5 Expert Lessons For Building Your Blog Community

by Donna Moritz on Dec 19, 2011

Nikki Parkinson at Nuffnang Blogopolis 2011Would you love to know how to grow your blog audience with an engaged, loyal community while building your profile as a trusted authority in your field?

Blogger and Winner of Australia’s Best Blog 2011 (as judged by the Sydney Writers Centre) Nikki Parkinson, has achieved this organically by applying simple social media strategies that are based around content and community.

I sat down with Nikki and asked her to share some of her strategies for building her blog audience over the past 12 months from 4000 to 46000 unique visitors per month (and 12,000 to 113,000 page views per month).

Nikki started her fashion and styling business, Styling You after a 20-year career in Journalism.

Initially creating her blog to market the styling component of her business, Nikki now regards it is an integral part of her success.

She now blogs about social media as well as fashion, and is highly sought after in Australia as a keynote speaker in social media, in particular the use of Twitter, blogging, and how to grow an engaged community.

Nikki provides fabulous advice for anyone wanting to build a community on their blog, while establishing themselves as a trusted authority in their field:

1. FOCUS ON YOUR CONTENT

Build Content First – Nikki is passionate about content and her daily posts reflect this across her blog, as well as other social media channels.  She recommends that you forget all the “bells and whistles” and stop panicking about your stats and SEO.

As Nikki points out, “It means nothing unless you have great content on your blog, so start with building content first.  Too many people want to start now and get there tomorrow, with regards to building a large, dedicated following.  It takes time”.

Engage, Not Broadcast – Nikki recommends that you use your content to engage, and not just broadcast. In between posting on your own blog, and promoting those blog posts on social media channels, you should be engaging with your readers, responding to their comments, and posting on other blogs.

You should also aim to post consistently on your blog – starting with once per week and building it up to more regular posts.  Nikki uses a blogging calendar to record her ideas for content, draft posts and schedule her posts, and she now posts daily.

She blogs about fashion and style during the week, and then blogs about blogging and social media on a Saturday. Nikki regards consistency as a driving force behind her success, with readers tuning in to engage on particular days for favorite content topics.

“Blog at the same day, at the same time, as readers are creatures of habit”.  And as Nikki points out, connecting with readers is not just for personal blogs – it is just as important for business blogs.

Keep your Content Fresh - As much as she favors consistency, Nikki also recommends that you “surprise and delight” your readers to encourage engagement.

Nikki does this by varying content, asking questions of her readers, and posting at times about topics that are not typical of her regular posts, including charity events or causes. She is very supportive of a number of charities in Australia and she recently also blogged about Blogging for a Cause.

Another of her recent posts for a well known Australian Charity received more than 5000 shares on Facebook and demonstrated why the reach and influence of a blog can be very powerful.

2. A VISIBLE COMMUNITY BUILDS A VISIBLE COMMUNITY

As Nikki says, “You have to engage with the community in order to have the community come to you”.

Therefore she recommends that you visit, read and comment on other blogs within your own niche, as well as outside of your niche, and talk to other bloggers.  When a reader comes to your blog and sees other comments there, they say to themselves “This is a nice place to hang out” and will stay, comment and engage with you, as well as engaging with other visitors to your blog.  Not all of your readers will be other bloggers, but engaging with bloggers is a good platform from which to start “community-building” from.

A visible community builds a visible community.

3. GET SOCIAL OFFLINE

Most bloggers are blogging in isolation, so social meet-ups are beneficial.

Nikki recommends meeting up with other bloggers and businesses in your niche so that you can engage and connect with them both online and offline.   Conferences are also great for making connections and building your following.

When you come together with other bloggers, you always pick up something new, because everyone has something different to share – and bloggers are GREAT at sharing information.

4. KNOW WHERE AND HOW TO REACH YOUR AUDIENCE

Know Where To Hang Out – It is important that you know where your audience is hanging out – and this largely depends on your blog “niche”.  Most bloggers are extremely active on Twitter, but your readers may be hanging out more on Facebook, especially if they are not bloggers themselves.

On your blog posts, ensure that you have options to share to ALL of the major social media platforms.

Think About Timing – You should schedule posts at times when you know that your audience is online.

For Nikki, this involves posting once to Facebook and then 5 posts throughout the day on Twitter at key times that she knows her audience is interested and online.

As Nikki says, for her, “Evening is the key”.  Her target market is mums, and they are hanging out online after they put their kids to bed.

The times at which your target market is online may vary depending on your niche, but as a general rule, Nikki recommends that you consider posting early in the morning, mid-morning, lunchtime, afternoon (for commuters) and in the evening.

Try New Platforms - Nikki also points out that you should try and test new Social Media platforms, especially if your followers are using them.

She has found visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to be beneficial, as they are image based and provide graphic interest to readers. The graphics or pictures also easily link back to your blog.

“If you are a lifestyle blogger, the visual social media channels are really good and they are effectively like mini blogs” says Nikki “You also get to write a few words or a sentence about the image, which encourages people to follow you, share and comment and connect back to your blog”.

5. RUN PROMOTIONS

In Nikki’s niche, fashion and style, it is very easy to run successful competitions directly from a blog.

She points out that this works well for lifestyle and personal blogs as people love free products and giveaways. In the case of Nikki’s niche, giving away a handbag, clothes or beauty products gets her followers excited – what is not to love?

Nikki says that promotions can also work very well for other types of businesses, if you think about the type of promotion and what you give away. “If your product has a wide range of appeal and your market is wide, promotions can be very successful.

The key is to know your readership and what makes them excited about the possibility of winning something”.

Nikki also points out that by bundling together 10 or 15 prizes, readers have more chance of winning and this gets more response than for a single prize.

Listing your promotion on a competition site can be a good lead generator and brings readers that wouldn’t have found you otherwise.  Nikki gains 500 to 1000 email subscribers with each new competition and these posts are viewed up to 30,000 times in a month!

It is, however, also important to know the regulations for competitions, sweepstakes and promotions in your Country, State or Territory and to follow these guidelines.

FINAL TIPS FROM NIKKI

In growing a loyal, dedicated readership on her blog, Nikki has established herself as a “Trusted Authority” in her niche.

This has generated industry recognition and the attention of major brands and sponsorships. It has also resulted in numerous paid speaking engagements and being paid as a guest blogger on one of Australia’s most successful blogs, Kidspot and Kidspot’s sister site,  Justb.

Nikki also acknowledges the impact of winning two major awards to the growth of her profile. In addition to her 2011 Best Blog win, her blog has been shortlisted for other awards, and regardless of whether she wins these awards or not, it has given her visibility and credibility.

In Nikki’s words, “Awards make a difference to the way you are perceived in the blogging world”.   Her success is also testament to the benefits of creating quality content, and investing the time to get to know your readers, engage with them, and therefore build your community “organically”.

Do you have a blog as an integral part of your business?  What strategies have worked for you to grow your community, increase exposure for your brand and build your personal profile through blogging?

 

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Image source: Danimezza.com

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Post Author

Donna Moritz is a Social Media Strategist and Visual Marketing Specialist – and the founder of Socially Sorted, a Social Media Marketing Consultancy in Queensland, Australia. Donna has a special interest in relationship marketing + helping businesses integrate social...

  • Taty Rivera-Hindes

    “Engage, not broadcast” I couldn’t agree more! Great article Donna!

  • http://www.stylingyou.com.au Nikki Parkinson

    Thanks for interviewing me Donna!

  • workingwomenaus

    Brilliant article.  The bloggosphere is quite overwhelming – where do you engage? How often? How do you grow your following?  This really answers all of those questions.

    BTW, I love Nikki’s blog, not because I’m into fashion (I have NO idea about fashion) because she’s a brilliant businesswoman.

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Absolutely!  I think that is what is great about Nikki – she really does “get” how to build relationships and she can proudly say that her entire blog following was grown organically.  And even if you don’t love fashion, her content is engaging!  I love her Saturday blog posts too… all about….well…blogging!  I am so glad that the posts answered your questions.  She definitely has a lot of tips to give! 

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    You are so welcome Nikki - thank you for the excellent tips! It is always a pleasure to hear your wisdom when it comes to blogging and building community – I am glad we can share it with everyone.  I hope you had an awesome time at the Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards.  Have a great day!  

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Thanks Taty! Yes, I think Nikki has encapsulated social media in 3 words right there!  It was a pleasure to interview her and tap into her fantastic blogging insights!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jill-Chivers/732751575 Jill Chivers

    Really enjoyed this post Donna – I especially liked the part about building your content first, and not getting too hung up on the analystics/numbers.  It isn’t so much about the size of your list that matters – it is about connecting with the readers, who are real human beings.  I also loved the layout/format of this post – so easy to read!

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Thanks so much Jill!  I agree with your comment about engagement – there has been a big shift to engagement and connection, and you are right, there is no point in having a huge list if you don’t engage with them. Nikki’s list came BECAUSE she engaged, not because she marketed to them.  Building a list without engagement is like inviting everyone to the party of the year and then forgetting to offer them drinks, food, entertainment and ambience (oh, and taping their mouths over with duct tape so that nobody can chat!!). Have a great day!   

  • Monique Parker

    Great post Donna and so true… so many people I have spoken with recently are so panicked about SEO (you know, because they went to a seminar and some SEO guru told them all about it) – but there’s almost no point to SEO if your content isn’t amazing! These are some great tips that I think give a good overview of blogging, which is important – if you understand the strategy first, you can always learn about the tactics you need to employ. Love this article, thank you, I’ll be sending some of my clients this link to help them “get it” as you’ve summed it up better than I could!

  • Monique Parker

    ps Donna – would you be interested in having this article published in one of the publications I am part of? Eg Spark Magazine (that one Carren is on the cover of) plus a new one I’m launching in Feb? Direct message me on Facebook x

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Thanks so much Monique – that’s fabulous! Share away!  And yes, I think this is a game changer for SEO.  With Google changing the way it looks at content (Panda) and with Facebook changing it’s Insights up again (with “share” having so much weight re “people talking about this”), blogging and engaging in this way will be more and more important.   Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    excellent advice. My blog is a baby and inspiring articles like this help to motivate. I’m taking your advice to heart by trying to build a “visible community.” would love to know your thoughts on a recent post re: how to take control of content strategy: http://www.jessicaannmedia.com/how-to-take-charge-of-content-strategy/

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Thanks Jessica, and nice post!  I like how you mentioned that you need to have an “engagement team” and also your discussion re content coming first.  Absolutely! 

  • http://www.newlifeontheroad.com/ Lisawsdream

    I like the information shared here about 5 Expert Lessons for Bulding your blog community! Its interesting how much can be shared on a blog, and many people are so successful.
    Connecting with other like minded people sure is the ingredient that works the best! (for our niche!)

    Cheers
    Lisa

  • http://www.googaooolala.com/ Mama K

    Thank you Donna and Nikki for your post and advice. As a new mummy blogger I have much to learn and while I’m currently doing it for the love of writing, I’d love to grow my audience and appreciate all the advice! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  • http://twitter.com/beanie72 Adam Bean

    Hey Donna
    Great tips in this post, love the emphasis on quality content, engagement and building a community. A blog to me is just as much about listening to what your readers have to say, as it is about broadcasting your message.
    Cheers Beanie

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Absolutely Lisa!  Thanks for your feedback.  You are right, blogging has entered into another stratosphere, and around the world, big brands are starting to work with bloggers as they appreciate that they have a huge voice and connection with their target market.  We have had bloggers here in Australia sponsored by major airlines and companies targeting particular demographics such as parents, families.  Many of those bloggers built their communities just as Nikki has – organically and by connecting with others in their community.  As Nikki says “we are all independent publishers”.  Times have changed!

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Thanks so much Mama K!  I think doing it for the love of writing is the best way to do it.  That is what Nikki does, and most bloggers that are successful started out that way.  I am glad that the tips are useful for you.  Best of luck with your blogging journey! 

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Too right Beanie!  Thanks for sharing and I agree, blogging is all about listening.  I think that Nikki’s point about listening and contributing on other blogs is so valid.  If you provide two-way communication with other bloggers then they are more likely to want to communicate with you.  Part of the fun is hitting “publish” on a post, but then the real fun starts with the comments and interaction that happens afterwards. Have a great day! 

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    …and as per above, that’s fantastic that you want to share it with clients.  I know that Nikki is so supportive of other bloggers that are starting out and her tips are so relevant for anyone…from those that are doing it for the sheer fun of writing to those doing it as a business, to those doing it to further build and establish their position as a trusted authority in their niche… or even for companies/corporates.  The principles are the same!  

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  • Farrant

    Donna this is truly a fabulous article. You are fast becoming the go to person for social media information. Thanks for posting this awesome article. I loved it so much I liked it and when went and shared about you and socially sorted on FB!!  WELL DONE!!

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Thanks so much Sarah – and thanks for sharing.  Nikki’s tips are awesome!  

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Timing is an important factor when getting engagement with your blog audience. Luckily many blog platforms give you the option to schedule lists at a specific time that works best for your readers. Additionally, there are numerous applications available that help you schedule your social media promotions for you blog as well so you can target specific times to Tweet, Facebook, and Google+ your content.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.weitzman Michael Weitzman

    great tips, I really like your tips about engaging off line as well. I think connecting with other bloggers at events has really helped me get ideas and develop better content!

  • http://www.outsourcing-partners.com/ Steve Markson

    Thanks Donna for such great tips. Actually to building blog community content quality is main important factor to get traffic to blog. If user got fresh, unique and great quality content then no need to worry about traffic it will come directly spreading by those users.

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Thanks Steve – yes definitely, content is important, but I think Nikki is right too – knowing where your community is and what they want is a really great tip too. Thanks for your comment!

  • KateYB

    I’m a new blogger and this was so helpful! Thank you for the awesome tips. Now on to that content…..

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au/ Donna Moritz

    Hey Kate! I just visited this post again today and I am glad I caught your message, because funnily enough I ran into Nikki yesterday and we were chatting about this post. The advice still rings true 18 months on, and I am glad that you found it useful! Best of luck with your blogging journey!

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au/ Donna Moritz

    PS Nikki’s own blog has gone from strength to strength – she just got a book deal with a major publisher among other things, so keep blogging!

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au/ Donna Moritz

    Hey Michael – so sorry I missed your comment – glad you found the post useful! Yes you are right, events offline can be very powerful – that’s how I learned how to use Twitter – at a conference! But you are right, it totally helps with content ideas!

  • Nyoman Media

    Thank you Donna for the tips you provided, its need quality content that attracts readers and some social media help to increase the amount of traffic my blog, Nice Share

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au/ Donna Moritz

    Thanks so much for your comment Nyoman – glad you liked it!