5 Expert Lessons For Building Your Blog Community
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Would 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?
Image source: Danimezza.com