Building a Blog Community

I look at my blog from the perspective of a professional storyteller. I want to tell a good story when I write, and I want to entertain my audience. My main hope is that people will keep coming back. I hope that blogging friends I make will connect with other blogging friends to whom I link, and it will become one large blogging community of zany, eclectic people.

But, I won’t deny that deep in my heart of hearts lurks the dream that one day my writing will be a source of income. I love telling stories to a live audience, don’t get me wrong. But part of that means traveling here, there, and yon. Y’all, I hope I am not disillusioning you here, I am no longer a “spring chicken.” Travel is hard on an arthritic woman. Telling stories to the blogosphere may not give me instant gratification, but I enjoy it none the less.

I keep hoping that maybe a magazine editor will discover me and recruit me to write articles. Perhaps, I’ll become an uber-blogger with tons of readers and a sponsor to pay for my time. Or, my fairy godmother will wave her magic wand and all my needs will be provided! Then again, I could be kidding myself. I’ll be traveling around Texas telling stories when I’m a Q-tip [NOT the thang you use to clean out your ears—A “Q-tip” is a skinny woman with white hair and white tennis shoes. Though, technically I will never be one. I don’t wear shoes if you aren’t looking, skinny ain’t even going to happen again because of the copious amounts of bacon I consume, and if my hair turns white I can always find a Walgreen’s and buy some “product.”]

Those of you who also hope that your blog will make money, should be concerned about “community.” Because I work for myself, I understand a few of the concepts of getting the attention of readers. Finding them in the first place I don’t always understand, but I’m working on that with the help of other bloggers, particularly Pro Blogger. Right now he has a contest going on called “The Top 5-Group Writing Contest.” The task is to write a top five, and take it in any direction you want to go.

I’ve decided to write the five things that attract me to return to a blog, and I’m hoping that y’all will jump right in and add your two cents so we can all help each other! People who return to your blog are the ones who become your own little community. I think that, because I’m a “newbie” to blogging, I probably search for favorite blogs in the way that any non-blogger would. At some point I think we have to hope that our audience includes those people. Face it, particularly if you are hoping to “monetize” your blog, I don’t think bloggers are the ones who click on ads on our sites. And, if we want an audience, we want as many people to come visit as we can get. So here’s my list, and y’all tell me what’s on your list:

  1. A well told tale; or as another might put it “content.” When I teach storytelling classes, I always tell beginners this, “Never tell a story that you don’t like. If you don’t like it, you cannot tell it in a way to make your audience like it.” Hopefully every blogger picks a “theme” that suits them, whether it’s parenthood, recipes, technical geek stuff, romance writing, cats, or what. Some of us are so a.d.d. that we have to use the title “eclectic,” so it gives us an excuse to write about whatever pops into our pea-brains.

    If the subjects you choose are those about which you are passionate, your personality will shine through. When I look at a new blog, if all I see are memes, I usually don’t bookmark that site so I can read it daily. I want to feel as if you are talking to me, not just answering a list every day. If someone passes you a meme and it doesn’t suit you, skip it. I promise you that people will forget and forgive.

  2. An appealing presentation. I started with a free blogger template, and it worked just fine. But, then I discovered that everyone I visited seemed to have picked the same template! I wanted to be different. My friend Jennymcb and I began experimenting with the help of Annie at Blog U and CeeCi at Geeky Streak. I made my blog “different,” but I still wasn’t pleased.

    I was attracted to blog sites with clean lines, like Scribbit and Yellow Rose’s Garden, but I didn’t have the technical knowledge to build such a site. Finally, I contacted Leanne Wildermuth at Artist by Nature and had her design a site for me that was exactly what I wanted (though she is probably ready to slap me for adding all the cute little buttons). Did it cost money? Well sure. But, I’ve spent more in a month on “designer coffee,” and this site will be with me a lot longer. I look at this blog every day; it’s worth it to me to have what I want.

    When I look at other blog sites, unless I’m just looking for humor, I don’t want to be overpowered by animated pictures and blinking lights. I want to get to the content. Less is more.

  3. Ease of commenting. I’ve harped on this before, so I won’t expound on it again. I’ll just say that if you make it difficult for me to comment, then I feel as if you don’t want me in your community and I won’t keep coming back. Sign out of your account, and go to your website. If you can’t make a comment on it without signing back in with a blogger account, then other people can’t either. I’m particularly talking to those folks with Blogger templates. I don’t want to sign in with my old account. I want any of your visitors who are interested to be able to find me at my Word Press site.
  4. Community. I think I might have told y’all that I like people. I like to talk to them. If someone takes the trouble to comment on my blog, I do my best to answer them (even though I’m not always timely!). When people respond to comments I make on their blog, I know they are interested in building their own little blog community, and I go back, again and again.
  5. More content than commercials. Yes, most of us want to monetize our blog. But, y’all know how upset you get when you are trying to watch your American Idol television show, and the station keeps putting on commercials? I’m that way about blogs. If I want to shop, I’ll find a shopping site. You might catch my eye with an ad or two, and I will click on them. But, if all your blog is about is advertising, I’m not going to bother to go there. Some people are doing “pay per post.” I confess I don’t read them. And, a blogger who does too many of them loses all credibility with me. Surely there is another way. Does anyone reading this have success with pay per post? Is it really worth it? I’m ready to stand corrected if you can tell me otherwise.

Those are the top five ways to build a blog community, as I analyze it. There is a comment box below. Click on it and tell me what you think. If you have any trouble commenting, feel free to jump right in there and razz me! I’m a big girl, I can take it.

[Update: Surfing today, I found an article at Blog About Your Blog called What To Blog About that you might find of interest.]

  68 comments for “Building a Blog Community

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  2. May 14, 2007 at 8:20 am

    This is a great top five Shelly. I’m really liking some aspects of your blog design; especially the nested comment replies.

    I have thought about paying for a designer, but I think I’ll wait a while first. I just hope my current design doesn’t look to ‘themey’.

    Ok, Armen, you said “some aspects.” Give it to me straight. What do I have to do to fix it? Your blog isn’t too “themey.” The content would override that anyway. Thanks for stopping by.~skt

  3. May 14, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Being totally honest Shelly, when I said “some aspects”, I wasn’t meaning that I didn’t like the rest. It’s a great and unique design you have.

    Having said that, if you want some down-to-earth advice, then I’d suggest you make more of a contrast between text and background in some areas of your blog. Some of the text in your sidebar is difficult to read because you’re using two shades of grey, and they’re too close. The other necessary change that I’d recommend, would be to move your search bar nearer the top of the page; it’s a little lost in the middle.

    Those are the only two changes that I’d consider necessary. They’re usability issues, and I’m a stickler for making a visitors experience as ‘pain free’ as possible.

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  6. May 14, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    Nice post. You make some very good points about the importance of content and writing from your passions. I like your blog!!!

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  9. October 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I love your article. It is very inspirational.

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