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Gini Dietrich

Building Your Online Community

By: Gini Dietrich | April 5, 2011 | 
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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.

118 comments
JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

Good perspective, GD. Just acknowledging people sounds so simple, but it's very smart and not enough people take the time.

I really like what @shonali does when she tweets or shares a post on Facebook and asks people their opinion by tagging them. Smart way to get other involved. Cheers.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I'd say treating everyone the same. And don't just highlight posts that you're featured in.

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

Good luck on the talk. Hope the "joy" comment brings lots of er... JOY!

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

PS. Many thanks to John Falchetto and Marcus Sheridan for leading me to you!

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

I am new to your site and thoroughly enjoyed your post! Well said. I am 6 months into this having started my site as a passion.

Initially, I thought it was just enough to offer a free service(in my case free health care advice) and hopefully awesome content. But am now finding much joy in the networking. It is not too much different than networking in person.

Looking forward to your next post!

Best,Rajka

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Regardless of the method by which you communicate with your community, it's essential to develop value. I appreciate a tweet, a comment or an email that acknowledges appreciation, support, advice or feedback.

People who are engaging in any form are busy. Their engaged because they work their tales off, providing value to the community, building their business or brand, taking care of their families and a zillion other things.

I'm not so moved by those who are too busy to provide feedback, although I understand their dilemma. I have a highly engaged small community and it's a lot of effort and work just to provide them the time and effort they deserve.

I don't have all the answers at this point, however, if you want to develop a valuable community, you need to figure out a method by which you're are engaged with your community, otherwise you won't have one.

Back to you Gini, do you have any suggestions on how to scale this process???

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

So all this time you've just been stroking my ego? I thought we had something more. I sent you wine.

Civility works in building an online community just as it does building your offline community. Anything that comes off as disingenuous or too contrived (example: automated email responses) won't work. You've got to be caring, gracious, open minded, have a sense of humor, be able to listen, view things from the others' perspectives and possess the ability to sincerely engage.

From my standpoint, you have all those traits and that's why you're successful on and offline -- yeah, who's stroking who's ego now?!

DrRae
DrRae

Just attended the Rainmaking Conversation webinar where the "new reality" to creating commitment and trust is building a community that has both an emotional and a rational connection. Thank you Gini, this is exactly what I find here ; )

{Moving forward my commitment is to grow a community along these lines as well!}

AlexaChance
AlexaChance

It's all about making the connection and maintaining the connection!

anotherkindofdrew
anotherkindofdrew

I appreciate the shout. Thank you so much. Sending a thank you email that day wasn't even really a strategy. It was just a typical response. I think we all too often forget that forging an online community should be done with much the same aplomb as forging real life communities. We treat others as we would want them to treat us!

ed_han
ed_han

Gini, this is absolutely superb, esp your point re: commenting on blogs. I've been a big fan of yours via Twitter for a long time. And with the number of people commenting on this, if you still did write individual e-mails, I'd be frightened for you!

redpage75
redpage75

I try to do the same (on a much smaller scale) of course. And it does pay off! I was certainly pleasantly surprised to get a tweet from you yesterday. And look...here I am again!

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

Well said Ms. Gini. It ain't easy...that is, until, you meet people that legitimately rock and inspire you....then it's easy to talk, promote, comment, etc....But getting to that point, yes, it's like a filtering process of sorts.

Love your blog and message lady, but you already knew that. :-)

Marcus

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

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 every day. Spin Sucks is Pull Marketing. And it works!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ExpatDoctorMom You're right - there is so much joy in networking! I'm stealing that for when I speak. I'll try it out tonight and let you know how it's received. Thanks for stopping by...and thanks to @John Falchetto and @thesaleslion for bringing you here!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Mark_Harai It's funny you ask...I nearly had a nervous breakdown last summer, trying to figure out how it was going to scale. This time last year, we had 4,000 visitors, wrote maybe three blog posts a week (on a good week), I had maybe 5,000 Twitter followers, I was speaking three times a week, and I couldn't keep up. We hired a community manager and he kept pushing to do more. So I sat down and went through everything I had to do to decide what I had to keep, what I wanted to keep, and what I could delegate. I looked at our goals and thought about the vision (which just was announced yesterday) and figured out how I could manage it the way I wanted to...by still being highly engaged. Yes, it means that sometimes I'm reading and commenting on blogs at 5 a.m. and I always do my writing that early, but it works for me.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KevinVandever Well, you were supposed to send me more wine so I'm only speaking to you until you do!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@DrRae It's so true...and people buy from people they like, right? So why not spend time creating those connections. I'll have to check out Rainmaking Conversation. You like?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@redpage75 We all start on a small scale so don't let that intimidate you! I was actually just looking at our stats and our traffic is up 473% from this time last year. If you the same, I can guarantee your goals for your social media efforts will be exceeded!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Marcus_Sheridan When I speak, I always say, "You guys! This is fun! We all like to have our egos stroked. And, the more you participate online, the more your ego is stroked." Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't. :)

ryanknapp
ryanknapp

@HowieG I wouldn't be so quick to discount Seth Godin. His whole focus is on shipping and doing work, which is why he doesn't actively use twitter. If someone is giving great content I would still read their work even if they do not actively promote community. Just because he chooses not to participate in a community but wants to write has not hurt what he's been able to accomplish nor his reach.

simplysocialchi
simplysocialchi

@ginidietrich @Mark_Harai It's encouraging to know that at one point you only blogged three times a week (and also that you eventually grew 400%+ from last year). With a full time job and two part time jobs I'm lucky if I post once a week but I'm still trying! I couldn't agree more with the power of genuinely showing thanks (one of the few blog posts I did get to writing!) and I too 'stroke other people's egos'.. heck, hopefully one day I'll be as awesome as you :)

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

@ginidietrich Thanks for the insight Gini. I'm usually up by 5AM as well writing away before my day starts and then in the evenings after my day ends. I'm usually out by 9PM, but have been staying up late these last few months say 11ish : )

That's what it takes to get things done, so I'll wait for another season of rest to sweep through my life. It helps to live on beach, work from home and see my wife and kids throughout the day. I really like the lifestyle.

Again, thanks for taking the time to share. I need to do the "had, what and delegate' scenario soon though.

Good night : )

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

@ginidietrich Coming soon. Labels being created. Official release, May 3. Oh, sorry about the grammar error in my comment. I don't want the grammar pet peeve discussion to spark up again.

DrRae
DrRae

@ginidietrich I'll let you know Gini as soon as the book {a gift from Mike Shultz} is received and read. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation yesterday; and today have attempted to put to use what I've learned! ; )

FYI, the book is going to be posted on my Shopping Network tomorrow...

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@ginidietrich @ed_han I'm telling you, it's something.. all this blogging and tweeting and networking and global empire building. If it's not clones, Gini has superpowers and is holding out on us. ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@ryanknapp @HowieG Great point, Ryan. And if Squidoo and The Domino Project aren't great examples of Godin's understanding of community and promoting others, I don't know what is. ;-)

michaelgiese
michaelgiese

@simplysocialchi You are that awesome. It is already inside of you. All you have to do is put it out there on display for the world to see.

simplysocialchi
simplysocialchi

@Mark_Harai @ginidietrich I just saw this seconds after I left my reply below.. I envy your lifestyle, Mark! I also admire your insanely long work hours. Looking forward to reading some of your blogs as well.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@Danny Brown @ryanknapp@ginidetrich Pre Bark at the Moon. He kind of sold out with that album. lol Hell now he is just a comedian who does commercials with Bieber. LOL That said I did see Black Sabbath blow Pantera off the stage in the late 90's when they toured together. Hard feat if you ask me.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@Danny Brown @ryanknapp@ginidetrich is Grace Slick. And Danny is Ozzy. Seth is more Dave Mathews who while wildly successful is not in my 99gb's and 58days of music. lol I mean I was a linchpin before he even thought of the term going back to my first busboy job. I just never cared to share that with anyone because then they could compete with me better. Screw that! LOL

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