Bird on my roof
Creative Commons License photo credit: gotosira

For part two in my series on building community around your blog, I want to talk about community decentralized – or community that is built on websites that you do not own or control. In the first part, we discussed community that you have by default upon launching your blog.

This relates directly to what Chris Brogan wrote about outposts. In short, Chris spoke about building community through his “outposts” that he maintains at sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more. Sites that he doesn’t control. The idea is to offer value at thess sites, but the end game is to bring people back to the home base. In this case, his blog. This is a great way to look at it.

Promote your existence on these other networks, but always promote your homepage as your homepage on those links. Link people to your new stuff, your new posts and so on. Your national marketing campaign shouldn’t be promoting a Facebook link, it should be promoting your main website. I’m not saying you have a national marketing campaign, of course. What I am saying is that Facebook controls You don’t.

Outposts can take many forms. Consider this list to be a good chunk of the space, but not an all-inclusive one.


Everyone loves Twitter. People love it so much that, sometimes, they try to apply random rules to it. Chris refers to these as the “you’re doing it wrong” rules. These rules can’t stick because Twitter is a flexible medium. The reason is it flexible is because of the great equalizer: you are able to follow or unfollow whatever you want. If you like something, follow it. If you don’t, unfollow it. Simple enough.

For example, one of the “rules” that is sometimes floated around is the idea that nothing on Twitter should be automated. This is short sighted and over controlling.

The problem with this is that Twitter is what you make of it. Many of us in this techy, social media space use RSS feeds to subscribe to our favorite publications. But, outside of this space, people generally don’t know what those are and prefer to subscribe to their favorite sites in a different manner, through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail or something else. That’s right, some people look at Twitter as a way to subscribe to their favorite blogs and publications.

Creative Commons License photo credit: west.m

So, part of this is making your content available where people want to subscribe to it. Maybe you’re not ready to spend the time engaging with readers on Twitter. But, that is no reason not to offer, at the very least, a Twitter stream that receives notifications when a new post is submitted to your blog.

For an example, look at the @managecommunity Twitter account, which is tied to this site. It has 259 followers and is on 36 lists. Not a ton, but apparently some people find value in it or they wouldn’t follow it. Maybe, at some point, I’ll interact from this account. I talk about community stuff on my main, general and personal @patrickokeefe account, so I don’t see the need, at this point.

Now, for another example, take a look at the @badboyblog Twitter account, which is the account for Bad Boy Blog, another site that I author. As you can see, mixed in with new post notifications, you’ll see me send out random tweets, retweet others and interact with people. This wasn’t always the case. I let the account gain some traction and then decided to step in and participate manually.

Participating manually is definitely a faster way to grow your community and, generally speaking, it is more rewarding. But, perhaps you don’t have time to do that. In which case, there is usually no reason not to at least offer a subscription feed for your site, to start building your outpost on Twitter.


When it comes to social networks, Facebook is the beast, of course, but there are other ones (more on that in a second). For the moment, let’s focus on Facebook.

Similar to how some people use Twitter to subscribe to their favorite publications, they do a similar thing on Facebook. The same basic ideas apply: if you can participate manually, it’ll usually grow faster. But, there is no reason not to at least offer a subscription fan page.

This is what I do (for the most part) at this time. I do this with and Bad Boy Blog, among other sites. I’m not doing nearly what I would like to do with the pages, in an ideal world, but I’m also one person with a limited amount of time. If you can do more, you’ll take an even greater advantage of it.

Social Bookmarking and Sharing

Duomo from afar
Creative Commons License photo credit: Tavallai

Obliviously, there are some well known major players here. Digg, StumbleUpon, delicious and so on. Try to determine what social bookmarking sites resonate with your audience by looking at your traffic referrers and by asking your visitors for they use. Once you know the most popular bookmarking sites with your audience, add badges or prompts for those sites on your entries on your site where people can easily share your content.

But, when it comes to sharing, don’t get caught up in just links and bookmarking. Think about your audience and the content you are sharing. For example, I’ve heard Darren Rowse of ProBlogger say that when he was developing Digital Photography School (his most popular site), one of the best ways he found to build his community was participating on Flickr. It makes perfect sense. His site is aimed at photographers and photographers use Flickr.

Other Social Sites, Depending on Your Audience

The message here, from Darren’s example, is clear: think about your audience.

For instance, when it comes to social networks, Facebook is the big dog, but don’t forget about other players that are important to your audience. A niche social network that reaches the exact audience that your site is focused on can be even more valuable to you than Facebook, even if Facebook is 10,000 times larger.

Always tread carefully and be sure to respect their guidelines and make sure it is OK for a blog or a website to have it’s own page or profile. If in doubt, always ask the site administrator first to be certain. While a niche network can be very beneficial, if you aren’t respectful, it can also be very damaging.

But, this just doesn’t apply to social networks. It applies to all social sites. Bookmarking, forums, other blogs, etc. Go where the audience you want to reach is. Niche sites can be bigger for you than the largest sites in the world because they are more focused and there is less competition.

Above all, while keeping the end game in mind, be sure that you are an exemplary citizen of the sites that you participate in or maintain outposts at. That, as much as anything else, will lead to your success.