, which can take your blog to the next level.

Consider providing value for your Twitter users by scheduling a TweetChat on a relevant topic with a central speaker and educator, who, let's face it, will probably be you. By doing something like this, you'll be creating a community, beginning within your existing community.

Take a look at a resource like TWChat to see how this might work.

Another useful tool for building community via Twitter is Commun.it, which you can use to track where your engagement is coming from on Twitter. It prevents comments, and thus opportunities to build community, from slipping through the net unobserved.

Retargeting

The practice of retargeting refers to displaying ads to visitors who have been to your website but left before completing a purchase or whatever your desired action was. So, for example, if a visitor reads your blog post but decides not to buy the promoted e-book, you can make it so that this visitor sees ads relating to your eBook offer while they are surfing elsewhere, including social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Various retargeting ad companies exist to serve these adverts across networks of websites and across different devices. Adroll is one such firm, aiming to keep visitors engaged with sites they have visited and persuading them to return.

Retargeting, then, is a great way to keep your voice and your brand in front of potential customers. These ads can keep your blog in the consciousness of your visitors and can encourage them to return when they are ready to make a purchase or complete another desired action.

Just as when these firms are creating retargeting ads, it's good for you to remember that social media platforms have their own etiquette, preferred content types and users. Rather than ever trying to force your existing web content onto very different social media networks, take some time to modify them to please each set of users. In order to look after your readers on social media, try actively turning some of your posts into shorter, social-media-only content to satisfy their desire for your content directly on their social media channels without them having to click away.

Tools like Buffer are exceptional at scheduling and not bad at shaping your content to fit various social networks, but often you need to roll your sleeves up and get in there yourself. There's nothing like the human touch when it comes to reshaping your existing content for other platforms and devices.  

Comments

blog comments

Of course, you're going to reply to comments, right?

Receiving comments is evidence that you're doing something right. Responding to comments can demonstrate that you value what people have said, shows that you are active and gives you yet another opportunity to communicate with visitors, show your expertise and to remind readers that you are a real human being.

If tumbleweeds are still blowing through your comment section, don't worry. Analyze. Could you make your calls to action more prominent or more frequent? Will adding the word 'now' make a difference?

Consider the rhythms of your audience. Are they students on holiday or busy moms? Is a sports season just starting and how will this impact you and your community?

Far more people read blogs than comment on them. If everyone who read your blog also commented, you'd have to scroll for a very long time to reach the bottom of the page. Not receiving comments is not the same as not getting traffic.

Note that being first on a web page is like being first in line at a buffet. For most people, they are more likely to leave comments when someone else has done so beforehand.

When Facebook's 'like' buttons tell you how many of your friends have already liked what you're reading, they're encouraging you to join this community. When none of your Facebook friends have 'liked' a particular page, Facebook makes it sound exciting by saying: "Be the first!"

They know that it can take time to get commenting off the ground. Be bold about asking for comments on your blog. Reply promptly and considerately to encourage more of the same.

You should even respond to negative comments, but don't get pulled into a flame war. And don't start one. Be professional and respectful, take points on board, no matter how ludicrous. You don't have to agree with each and every comment. A negative comment is a great opportunity for you to show that you take what your customers or potential customers say seriously. If the comment is justified, thank the contributor, admit the problem and tell the commenter how you have fixed it or how you intend to tackle it.

Dealing with Aggression on Your Blog

One thing to consider is the line between a valid, negative comment from a visitor and hate mail from an internet troll. An internet troll benefits from the anonymity of the online world and posts comments with the intention to discredit, frustrate, and anger other users, including you, the blog owner, of course. Genuine trolls are looking to upset you and for another reason to comment.

It's a good idea to have a policy in place regarding how people are expected to communicate with one another via your website. This way everyone is clear on what is considered constructive and what is not acceptable.

If a negative rumor mill starts turning in your comments section, disable it with the facts. No need to be emotional. Let the facts speak up and settle the minds of anyone reading those messages. If the rumor is true, then admit it. Your transparency and openness on your blog builds trust and your sense of integrity.

A troll is more like an anger junkie or a professional jerk. It's not about you. It's about him or her. And they're quite common. According to the Pew Research Center, almost three-quarters of internet users have seen online harassment and 4 out of 10 respondents had been on the receiving end.

In the event of being trolled - and the more successful you are, the more likely you are to attract trolls - you could try removing the fuel from their fire by not responding at all. Other moderation techniques include stealth banning or disemvowelling, the sometimes automated removal of vowels from a post to reduce its impact. Balance such options, however, against what you might gain from replying and coming across as reasonable, rational and professional in the face of adversity.

If you have built up a strong community, your following might jump to your defense, unbidden. While this can be very satisfying, do keep an eye on your tribe as they are not necessarily trained to deal with trolls and you might find things getting bloody unless you step in to defuse or close down the 'discussion.'

However, you choose to deal with the almost inevitable negative comments and trolls, know that you are the leader of your blogging community and that the vast majority of people are there because they are interested in what you and your followers have to say, and they are on your side.

Nurturing to Develop an On-Line Community

Some would say that creating an active, blogging community - one that goes on and thrives and has people chatting to each other even when your day is over - is the goal of creating a blog. Having this as your goal will steer you towards blogging excellence, which means that all the other things like gaining traffic and conversions will fit naturally into place as necessary components of your overall strategy.

Nurture your blogging community. Your blog is a virtual space. Your visitors and the connections you make with each other are real. Making and taking the time to foster increased dialog and respect among people who share interests and opinions is critical for a successful blog and overall SEO strategy.