Gini Dietrich

Building Your Online Community

By: Gini Dietrich | April 5, 2011 | 
134

A few days ago, I recorded a podcast with Srinivas Rao for BlogCastFM (yet to be published). One of the questions he asked me is what new bloggers can do to find and attract readers and build community.

I used Drew Odom as an example.

Drew recently wrote a blog post where he used some Spin Sucks content. I received the backlink  and went over there to comment. He sent me a thank you note. Via email. It was personalized and written specifically to me. I make that point because some people have email automation set up to send you a note after you comment on their blog. I don’t like that.

What I liked about Drew’s email is he thanked me for commenting and asked me if the way he used some of our content was appropriate. And so began an online friendship.

When I began blogging, I did the same. I would send personalized emails to people who commented. In today’s age of 140 characters, those little things really count. And, without asking people to revisit the blog, it encouraged them to do so because they began to feel like they knew me…on the blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and via email.

Mark Schaefer took it to a different level. He used to send handwritten thank you notes. Handwritten.  And it worked for him. He has a seriously engaged community.

While I no longer email thank you notes after people comment, I spend A LOT of time commenting to people both on Twitter and in the comments here. I also make it a point to visit all commenter’s blogs as often as I can.

It works. I always say social media, and building a community in general, is all about stroking other people’s egos and scratching their backs. If you do that, they’re much more willing to ask what they can do for you. And, in this case, visiting your blog and commenting is what they can do for you.

It’s hard work and not for the faint of heart. But it works. You can use Drew’s method or you can use Mark’s. Or maybe you have another method. If you do, share it with us!

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

Leave a Reply

134 Comments on "Building Your Online Community"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Lori
5 years 3 months ago
Gini, I love this post because it shares some great ideas for community building. I think some of what you do to build community comes naturally, like when you to a party and socialize with the people there. But if you’re “new to town” or shy these things must be learned and therefore taught! The blogosphere must be the friendliest place on the planet, due no little in part to what you said: “all about stroking other people’s egos and scratching their backs.” and you’ve just given us some good back-scratchers. Still, I’m new enough and perhaps naive enough to… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@Lori Actually, I’m terrible at parties. I’m a natural introvert so when you put me in a room full of strangers, I am very shy and have a hard time making conversation. That’s why digital works so well for me! I can break the ice BEFORE I meet people.

I love, love, love your analogy of the neighbor’s not leaving their porches! When I speak, I always say, “If you build it they will NOT come” and now I’m going to add this analogy. I’ll credit you. 🙂

And there is a crazy girl in Chicago you can chat with! Anytime!

Lori
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich No way no way YOU’re an introvert! Well I will have to take your word for it. I’m an extrovert, and used to be a shy one, but as you say, online…

My coach keeps saying “Do a Skype Chat with someone you admire – say Gini” and I say, No way, she thinks I’m funny, but I’m really NOT that funny! Such is the magic of online chatting!

By the way, written satire can go really flat really fast – thanks for getting me!

johnfalchetto
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich Crazy girl in Chicago, like this new nickname for you 🙂

@Lori Yes building it I remember thinking like that, actually that is the easy part. Then the real work of meeting every one starts!

EricaAllison
5 years 3 months ago
Another valuable lesson that’s applicable to not just the online world, but the offline world as well. How often do people receive handwritten thank you notes? Not that often. I do still write them, but not as much as I should. Anytime I ask for a recommendation, that’s an automatic handwritten note because it was awfully nice of someone to go out of there way to write something nice about me or the work I’ve done, the least I can do is write back. I actually have an addiction to note cards and collect them like treasures – but that’s… Read more »
johnfalchetto
5 years 3 months ago

Gini I think you wrote the book on connecting with people online. I would never be able to get any community with markwschaefer method, simply because my handwriting makes hieroglyphics easy to read.

I think an important step in building online relationships is also using different platforms, twitter, FB, blogs and then actually call on Skype or have coffee if you live in the same area. Maybe even a deep dish pizza?

markwschaefer
markwschaefer
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve actually been reflecting on this topic a lot, as I am nearing the 10,000th comment on my blog. That’s a big deal to me for a lot of reasons. I think that does reflect the vibrancy of the community and also a real gift of time, intellect and passion that people are contributing. The secret? As you mention, connecting authentically on a real human level. I think that is the real key. It’s not a comment, it’s a person : )

Thanks for the great post!

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 3 months ago
The beauty of this is that you walk your talk. That’s why I’m here. I commented, we connected, and we get along. Who knows if we’ll ever meet each other in person. What I tell folks is to focus on the word Social in “social media”. Too many of us get caught up in this being some sore of “new” form of media, and they treat it like all other forms of media. That’s not why people are here. I don’t go the route of of either Mark or Drew, I’m more like you. I seek to engage, but actively… Read more »
sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg
5 years 3 months ago

“Thank You” so a simple, yet powerful little phrase! Amazing how much uttering those two little words can accomplish. Those two words can make the recipients day!

Saying “thank you” is a easy way to start a conversation, especially in social media. A little thank you & a smile can make any day better!

CreativeDynamix
CreativeDynamix
5 years 3 months ago

Thanks Gini, I think you skim over the fact that you go comment on other peoples blogs. We need to balance out create/consume ratio into a comment/feedback %. I think that is a key that you visit all commenter’s blogs. it is not just about saying thank you. it is about find real ways to connect that thanks for the comment + build that exchange, get in the conversation. Enjoying following you on twitter.

skooloflife
skooloflife
5 years 3 months ago
Gini, Thanks so much for the shoutout. I think that you brought up something that people underestimate the power of. It seems simple but the effects of it compound. I check out the blogs of people who commment on my site if I’ve never seen them before and sometimes I’ll just send them a quick note to say thanks. Obviously there will be a point when this doesn’t scale, but it doesn’t have to. There will be a point at which you have your “entourage” so to speak, and those people will be the greatest people in your digital network.… Read more »
bdorman264
bdorman264
5 years 3 months ago
@johnfalchetto @ginidietrich @Lori Talk about crashing the party, but I do have my serious face on today. I think I came in the back door and started building my community by commenting on other people’s posts. It enabled me to see them more on a personal level and I could see who I wanted to hang out with. I actually do have a WordPress site but I’m not looking to drive people there yet. I don’t want people to know I’m living out of my car……I’m still just practicing. However, I think the relationships I have developed are relatively deep… Read more »
KatieFassl
5 years 3 months ago

Gini, I’m a little embarassed to say, I never thought of sending a thank you email to commenters. Duh! I’m going to put this into action :)….

As @KenMueller said, you walk your talk. And that, my friend, has helped you to build a pretty amazing community.

jonbuscall
5 years 3 months ago

Look forward to the podcast @skooloflife ! In the meantime, this is a great point Gini. I believe it’s imperative to connect with people that comment as a means of encouraging them to come back.

I put people’s details in Basecamp’s Highrise and schedule a reminder to stop by in a month or so on their blog (or twitter account) to check how they’re doing. It’s all about building relationships, after all.

SandySidhu
5 years 3 months ago

I will comment back on the other person’s blog when they comment on mine. I never really thought of sending an email, perhaps because these days with all the email people receive I didn’t want to impose myself?

jackielamp
jackielamp
5 years 3 months ago
You make a great point, Gini. It’s basically about selfless sharing. People respond well to that because it’s genuine. I think the reason people struggle with community building is because it takes time to organically share content and comment on blogs. It requires extra effort to send that personalized thank you, and a lot of people just don’t want to do it. Unfortunately those people leave a bad taste in your mouth. I would say you’re an example of doing it right. You’ve commented on my blog that gets 100 readers on our best post (haha), you thank me for… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@SandySidhu It actually works, if it’s personalized. There are plenty of services that will allow you to automate the email and I think that’s icky. If you’re going to add to my inbox, I want it to be personalized!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@Lori That is hilarious! So you’re afraid, if we chat, that I won’t think you’re as funny as you are online?!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago
@bdorman264 The problem is that I wouldn’t even go to the event. Unless I have people to go with, I won’t go. I’m that shy. It’s why I speak…it takes A LOT of effort to get me out there and on stage. I’m a better person because of it, but it’s not easy. I totally agree that the people you meet and talk to everyday online are people who would be IRL friends. Although there have been a couple of times that I’ve thought, “Whoa! This is not who I expected” when I meet someone in person. And the only… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@EricaAllison It’s scary how much alike we are! I also collect stationery. You know one of the things you did really well in the beginning? You highlighted people you wanted to meet on your blog, drawing them off their porch and onto yours. But you did it in a way that made people want to stay, not just drop by for a visit.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@johnfalchetto You can get one of those handwriting fonts and type the notes! You’ve done a great job of building your community. Not only do you show up on other’s blogs, you draw bloggers into your blog through Twitter, backlinks, and comments. It’s really been fun to watch you!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@markwschaefer 10,000 comments?!? Holy crap! How close are you? If you’re one away, I’m headed over there RIGHT NOW to be the 10,000th! “It’s not a comment, it’s a person.” No truer words have ever been spoken, er, written.

Thanks for coming by, Mark! I’ll have to hold a contest so you can compete by using a nail file to judge the winning entry. 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@KenMueller Do I know you?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@sydcon_mktg Isn’t it funny how “thank you” can go so far? Yet we almost always forget to utter those words.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@CreativeDynamix Ha! You totally called me out. Thank you! That is a great point…it’s just as important (if not more) to visit other people’s social sites and engage with them on their own porch (as @Lori says).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@skooloflife I agree it’s not scalable and you’re right in that you have your entourage. I do like you – visit people’s sites when they’ve visited a couple of times. Then, if I like what I see, I subscribe. I’m a little OCD, but I have my Reader split into different folders: The must read, the entourage, the new finds, etc. It helps me manage where I’m going to go on a given day.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@KatieFassl You’re so funny! I don’t think you have reason to be embarrassed. NO ONE does it. So it’l make you stand out.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@jonbuscall THAT is a great idea, Jon!! You’re so smart.

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich nah. im just the guy you proposed to last night. the guy who cares enough about you to find GOOD coffee for you. the guy who WAS thinking about getting you pretzels….

nah. you don’t know me…

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@jackielamp RIGHT?! Don’t you love Sole Society?! A pair of shoes every month for $50. Or you can pass and not have any. Mr. D doesn’t know about it yet. I hope I can keep it a secret. 🙂

This is a very nice comment – thank you! You’re absolutely right. It takes A LOT of effort to build community. We’re having a webinar later this month on this very topic and we’ve told people that if they’re willing to put in some serious work, don’t bother attending.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@KenMueller Oh! That was you?!?

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich No. It was Charlie Sheen

bdorman264
bdorman264
5 years 3 months ago
@ginidietrich Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law………… I think it’s very admirable you don’t let the ‘shyness’ totally shut you down. Yes, you probably carry a barf bag w/ you on speaking engagements knowing how your stomach will be churning away, but you are doing it…..and surviving it. Question Ms Overachiever, do you think that is why you have such a strong online community because you over-compensate from your public persona? Dr Freud wants to know……….. If you (or any of my twitter friends) met me in person I’m just as goofy, so it would probably be what you would… Read more »
EricaAllison
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich Thank you! That’s a very nice compliment and I’ll take it! I’m glad it didn’t come across as stalking…I think was pushing the limit on highlighting and stalking, but glad you felt it was the appropriate kind of attention! 🙂

xoxo!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@KenMueller Did you miss the memo when we said his name wasn’t allowed here?

rachaelseda
5 years 3 months ago

I love this post so simple, to the point and true. I am definitely going to share this with others! Thanks Gini!

Lori
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich uh – yeah! Because I’m NOT as funny in person, at least I don’t think so. Augh! Who knows!? We’ll have to try it sometime and find out! LOL

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@EricaAllison Oh yeah. I didn’t feel that way one bit. I might have felt differently if you were a nameless and faceless dude living in his mom’s basement.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@bdorman264 LOL!! You seriously make me laugh!

I’m actually the same way offline as on. I just don’t do well in crowds of people where I don’t know anyone.

And one of the things everyone here should know…you also send handwritten notes! It was an absolute sheer pleasure receiving one from you.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@rachaelseda And thank YOU for sharing!

CreativeDynamix
CreativeDynamix
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich @CreativeDynamix @Lori funny you mention Lori’s post it was one that struck me. Its interesting to note that you consider yourself an introvert. I commend you for myth busting that introverts are bad communicators. Lots of great comments to your post testament that you are building a great community as Ken points out you walk your talk.

Jacki mentions selfless sharing and I think one has to have caution that it is ‘selfless’.

mikeashworth
mikeashworth
5 years 3 months ago

hiya, i think this is a great example of people who genuinely care and put the work in to build their business etc. I wonder what your thoughts are about such activity away from bvlogs such as on facebook posts. often i am amazed that ppl go to the effort of having a presence, shouting stuff about them at ppl, yet if someone comments, rarely does the page owner respond.

mikeashworth
mikeashworth
5 years 3 months ago

@jackielamp i wouldnt necessarily say its “selfless” their is a goal in mind, building their community, business, marketing, sales, profits etc. (people shouldnt be ashamed to admit these things) however it is at least a step in the right direction from most of the stuff I see on Social MEdia

mikeashworth
mikeashworth
5 years 3 months ago
people shouldnt restrict this behaviour to online only, apply it to every area of your life. i send thankyou cards to people who have given me great service. ppl often ask me why i bother and i always use the same example. if you were in the shoes of the typical shop worker or customer services rep and the only time ppl sought to interact with me was when they wanted to shout and rage and rant at me about something that had gone wrong, imagine how you’d feel at the end of every day. not very good, despite the… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 3 months ago
I just give free cookies. But then that’s me. I remember last fall Mitch Joel decided he was going to respond to every comment even if he had 200. Personal engagement is important. And humbleness. I won’t read Seth Godin’s blog because even if he is smart he has no community. He is Push Marketing the kind I loathe and hate. I didn’t even know who he was until maybe a year ago. To date I have watched a TED video with him as speaker. That is not enough to bring me to his blog. But I come here almost… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@HowieSPM WHAT?! I’ve never gotten cookies!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@mikeashworth On my birthday my husband said to me, “You’re going to respond to every, single person who wished you a happy birthday on Facebook, aren’t you?” I get made fun of, but I do it and people LOVE it. I think there is almost nothing worse than responding to something someone has put out there (FB, blog, Twitter, etc.) and not getting a response back.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@CreativeDynamix It’s funny that there are so many myths out there about introverts. The fact of the matter is I get my energy from having downtime and being by myself. Extroverts get their energy from being around people. So, if I’m invited to go to an event by myself or I have the opportunity to read at home, I’m going to choose the latter every time.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 3 months ago

@mikeashworth TOTALLY agree with taking this behavior offline! My siblings make fun of me, but I still send thank you notes for gifts. 🙂

mikeashworth
mikeashworth
5 years 3 months ago

@ginidietrich @HowieSPM did someone say cookies 🙂

wpDiscuz
[postmatic_subscribe_widget]