Growing Your Blog Community

This month’s theme is “Grow Your Garden”.  I would love to write a post about gardening as a meditation tool, the joy of eating your own produce and how to organically keep weeds out of the garden.  I can’t.  I know my limitations and gardening is not in the cards for me right now.  Instead, I’m going to talk about growing your blog community.

I wish there was a magic formula when it came to growing your blog community and readership.  There isn’t and unfortunately the old adage slow and steady wins the race is most applicable.  It takes a long time and a lot of effort.

1.  Write from the heart

You’ve probably already heard this but I’ll say it again: Content is King.  Whether you have a particular niche or have a lifestyle blog where you cover a variety of topics, take time to craft posts that are well written (that includes proper grammar and spell check).  If you don’t write from your heart, find your voice and write authentically, readers will eventually become disinterested.  If you are copying another blogger thinking that can piggyback on their success or style, readers will smell a copy cat.  When I first started blogging I had no idea how many “mom blogs” there were out there until I started searching to see what other bloggers were about.  There are tons of them.  No, tons squared.  It was discouraging because it felt like this market was more than saturated and I would get lost in the shuffle.  Over time I realized that if I’m going to be in this for the long haul I had to forget about how huge the blogging ocean was and just do it because I enjoyed it.  I had something to say and knew that what I had to say was important to me regardless of how many people were reading it that particular day.

“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”
-Aibileen Clark

2.  Find a community of support

Blogging is an interesting beast in that there are so many bloggers out there but it can be a solitary job.  Even though, online, I’m surrounded by people with similar goals as myself, most of my real life friends don’t understand it.  It’s difficult for me to talk to my real life friends about my blogging goals, frustrations, projects.  They don’t understand what a blog hop is and are baffled by the concept of Google +.  Many of my real life friends read my blog and enjoy it but the support stops there.  They don’t know the work that goes into it and quit frankly I don’t want to go to the effort to explain it to them.  We support each other in other ways.  When it come to the ins and outs of blogging I need friends who already know the ups and downs.

Places like Oklahoma Women Bloggers, SITs and blogging conferences are a good way to find other bloggers you click with.  Not all blogging conferences are huge productions with hundreds of bloggers in attendance.  Smaller conferences like Bloggy Boot Camp, Arkansas Women Blogger Conference and Blog U are more affordable than the mega conferences and designed to foster relationship building.  It’s really hard to walk into a room full of strangers, I get it, but these are the times to put on your big girl panties and talk to someone new.  Remember that most of those women are feeling the exact same fear and insecurity you are.

3.  Comment comment comment

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.  The golden rule applies in both real life and online life.  If you want bloggers to comment on your blog you must first venture out into the bloggosphere and comment.  However, don’t just pepper the internet with “great post” “pinning” or “love this post, thanks for sharing”.  That’s not very authentic even if that is what you are really thinking.  Show the blogger that you love that you really appreciate what they had to say by leaving them a message that has a little meat to it.  You don’t have to write a novel, but a few thoughtful sentences go a long way.  Imagine how good you feel when someone comments authentically on your blog then leave them a comment that would give them that same warm and fuzzy feeling.

I’ll admit, spending time reading lots of blogs can be time consuming and frustrating when you think about how you should be working on your own posts.  I have about 30 blogs in my blog roll but I don’t visit each of those blogs every single day.  It’s just impossible.  In addition to blogging I have a real life and responsibilities.  I have found between 5 and 10 blogs that I really love and I try to visit most of them once a week and leave a comment.

Return the favor.  When someone comments on your blog, take the time to reply.  Show them that you appreciate that they took the time to read your post and comment on it.

4.  Make commenting easy and engaging

If you want people to comment on your blog, for the love, make it easy for them to do it.  There are a few plugins that help make commenting easier and more engaging.

CommentLuv  I love it when a blogger has CommentLuv attached to their comment section.  As I start to type it pulls my most recent post and then will display the link with my post.  You never know who will see a link to your post under your comment and click through because they thought it sounded interesting.  Having CommentLuv on your blog shows your commenters that you value what they have written too.

ReplyMe  What is the point to replying to your commenters if they have no idea you did so?  ReplyMe automatically sends them an email to let them know you replied to their comment.

Growmap Anti Spambot  Nobody wants spam comments, seeing them on my site makes me feel gross and violated.  Make sure your commenters are real people but don’t make them jump through hoops to leave a comment.  I prefer Growmap Anti Spambot over Captcha because it asks the commenter to prove they are a real person with just one click rather than making them decipher hard to read letters and numbers.

5.  Let go of the jealousy

I’ll admit it, I get a little jealous when I see other bloggers receive some sort of legit recognition.  When I see Huffington Post pick up someone’s post or when BlogHer releases their really awesome bloggers so everybody in the world should read them list or bloggers excitingly share that they made Babble’s Top 100 Voices; I can’t help but feel a little pang of jealousy and wonder why not me?  

When doubt and insecurity give you that ugly little tickle in your brain, stop it dead in it’s tracks.  Think about the good things you have done, the accomplishments you have made.  Reread one of your favorite posts and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Revisit your blogging goals and revise them.  Once you are sure you’re not going to have a pity party think about how excited and happy that other blogger must be for being recognized for their hard work.  Remember that they have probably been working on their blog for a long time too and they have felt insecure at times as well.

There you have it. 5 tips to help you in growing your blogging community.  But beware this is a s-l-o-w growing plant that needs a lot of love and tlc.  Don’t expect anything to happen overnight.

What advice do you have?

Oklahoma Women BloggersStephanie Clinton is a SAHM to two boys ages 9 and 4.  She loves their hugs and kisses but does not love wiping their snotty noses.  In her past life she has been a Gymboree teacher, an activity director at a retirement home, a business manager and a celebrity sighter.  She likes to think of herself as a pretty decent cook, artistic, crafty and sort of okay with a sewing machine.  She is a free lance writer, administrator for Oklahoma Women Bloggers and contributor to Metro Family Magazine.  In her free time (if there ever is any) she can be found reading, volunteering in her community, singing, avoiding housework but most of all blogging about her stay-at-home adventures.  Visit her at www.hugskissesandsnot.com

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12 comments

  1. Rose Marie B says:

    All great tips and JUST when I needed to hear them. I’m working on a little blog reinspiration mindset and I appreciate the encouragement. 🙂

    • Stephanie Clinton says:

      So glad you were encouraged Rose Marie. We all need a little pick me up every now and then.

  2. jen says:

    Great tips, Stephanie. I have mixed feelings about commenting and blogs as communities, but I’m still thinking about it all. In the past, I spent a lot of time commenting on other blogs, but it started to feel very forced — like I was just doing it to get something in return. I don’t want to spend energy obligating others for return visits. Now, I only comment if I really feel led to do so. That comment may only be “great post,” or “beautiful”, but the blogger knows I rarely comment, so hopefully, they know I really mean it. I also usually have established a relationship with the blogger before I comment – through email. Last Sunday the #BlogChat topic was commenting on blogs. It’s died off a lot. I think there have to be other social signals to measure the strength of one’s blog community. Most people respond to my posts on FB, Twitter or through email.

    • Stephanie Clinton says:

      Jen – I completely agree w/ you about not wanting to comment just for the sake of commenting. I don’t comment unless I really have something to say otherwise it can feel forced.

      I thought about writing my opinions on comments received via FB, Twitter, etc. but decided it could be it’s own post. I think a comment is a comment is a comment. No matter where it’s from you should count it toward engaging your audience. Until recently there seemed to be this feeling that only comments on your actual site counted toward your reach. Not any longer. There are so many ways to communicate w/ readers now that all of the social media platforms have to be taken into consideration when trying to measure how in touch you are w/ a community.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. Good input, Stephanie. CommentLuv is one of my take-aways from this post. I’m always pleasantly surprised to see that pop up on other blogs when I’m commenting and wondered what it was.

    I think it’s helpful to have business cards for my blogs. For less than $15 one can get pre-made cards at an office supply store and format them on the computer. For less than $20 VistaPrint is a great option for a polished card. When you’re out and about and find yourself telling someone about your blog (and how else would they know?) it’s easier/faster to pull out a card and hand it to them than search for something to write on (that they’re actually going to keep!) Yesterday somebody wanted a second Fat Bottom card because the picture was so cute (who doesn’t like fluffy ladies in bathing suits with tiny high-heel-shod feet??) she wanted to give one to her sister. Score!

    • Stephanie Clinton says:

      Glad you found something useful!

      Good point about business cards. It really legitimizes you as a writer when you can talk about your blog in a social and/or business setting and then whip out your card to show them you are serious about what you do.

  4. jen says:

    i LOVE CommentLuv. I need to find out if there’s a WP plugin for that. I struggled getting that installed on Blogspot, but I was able to make it work eventually. It’s a great way to reward your blog community.

    Recently, I stopped posting to my blog FB page. I just put it all on my personal page now. My impressions were so low and i didn’t want to pay to post. I didn’t kill it, but it’s hidden now. I always look to bloggers like Mom Spark and Angela England for building blog communities. They’ve done so well with this.
    jen recently posted…Bungalows in Happy ColorsMy Profile

    • Stephanie Clinton says:

      I’ve become very disenchanted w/ FB at well. It used to be a wonderful way to interact w/ readers. Now FB have changed how the game is played and posts hardly get seen. Grrrrrrr. I’m w/ you, I refuse to pay to promote my posts. It’s very disappointing.

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