Creative Commons License photo credit: Liz Grace

Pretty much every active, moderately read blog is a community. Most large blogs are large communities. In fact, forget the word blog, look at online publications in general. If they have traction, they have community. Even if they don’t have strong community features, a community manager or any of those things.

Don’t get too hung up on verbiage. Community isn’t a choice. The choice is how you engage and that is the focus of a three part series that I am beginning with this post, focused on building community around your blog and based on my recent talk at WordCamp Raleigh. Online community is dynamic. Your readers, subscribers and supporters are your community. That’s the same for any publication.

Online community is forums, blogs, social networks (like Facebook), microblogging (like Twitter), chat, groups, social bookmarking, geolocation and more. In this first part, we’ll discuss the community that you likely have by default when you launch your blog.

Good Content

When you create good content, you are building community. Take it more generally: do good stuff, build community. It may not get lumped into the community discussion often enough, but it is very true.

As a blog, to build community, you need content that people want to read, that they want to share, subscribe to and come back for. So, focus on your content as a first step toward building community as it has a direct impact on how successful your other community endeavors are.

E-Mail

Communities are built 1 by 1. For some, it may be a quick count to 10, 100, 1,000 and so on. For others, it might be much slower. There is nothing wrong with that. I was on a panel with Darren Rowse of ProBlogger and he said that you should love the readers that you have. If you have 3 readers, love those 3 readers and grow from there.

E-mail is a great way to build community because if you have a reader passionate enough to e-mail you about a post you wrote, you have something special. Also, randomly thanking people who leave good comments can be a great way to express appreciation.

Don’t ignore e-mail as a powerful community builder.

Blog Comments

The comments that people leave on your blog are building community. Comments on your blog are no different from posts on a forum. Look at them in the same light.

The people who spend time to write good or insightful comments, or the people who appreciate your content, are a great part of your community.

But, it doesn’t stop there with comments. You can do a lot with them to grow your community. One big thing you can do is to simply participate in the comments. Respond to those who leave comments, thank them and offer your thoughts. Discuss issues and engage with them, not only in your posts, but in the comments section, as well. This gives them an opportunity to get to know you and that’s a great thing for your community efforts.

In some posts, why not ask readers to comment on the post? Ask them a question, ask them for their thoughts, have a poll. It is a new post, it is community engagement and it may possibly lead to a follow up post with the results of your question.

Speaking of that, highlight good comments in that follow up post and in other posts that you do. You can make an entire post about a great comment from a reader. You could ask them to allow you to treat it as a guest post. This sort of attention helps people to feel valued and appreciated, which is huge, while also giving you more content.

Look to your comments for ideas for new posts. Did someone ask a question that you think should be addressed in a post? Raise an issue you’d like to talk about? Highlight their comment and respond, all in the same post. Beyond community, it’s more solid content for your site.

The key is to make readers feel like more than just readers – make them feel like appreciated members of your community.