If You Blog It, Will They Come?

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! March’s theme is blogging. In previous weeks I talked about blogging your dreams and about how bloggers are real people. This week I’m talking about the ins and outs of building community through blogging.

As I’ve mentioned before, I started blogging in 2003 but sort of kept to myself. I lurked on other blogs but didn’t comment, I didn’t participate in forums or social media and I was nervous about the prospect of having visitors to my blog. What if they didn’t like me? I wasn’t entirely happy with blogging alone, though, so I slowly engaged. I learned a few things. I am going to share what I learned and talk about my approach to building community. First, though, I must say that there are many ways to blog, and if you do things differently that is fine. In fact, it’s better than fine, because you are not me. Please do not feel that I am saying your approach is wrong just because it’s different than mine, as long as it’s working for you.

With my disclaimer out of the way, here is how I have built community.

1. My writing reflects my personality and opinions. When I started blogging I tried to be very generic, but I learned that my people and I find each other better when I am myself.

2. I found a focus in maternity leave and now my journey to re-invent my life. Other people who share similar interests connected with me more easily when I did that.

3. I use social media. Twitter and Facebook, especially, are great ways to connect with other people. My community grew as I replied to others, asked questions and followed people who were interesting to me.

4. I publish regularly, so people know when to show up. Posting every day isn’t necessary, but for me having a schedule makes things easier instead of harder, and keeps me from procrastinating too badly.

5. I sought out other great blogs. I found them through Twitter, through their comments on my blog or other blogs, through other people’s blogrolls and through random chance. Some of these bloggers became friends, and all of them became inspiration.

6. I try to write each post so that anyone can understand it. I introduce people by saying things like, ‘my 5-year-old Hannah’ or ‘my husband Jon’. I also try to give a little background, or at least link to the background story, in case someone needs it. I want to be accessible and understandable.

7. I comment on other blogs, but I do it because I have something to say, and because I want to support others. I don’t expect a certain response, and I am not enforcing blog etiquette. My primary goal is not to win a numbers game, it’s to build community. Not everyone is going to be part of my community, and that’s OK.

8. I submit guest posts when other bloggers solicit them, participate in blog carnivals and contribute to other blogs. Reaching beyond my own sphere is a great way to find like-minded people.

9. I respond to questions that I get in blog comments. I prefer to do it via email, so that I know the person will see the answer. I know some people respond to every comment and I don’t do that, but I do read all of them and remember them.

10. I have an ‘About‘ page that explains who I am, and I list my contact info there and in my sidebar. If someone wants to connect on Twitter or send me an email I want them to be able to do so easily.

Whether you want to build a big community or a small community, the principles are the same. Interacting with others and sharing ideas is the best way to do it. If you are authentic and speak your truth, you will undoubtedly find some great people in the blogosphere. The internet is a big place, but we are all striving to find real connections. Sooner or later you’re bound to bump into some folks you want to connect with.

So, tell me, how do you go about building an online community? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments.

March’s Crafting my Life series is about the whys and hows of blogging, and what blogging means to pursuing your dreams. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be the 25th, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on this month’s theme anytime in March, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January and February to get a feel for how it works.

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    Comments

    1. I remember when I first started blogging it was just a way to keep track of Victoria and the renos. As I started using social media I realized it would be way more fun to have people actually READ my stuff besides Mike ;) Actually I think the day you clicked through to my blog because I had it as an email signature was the true beginning. Your comment was my first from someone who hadn’t known me for at least 10+years

      I think you have pretty much covered it in your suggestions. The only other thing I do is participate in aleady created communities such as SITS to find like minded people but that would probably fall under #5

    2. To me, the most important thing you said is to stay true to yourself. I think it’s awfully tempting to follow a formula or write what you think others want to read. That’s not really blogging though, blogging is sharing your true self with others. I believe if you do that you’ll be surprised by the readers you get and how easy it will be to keep it up. If you lose yourself, it will quickly become a chore.

      Helpful post Amber, thanks for sharing.
      .-= Christine LaRocque´s last post ..Letting the sun shine in =-.

    3. Hey Amber! I read your blog everyday…it’s one of the first things I do when I come to work. I think what you are talking about is your blogging style so it goes without saying… I like your style. How am I building an online community? I’m not -so I have no suggestions. I was part of an online community for a few years but it was through a message board where we would share stories and milestones, ask questions and conduct polls all realated to motherhood and our children. When I blog I try to make it more of a statement about myself but I have to keep reminding myself that people may respond, they may not, and that’s ok. That the reason I’m writing it is to express myself and to share my experiences, if I make some new friends along the way – awesome! But there is something else you do that I’m sure everyone who read’s appreciates – you post great pics!
      .-= Tanya´s last post ..Expectations of a new mom =-.

    4. Oh great, so you’re contributing to delinquency in the workplace :).

      Personally, I like to stand on street corners accosting people and begging them to be my friend, but your suggestions for community-building are good too.

    5. You are contributing to MY delinquency too. I read you first thing after dropping the kids at school (when I am supposed to be starting work).

      I appreciate that you visit my blog (and I will try to post more regularly, that is good advice)
      .-= *pol´s last post ..I hate it less now… =-.

    6. Hmm. Well I’m still working on building my community. I’ve found it easiest to connect to people through Twitter. I’m not sure that that necessarily translates to success with a blog though. I know some people will come to my blog if I chat with them on Twitter but I’ve wondered how many actually do that.

      I think you pretty much covered it all!
      .-= Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves´s last post ..Makeover!! : Wednesday of Few Words =-.

    7. I think you’ve pretty much covered it, with the exception of message boards. I am and have been a member of various message boards that have really boosted my sense of community both online and off. The message board I stick closest to actually was my biggest support group for quitting smoking. More than anything, once I decided to quit I was worried that if I failed I would disappoint them. LOL.

      That’s a different story though. More than anything, Twitter has been the biggest part of my community. I have made more friends through Twitter than I can count. I love it. Not all of them read my blog and I don’t always read theirs, but the friendships there are wonderful.
      .-= Erin W. / Beatnik Momma´s last post ..Fluff Review: Kawaii Cloth Diapers =-.

    8. I think you’ve covered it pretty comprehensively! I enjoy connecting with people through twitter, that and through commenting on other people’s blogs is primarily where I’m forging friendships. In terms of purely driving traffic, blog carnivals and guest posts can’t be beat!
      .-= the Grumbles´s last post ..post night two recap =-.

    9. I can’t think of anything else – I see so many other bloggers doing a great job of pulling in readers, and, though that’s not really my ultimate goal, it’s nice to know other people actualyl do read what you write from time to time.
      My own #1 problem is procrastination, hands down. By the time I actually manage to find some time to type out a blog post, I find it difficult to choose what I want to say. Too much to say = more time than I have to type. Scheduling time every week or two to blog is a great suggestion.

      Thanks for a thoughtful post today – it made for a great break at work. :)

    10. It’s funny how you mentioned when you started to blog you sort of kept to yourself and was nervous about others reading it. I just started blogging just over a year ago and am feeling the same way! In the very beginning, I really kept to myself. I knew my husband, sister, and a few friends were reading it so I was sort of open. Since I joined Twitter, I started to participate more in the community and would visit lots of other blogs and write comments. It was fun to do, especially if I could help out. Now that more people notice me as a result, I am kind of getting that nervous feeling about blogging too much again.

      Thanks for the excellent suggestions. Being helpful and supportive will definitely get you noticed. It also makes you feel better about yourself :) They really are great suggestions coming from someone who has been blogging for 7 years now. Impressive!
      .-= mommyingaround´s last post ..Back to normal, back to daycare =-.

    11. this post has been well-timed for me! I’ve had a personal blog with a tiny following for a long time, and I recently started a parenting blog that I’d like to reach a wider audience with. It’s been a little tricky for me to find the right balance between personal stories and sharing resources & parenting tips. Yet when I look at the blogs I most enjoy reading there is a comfortable balance – a clear focus on a certain topic/approach, with enough of a personal touch to feel comfortable and approachable.

      One related topic that I’ve wondered about is sharing personal information about kids. Obviously, I’m not going to be posting my address and telephone number, but what about kids’ full names? I suppose this point is moot because my kids names are already out there on the interwebs, but still – how personal is too personal when it comes to children?

    12. Authenticity is huge for me. I like following real people, their struggles, their good times, their small amusements, their stuff. I find that interesting. I find even a whiff of marketing or sales makes me turn away – but that’s me.

      Good point about reintroducing the people you blog about. We can’t assume everyone knows who these critters are!

      I was wondering how people respond to comments. I also email on-blog commenters if they really warrant as response. I’m never sure if people will read the response on my blog.

      I really appreciate people who comment on my blog. It really makes me feel good and sane..:)
      .-= harriet Fancott´s last post ..Getting out into the greater blogosphere =-.

    13. One more thing about the contradictory nature of being OUT to the entire WORLD and not telling your parents (uh yes that’s me I’m taking about)… *shame*
      .-= harriet Fancott´s last post ..Getting out into the greater blogosphere =-.

    14. Thanks so much for this! I’ve just really started blogging, and I don’t quite know what I’m doing, so I’m really happy to read your post. I’m thinking about putting in a bit more personal stuff and trying out a blog carnival – sounds like fun! I’m happy to have found your wonderful blog! Thanks so much!

    15. Great tips! I’m new to blogging and this post came at just the right time for me. I’m trying to build a community through twitter and also by participating in carnivals. I’m excited to get started!
      .-= Sheryl´s last post ..Feeding with Love and Respect at Any Age – Attachment Parenting Carnival =-.

    16. Some of it is also deciding what *not* to do. Writing controversial posts is a great way to attract attention, but the side effects are just not for me.
      .-= Lady M´s last post ..No Jeans of Shame =-.

    17. I started a blog, at the request of friends, just over a year ago when we moved to Italy for six months. Both friends and family loved it and as I realized how much I drew on other blogs to find out things about my new location I realized I might have something to offer too.

      Now, back in Arizona, I’m still blogging on a different blog because friends asked me to keep writing, but I sometimes struggle with this. What am I really offering this community that hasn’t already been said? Nothing new, but I am finding some pretty cool people out there like yourself that I think I would like if we were to meet outside the computer. I guess that is reason enough.
      .-= Tepary´s last post ..Adoption Agency Meeting =-.

    18. I don’t think I have clear strategies like you do, and I’m going to give this some real thought, after all I spend a lot of time blogging, why do I do it? The one thing you missed is giveaways. Becoming partially a merchandising platform seems to build an audience, but I don’t know that it builds a community. Thanks for another wonderful post.
      .-= Francesca´s last post ..yellow! =-.

    19. I find that when I am true to my voice I meet some other wonderful blogges. And if someone doesn’t like my voice then they are welcome to go elsewhere. The friends I have made, especially the real life ones, have been so amazing.
      .-= Capital Mom´s last post ..Head tilt =-.

    20. I started my blog to find an audience for a book I’m writing, so I have clear goal of building my community. Now if I can just figure out who that is. I do seem to be developing something of a following in Iran.

      I am still finding my voice, for sure. It’s all pretty slow, but it’s fun.
      .-= Delia´s last post ..The mother of the Apgar score =-.

    21. Hi Amber, these all seem like sensible suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

      I’ve experienced becoming a part of a community of vloggers on YouTube, but have not yet had similar success with my blog. I’ve had the blog for a while, but only become serious about posting regularly this year — so I’m not surprised that my following is small. I plan on continuing to post often, because I’ve noticed, as you’ve indicated, that getting myself into a routine helps to keep my procrastination tendencies at bay.

      Although a newbie to both Facebook and Twitter, I have seen how both of these networking tools can assist us in bringing visitors to our blogs.

      So I will continue to blog it, and wait for them to come. :) Peace, Ray

    22. I really started getting into blogging at the beginning of this year. I love it! I love the community I’m building. I started putting myself out there via Twitter and forums more often. I started commenting on blogs I had been reading, and then found new ones to follow.
      I know it’s not about the numbers, but I do love how my blog has grown in a few short months.

      I wasn’t really sure what direction to take my blog in for a few months, and then it clicked for me. I was going to be myself, and talk about a variety of things that are dear to me. Surprise! Once I started being myself, everything else fell into place.

      I’ve met some pretty amazing people, and can’t wait to see what comes together in the future.
      .-= Darcel´s last post ..Co-sleeping Essay Contest. =-.

    23. Great tips. I wish I had come across this post last year when you wrote it. I was just laid-off and pregnant. Now my son Mylo is 6 months old and I recently wrote something that was featured on BlogHer and they subsequently came. Now I am frantically trying to absorb, absorb and absorb as much as I can about building and keeping a community.

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    1. [...] came across a great post about building community through blogging by Amber Strocel of Strocel.com, I only wish I came [...]

    2. [...] about blogging your dreams, about how bloggers are real people, and about the ins and outs of building community through blogging. This week I am talking about what blogging can and can’t do for you. I also have links at [...]

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