Creating blog content is a great way to attract new readers, to get SEO benefits for your blog, and to establish your authority. But it shouldn't be treated as just a one way communication vehicle. You're not just pushing information out into the world.
Your blog will be more effective if you can establish a real relationship with your readers. Create a community that they want to be part of (see Chris Brogan's take on why businesses should create community and then work to keep it).
How to Create Community Using Your Blog
Here are 10 ways you can deepen the relationship with your blog readers and establish a sense of community, bringing them back to your blog more often. At the end, I'd like you to add to the list by providing your best ideas on how to create community.
1) Invite them to comment
People are more prone to engage with you if you ask. And don't just say, “Please leave your comment below”. No, ask them a relevant question. Ask them to contribute to the discussion. Consider it a challenge to get someone who's never commented before to comment on your blog! Getting blog comments is a way to start creating community.
2) Notify them that you replied to their comments
Use a tool to notify them that you're responded to them. Comment tools like Disqus include this. “Reply Me” is a popular (but aging) WordPress plugin so it may become defunct soon. More recently, Comment Luv Premium (my favorite commenting tool) has added a reply notification feature.
3) Comment on the blogs of your commenters
Now that you have people commenting, return the favor. Go to their blogs and comment on them (and share them in social media). Help them create community on their blogs as well! I'm sure you'll see how making connections with your readers can help expand your reach in online world.
4) Ask them to connect with you in social media
Ask your community to connect with you in social media in several ways. Some people require repetition to get the message! Put a badge or widget in the sidebar. Many bloggers use Facebook Like boxes in their sidebar, but if your community hangs out more on Twitter use a Twylah widget instead. Put a call to action in your blog posts (pick the most important social media platform to focus on). Put all of your profile links in your about page.
5) Connect to readers and share their content in social media
You can tell who's sharing your posts when they mention you in social media. Make sure you connect to those people. Take the time to find some of their blogs and to comment and share. You should appreciate people who share your content and take the time to mention you! There are other social sharing sites you can use outside of Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make use of niche sharing communities like BizSugar for example.
Take a look at this video called BizSugar is a Small Business Networking Community
6) Start a forum or group for your readers
Consider launching a group or forum for your readers. This is a place where you can really engage with them much more deeply. For example, Ms. Ileane has the Blogger group in Facebook and I have the Small Business Marketing Forum group in LinkedIn for my readers. Any social network that supports groups can be used to create community.
7) Mention and link to their blogs in your posts
When you write posts, take the time to mention some of your readers or their blogs. Make sure you link to them so they can get some search benefit and they may notice the “ping” from your blog that tells them about the link. Create community by being interactive and responding to questions from your readers.
8) Invite the Better Writers to Guest Post on Your Blog
One way to really get to know one of your community members is to have them guest blog on your site. You could also consider writing for their site if it met your criteria in terms of quality and size.
9) Be Personal, Admit Mistakes
We love facts, but people connect to humans. Share a bit of yourself and add personality to your posts, talk about your family or your pets. Also, share some of your failures or mistakes. This will deepen the connection.
10) Provide great value with your content
At the end of the day, they'll come back more often if the content is valuable, teaches them something or gives them ideas.
How Do You Create Community?
I know you have some great ideas. What are the best ways you've seen to build blog community? Let me know in the comments!