On writing for community

by arianne

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Right now the Blogher conference is going on – in case you aren’t familiar, it is the biggest women’s blogging conference of the year. I started attending in 2008 and have been to every one since – except for this year. This year I’m too pregnant to travel, a reason I’m thinking is the best excuse ever!  I am missing seeing all my friends and cohorts, but guess what? A bunch of us who are not at Blogher decided to share some of our knowledge on blogging for all of you – no conference fee required. {wink}

We are calling it the Blog Hop Conference at Home, and be sure to head over to see the simply amazing bloggers who are sharing their hard earned wisdom with any who are interested and have the time to read. “Sessions” will be posted throughout today and tomorrow, but of course you can always go and read and take your time with the posts that answer the questions you’ve been having (or didn’t know you had) about blogging.

What I’d like to talk about today is blogging with a community.  What does that mean exactly?

One of the biggest reasons blogging is so successful goes beyond the immediacy and the personal touches – it is the readership. The community that forms around a blogger’s work and writing and life story. To be a successful blogger you have to cultivate that community. But how?

First, realize that it doesn’t matter the size of your community, it’s still your community. Whether you are writing to 5 people, one of which is your momma, they are your people. Once your community begins to grow, it doesn’t need to change too much how you write, because you’ve already been keeping in mind that you do have a community. The key is to honor that community.

Second, be true to and respectful of your community. What does that mean? For me it means always being my authentic self. It means being extremely picky with the sponsored posts or opportunities I write about here in this space. I say no. A LOT. Be ok with saying no to offers that aren’t you or don’t make sense in your life or that may isolate your community. There really will always be more opportunities.

Third, bring something to the table. I feel as though my community sometimes makes up a lot of first time readers along with the long term “family” that has grown with me. I always keep in mind that I want to have everyone, no matter if they know me or not, receive something from me when they read. I still need to earn the trust of a first time reader. I need to keep the trust of a long time reader. Both make up the community, and both want the sense that I care about them. That I’m not just standing here in this space with a bullhorn, but that I’m grateful they take the time to read my story, share in the pretty things that excite me. This “tip” is sortof an intangible one – I can’t tell you how to earn trust and keep it. But if you create pieces for your blog that keep those ideas in mind, you’ll get it right.

Lastly, remember it’s a conversation, not a speech. The biggest thing I could ever tell you about cultivating and growing and KEEPING your community, is that you must remember the biggest part of community – togetherness. It’s not a community if I’m speaking and you all listen and do a golf clap and go on your merry way. That is preaching. I want to be a part of your lives, just as much as I’m inviting you into mine. I want to create posts that ignite conversation, and be a part of that conversation. I reply to comments as often as I can, I encourage conversation about my work on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I make a point of reading the blogs of people who comment so I am in the loop – not every comment on every post, but I take time weekly to visit my readers and leave a comment (this ebbs and flows with life, we can all do a better job at this!). I take time to interact in the social media ‘sphere because I truly care and don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about you (because I also don’t want you to forget about me).  I never want my community to feel isolated from me, and the way I do that is not only by sharing the deepest parts of my heart with you, but by hearing your heart as well.

If this post were in a track in a conference I guess it would be in the “writing” track, which is a track I’ve spoken on during many a conference before and I know what people are always wanting – to grow their community with great content, and how to do that. I think the concepts of writing to your community at any size, be true and respectful, bring valuable content and making sure it’s always a conversation and that you are involved in your community are truly so important for every blogger to know. You can apply these tips to whichever niche you are in, because it’s all about the philosophy behind what you do. Have your mind right, and the community will follow.

Enjoy the rest of the Blog Hop Conference at Home!

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