Home Away from Home: Building Community OFF Your Blog

This is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants (an epic journey of over 75 guest posts). Want to learn more about Matt & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

Photo cred: Poe Tatum

I talk a lot about building community, and then I talk about it some more. David, as the community manager of Scribnia, has probably talked your ear off about community as well. But, you know, there’s always room for just one more “building community” post – and this time, I won’t focus on what you should be doing on your blog – but instead, giving you a few ideas to cultivate community elsewhere.

Get active on other networks

Now we all know the big three (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) – those are no brainers. But what about Brazen Careerist, Twenty Something Bloggers, and (wink wink) Scribnia? You’ve probably heard of them, but are you really using them? These networks are out there for a reason – and they’re a great resource to tap into if you’re looking to discover new bloggers and network with new people. Everyone doesn’t hang out in the same place – so if you’re only hanging around Twitter and Facebook, you’re missing out on a huge untapped resource of amazing people. Invest some of your time building relationships around the web and leave some breadcrumbs that will lead folks back to your neck of the woods.

RSS Subscribers

Have you ever thought about this one? We’re all constantly urging people to subscribe to our blogs through e-mail and RSS reader. Why? Because it helps us build “loyal” community of readers. This is obviously an imperative goal (that you should be measuring regularly) throughout the development of your blog. But RSS subscribers can be both a blessing and a curse. They may always read your posts, yet they might not ever visit your actual site – thus missing out on that big ol’ community thing you have going on.

What’s the point? You need to invite and entice your RSS subscribers to click through. How? ASKING QUESTIONS is a good place to start. Make an effort to objectively ask questions in your post that instigates a response from your readers. In other words, force them to come to your “hood” in order to see people’s responses (and hopefully leave one of their own). The only way to get people to click through their Google Reader is if you give them good reason to.

Email

With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, and a plethora of other social networks, e-mail seems to be a dying trend. But it shouldn’t be, at least not for a rock star community builder such as yourself. Every time someone leaves a comment on your blog, you are blessed with an email address – or as I like to call it, a “gateway to a relationship”. Use it (wisely – not spammy) to your advantage. A blog can be a great place to start a discussion, but email can be a beautiful way to keep it going. Your friendships and connections don’t have to stop in the comment section – and taking the time to follow up via email (when it makes sense to do so) shows that you are really committed to building a relationship with that person.

IRL

Ah yes, three letters that we are starting to fade away: IRL or “in real life” – there’s still that distinction between our online lives and the ones we live when we’re not in front of a computer screen – but it’s fading fast – the two are quickly becoming one in the same. So when we talk about building community, it would be stupid not to mention the great connections and friendships that can be found over a cup of coffee or an ice cold Black and Tan.

The beauty of blogging and Social Media is it provides a gateway to opportunity – whether it be personal or professional, making friends or finding clients – it may all start with a blog or a tweet, but it doesn’t ever have to end there. Focus on building community and relationships everywhere – and your blog will become a much more fulfilling place for you and your readers to hang out.

Why Won’t Bloggers Dig Into Detail?

dig
Photo cred: Damien Sachs-Dromsön

Do we care more about the popularity of our content than the advancement of our industry?

In order to appeal to as many people as possible, professional bloggers have to make sure that their content can be consumed by readers of different levels of experience.  The beginners have to be able understand what they’re talking about.

The issue is then, what about the more experienced readers?  When the “thought leaders” limit the depth of their thoughts and advice, experienced readers get to a point where they can’t learn any more from reading blogs.

The growth of the industry is halted.

I think that blogging is slowly becoming the heart and voice of so many industries as more and more professionals are turning to blogging to learn, share and grow.  If we don’t help them grow beyong the “beginner” level, the advancement of the industry will suffer.

It’s not just blogging.  Look at conferences. Same speakers, same topics, same shit every time.  Makes sense…if a conference wanted to dig deeper, “beginners” wouldn’t find it valuable.  Less money to be made.

Will this problem become even greater as blogs grow in popularity and influence?  Could young and upcoming professionals become so used to learning and researching with blogs and social networks, that they’ll forgot how to conduct research using other methods?

For contrast, look at the science world. My friend Jon just started a blog that focuses on bridging the gap between the ivory tower and the common man.  This is because when scientists and academics write about their work, they don’t write to get more readers, they write to be acknowledged for their innovations within their industry.  They don’t dumb it down at all.  Sure it created a disconnect with the common man, but science continues to grow and innovate as a result.

If you’re used to information always being brought to you, it’s very hard to go back to seeking it out.  When there’s nothing left to learn from blogs, where do they go to continue to learn?

Help me out here…share your thoughts.

The Long Tail Approach to Blog Outreach

Photo cred: Rob!
Photo cred: Rob!

The Long Tail is a concept that is used for a number of business practices.  In sales, wikipedia defines it as “selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items.”

When you have to reach out to bloggers, your first thought might be to search for the top bloggers in the category, and reach out to the “A-list”, hoping to hit it big.

The problem with this method is that so many others think the same thing.  This means that the bloggers you’re reaching out to have been contacted by countless others looking for the same thing and you get lost in the noise.

Instead of reaching out to a few of the “A-listers”, try reaching out to more bloggers that aren’t considered the top of their class, but have still built up a strong community of readers.  Look for the bloggers that will have the time to read your email, and write a post about your cause or message.

  1. You’ll get more content written about you.
  2. The content might be of better quality, as they’ll have more time to commit.
  3. If enough “B-list” bloggers write about you, an “A-lister” may find out about you anyway.
  4. A smaller blog might have a much tighter community, with more trust… which translates to more trust in your brand since they’re writing about you.
  5. You’ll be able to target niche audiences.

That’s not to say you should completely ignore any mainstream publications/”A-list” bloggers however it certainly shouldn’t be your only focus.

Hat tip to Arik Hanson for inspiring this post.

An Epic Battle For Social Media Professionals

tankAre you truly committed to your brand?

If you’re a CEO you’re probably nodding your head.  If you’re just an employee, you might not be so quick.   For an employee, the success of their brand isn’t necessarily directly related to the success of their personal brand, and so the epic battle ensues.

If you have a personal brand network that overlaps with the community of the brand you work for, you will always face a dilemma of whether or not you should post content on your blog or on your brand’s blog, on your twitter account or your brands twitter account, etc… It’s your personal brand vs. your company’s brand.

You might have a GREAT idea for a blog post.  It’s one of those posts that you know, when you hit publish, the traffic and comments will just start rolling in faster than uncomfortable moments in a Ben Stiller movie.  It can go to either blog.  Where do you post it?

The answer is you give the content to your company’s brand, not your own.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but the brand of your company should always take priority.  Why? Because…

  • You still get credit for it.
  • You shouldn’t hold yourself above your company.
  • The better you do your job, the better you look in your boss’ eyes.
  • The better the company looks, the better you look.
  • They pay your salary.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own personal brands, that we forget our primary responsibility is to our company’s brand.  You have a job, do it well.

Will Increased Government Regulation Ruin Blogging?

Photo cred: Tuffer
Photo cred: Tuffer

I recently read this article about the Vogue model Liskula Cohen model suing the anonymous blogger (and winning).  There have also been talks of the FTC implementing disclosure regulations to ensure that “sponsored” content is always disclosed.  Seems that blogging may be coming under the legal spotlight.

How will increased legal regulation affect the blogosphere?

Well…it could have a positive impact:

  1. More responsible blogging. With no one to answer to, bloggers have been able to write anything and everything, whether or not it hurts others.  With a legal regulation in place, bloggers will be forced to blog responsibly.
  2. More respect for bloggers. With more responsible bloggers comes more respect for the blogosphere.  Blogs are increasingly becoming a go-to resource for news and information.  Respect will only catalyze this trend.
  3. Less noise. More restrictions usually means less content.  Legal regulations would eliminate a lot useless or repetitive content.

It could also have a negative impact:

  1. Less freedom. The beauty of blogging is the freedom it allows.  All someone has to do is set up a blog, and speak their mind to the masses.  Regulation would put a boundary on this freedom.
  2. Fear of punishment. Like any other law, the vast majority of people won’t actually read it in detail, but just understand the concept.  This means that a lot of people might not understand clearly, what they can or cannot say.  If bloggers are afraid to write for fear of being sued or punished, they may just not write at all.
  3. Removing a source of income. Regardless of whether or not people like sponsored blog posts, it has proven to be an effective source of income for many bloggers.  Enforcing disclosure may hurt the sponsored blogging market.

There are also a number of issues with these kinds of regulations:

  1. Enforcement. Pretty much impossible, without the investment of a great deal of money (more than should be spent on this issue).  It would have to rely on people reporting violations, and I’m not even going to get into how messy that can get.
  2. Grey areas. If someone reposts sponsored content without disclosing, are they also liable?  What if they repost content ruled as libel, can they also be sued?  It will be really hard to justifiably determine a line within these kinds of grey areas.

To this point the blogosphere has been largely self-policed.  While this has allowed for a very free and open platform, there is no official and effective system in place to ensure that the content is abiding by moral and legal standards.

Will government intervention impact blogging negatively or positively?  Are there better alternatives?  Share your thoughts.

14 Ways a Blog Will Help You Get a Job

keyboardNot everyone should start a blog…you should only start one if you are ready to commit to it and you have something to contribute.

If you think you can do that, then starting a blog is one of the most valuable tools you can utilize to get a job.

Starting a blog shows…

  1. your commitment to your field.
  2. your writing skills.
  3. your communication skills.
  4. your knowledge in your field.
  5. you… on search engines.
  6. how you deal with criticism and feedback.
  7. that you’re always thinking about issues and trends.
  8. your creativity.
  9. your persistence in maintaining the blog.
  10. your ability to bring new ideas to the table.
  11. your ideals and beliefs.
  12. your level of thought leadership in the community.
  13. your network and your ability to network.
  14. your love for what you do.

continue the list in the comments!  How else does having a blog help someone get a job?

The Blogger and the Box Salesman

A lesson in spreading your content.

The blog post title and link will be played by The Box

The blog post content will be played by The Stuff Inside The Box

The blogger will be played by The Box Salesmen

curtain
Photo cred: Kersten A. Riechers

Scenario 1

Box salesman: Hello sir, would you mind selling these enclosed boxes for me?

Sir: I have no idea what’s in those boxes…get away from me weirdo.

Scenario 2

Box salesman: Hello sir, would you mind taking a look in this box?

Sir: I don’t know who you are. What if there are bees in that box. Nothxbye

Scenario 3

Box salesman: Hello sir, would you like to have a drink on me?

Sir: Sure why not.

…a drink and a chat later…

Sir: What’s in those boxes?

Box salesman: Here…Take a look!

Sir: Wow…infinite wisdom! I’m going to share these with everyone!

Box salesman: HOORAH!

For those not so theatrically inclined…

Photo cred: Douglas Porter

Scenario 1 = Worst. Don’t ask someone to share (retweet) your post.
Scenario 2 = Better. Share your post with them, without asking them to share it…but if they don’t know you, they don’t trust you yet, and they probably won’t even look.

Scenario 3 = Best. Show interest in the person. Get to know them a little bit.  If you engage with the person, you won’t even have to ask them to look at your post.

Summary: If you don’t know someone, don’t ask them to share your post.  If you do know someone, and they haven’t shared your post already, just ask them to read it and leave it up to them if they’d like to share it or not.

Tip: Choose people that would actually be interested in your post, and ask them for their opinion on the topic.