Building a loyal community of follower's using the power of your blog is nothing new, but it's a tactic that's often overlooked.
There are multiple benefits to using blogging within your content marketing strategy as the medium through which you attract and connect with your target audience to craft a community.
The Benefits and Challenges of Building a Blogging Community
- A community adds an extra layer of usefulness to your brand's website. A community, for example, understands the importance of helping one another with specific problems, and so a community of loyal follower's will have no problem helping newbies find the right solution for their questions. A blogging community has strength in numbers.
- A community is in itself a form of social proof. In other words, it's much easier for strangers to get involved when they see other like-minded people already engaging with the content. This holds true for blogging and in social media circles.
- Communities bring more page views. Page views aren't necessarily important for every brand, but if your blog is monetized with Ad networks like Adsense or by private sponsors, then take note. A community means more blog comments, which can mean multiple page views from a single person if they're making comments and checking back to see who responds.
- A blogging community is very attractive to advertisers due to the simple fact that the brand who runs the community has great influence over their loyal reader's.
So now you have a thorough understanding of the powerful benefits of building a community through blogging. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows, growing a community comes with its share of challenges.
- You can't just outsource the job for cheap, snap your fingers and let the community come to you, it takes time. It can take months or it can take years depending on how dedicated you are to taking the actions necessary to lay the foundation for a new community.
- Running a successful blogging community can be just as time-consuming as building one, so if you're time-challenged on a day-to-day basis, it's a good idea to create a strategy for maintaining the community and outsource the smaller mundane activities to someone you trust.
Four Blogging Strategies for Your Content Marketing Strategy
Now that you have a firm grasp on the benefits and challenges of building and running a community through your blog, let's dive right in to these four bulletproof blogging strategies that can take your content marketing efforts to the next level.
1. Be Conversational
This blogging tip seems obvious enough, but you'd be surprised at the number of blogger's who mistakenly talk 'at' their audience rather than choosing to speak to their reader's in a conversational voice.
You want your blog to be a conversation, and that's a two-way street. In other words, you want your blog's audience to be just as interested in what you're saying as much as you need to provide interesting content.
Writing conversational blog post's is similar to being a great in-person conversationalist. It means asking questions, giving people time to respond, and most importantly, listening when others have something to say.
Every blog writer follows their own path and uses their own style. But here are a few tips to get away from the formal, commanding writing style.
- Write like you speak. When you write a blog post, imagine you're involved in a conversation with one of your readers. What are some of the questions they're asking? The problems they run in to? Do this and you're on track to creating a more personable blog post.
- Weave stories into your posts. Draw from personal experiences and use it to craft a specific angle. Personal stories, whether fact or fiction, reel people in and allow them to relate to the problem presented through their own personal experiences. People connect with personal stories.
2. Embrace Interactions
One of the main benefits that come with writing in a conversational style is that it has the ability to subliminally invite reader's to jump into the conversation. While some chatty people don't need an invitation to post a comment on a blog post, your number of comments per post can increase drastically just by asking the audience to share their thoughts.
Getting reader's interacting with your blog is a major component in building a loyal community. Luckily, there are several ways to invite reader interaction:
- Ask for their comments directly in the post. But why wait until the end of the post? Make it apparent that you're interested in reading their comments within the first paragraph.
- Create post's centered around a specific question. The more specific your questions, the more straightforward your answers. End the post without a clear-cut solution and turn the unsolved dilemma into a problem-solving puzzle in the comments section.
- Polls are probably the easiest way to get first time reader's interacting with your blog. Instead of just creating a multiple-choice question and hitting the vote button, make it known that you want to hear about who or what they voted for and why.
3. Create A Dedicated Area for the Community
Most blogs will automatically have a threaded comment section that can allow micro-conversations to happen instantly. And sure, the comment section is important, but what if your blog grows to the point where you don't just want them talking about what your writer's put out there, but you want them to start their own conversations fueled by their own ideas?
This is where setting up a dedicated community area pays dividends. A variety of mediums can be used to set one up: Adding a forum page on your website, starting a community on a network site such as Ning or Spruz, localized or special topic Facebook pages and groups, Google+ pages, or other social media platforms.
As an example, let's say you own a unique online fashion store where you sell clothing and accessories under a particular style. If you wanted to start a community area for your loyal customer's without overspending then you might start a group on one of the more visually appealing social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.
So now not only do you have a dedicated place for your customer's to share their purchases and interact with one another, you're also conveniently getting your products in front of like-minded people who also love fashion. And since clothing is always a hot topic on Instagram and Pinterest, you can't lose.
If you want to keep traffic centralized and believe a forum on your website is a better fit for your brand and your customers, here are the pro's and con's that come with running a forum:
- Greatly increases reader engagement.
- You get a limitless supply of User-Generated Content (UGC).
- More page views equates to a lower bounce rate thus improving your SEO weight.
- While not every target customer will have a social media presence, forums appeal to everyone.
- Forums are spam magnets, so moderating everyday is an absolute must, but luckily the job can be outsourced.
- It can be hard to generate enough people to keep the forum alive and kicking with new ideas and helpful information. If a forum feels empty, then eventually it will be.
- Forums come with plenty of technical hurdles. If a forum grows large enough it will need plenty of bandwidth, regular upgrades and consistent maintenance, all of which comes at a price.
4. Utilize Interactive Mediums
It's no secret that interactive content is getting a lot of love in digital marketing circles, and for good reason. Interactive content increases reader engagement, is naturally share-able, and attracts new leads as well as delights customers. Interactive mediums encompass various tools that can be utilized to both capture new contacts as leads and help strengthen your relationship with customers .
Q&A's: Q&A's are an excellent way to get people engaged in real time directly with your brand. They can come in the form of questionnaires you place on your website's chat feature, or they can be applied through a live streaming service like Periscope, Twitter, Google hangouts or even through a live Youtube stream. Live question and answer sessions let your reader's interact with you directly, which instills a deeper sense of trust and gives everyone a more memorable experience.
Webinars: Webinars are another visually centered medium you can use to connect to your targeted audience to build your subscribers and leads, but are also a great tool for keeping customers engaged with specialized topics. If you know your buyer personas (these are your targeted personas that your messaging should speak to), you can create webinar topics that speak to their questions, pain points, and interests. Whether you want to engage new prospects or delight an existing customer base, a webinar gives you the floor to show you have the answers or ideas they need. The good thing about webinars is you can run them from your desk and provide an interactive presentation with an open chat forum to answer direct questions.
Podcasts: Podcasts continue to be a popular way to convey messages, brainstorm ideas and interview industry authorities. This medium shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Hooking up your podcast program to iTunes gives you the ability to reach new customers through the iTunes store, and it's something that people enjoy listening to in their car, while they work and when they need something stimulating to pass the time. Just make sure you ask listener's to rate your podcast on the iTunes store, as this not only helps your podcast rank better but it tells you if you're going in the right direction.
Infographics: Not only do infographics make large amounts of data easy to visualize and digest, they help put the pieces of a solution together for visual learners or those with short attention spans. But there are also interactive options that can be included on infographics like animations, clickable details, and they can even be used to convert a reader into a potential lead.
Projects & Challenges: Starting new projects while keeping your reader's informed of your step-by-step progress, and running challenges are also excellent ways to keep people entertained and get them involved in the community.
The number of ways you can pull in your audience, get them engaged and keep them active through blogging are practically endless. If you define who they are, where they seek information and what they want, you will find it is actually quite fun to find creative ways to be their go to source for information. This will go far in your efforts to build a community and you will find that you are able to convert visitors to potential customers in the process.
Not sure your blog and content marketing efforts are being steered in the right direction? Is your site's engagement low or practically non-existent? The first place to start is to identify your top buyer personas so you can define a clear content strategy that speaks to their needs and interests. Start today by downloading our free Guide to Creating Buyer Personas.