Gini Dietrich

The Secret Sauce of Online Community Building

By: Gini Dietrich | August 24, 2011 | 
273

Everyone always wants to know what is the secret sauce to building a community. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s simple, really.

Stroke people’s egos.

Seriously. That’s it.

You’ve heard this from me before; it’s not a new concept. But it truly is the secret sauce.

Starting from Scratch

Some people disagree with me. Mitch Joel, for instance, thinks blog comments are nice, but the real juice is in the content.

I agree. But I also think if you aren’t giving people a reason to comment, they’re not going to. If you don’t stroke their egos by visiting the places where they participate online, they’re not going to come to you. And this is very important, especially when you’re starting out.

But how do you go about doing such a thing?

Three years ago I began blogging for the sheer purpose of figuring it out so we could counsel clients on the pros, cons, and how to make a blog effective.

And something interesting happened along the way. I built a community.

It actually wasn’t on purpose. You see, I had 128 visitors the first month of blogging. No one commented; not even my mom.

But I began reading other blogs, and commenting on them. Soon, those bloggers came to my blog and commented on my content.

Well, let’s be real. It took me 10 months to figure that out. But when I figured that out, our traffic jumped, oh, nearly four thousand percent. Yes, four thousand percent.

All I was doing? Stroking other people’s egos by commenting on their blogs and being smart about what I said.

The funny thing is that, when you comment consistently, the blogger wants to know who you are. So they check you out. And, if they like what they see, they comment, subscribe, and share.

Building Community

But, of course, for this double type A personality, that wasn’t enough. I really wanted more than traffic and comments.

I wanted community.

Back to Mitch Joel…I read a blog post he wrote about community. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that you don’t have a community until people begin talking to one another without your participation. Until then, it’s just comments.

And he’s right. You know you’ve hit community mecca when people come to your site to talk to one another, with your content as the conversation starter.

One of the things we did to really help build community was install Livefyre as our commenting platform. You see, it invites people to come back over and over and over again.

But it’s not the end all, be all. It’s only a tool. It’s in how you use it that makes community building successful.

The consistent content has to drive conversation. Create a polarizing opinion and watch people talk to one another (professionally, of course) about the topic.

Additional Things to Consider

So we’ve talked about stroking people’s egos, having good and consistent content, creating a conversation, installing Livefyre, and providing some banter.

A few additional things you should consider:

  1. Know what your vision is for the blog. It’s easy to forget when you read other blogs and you’re moved so much by what the bloggers have written that you want to write something similar. Unless it matches your vision, don’t do it.
  2. Have goals, just like you do for everything else you do in business. We started out with silly goals, such as “beat Danny Brown in the AdAge rankings,” which keeps me, particularly, motivated, but doesn’t do much for the business. Know what you’re trying to achieve and don’t take your eye off the ball.
  3. Your content should always have a call-to-action to it. This was a really hard lesson for me to learn. When I figured that out, this last year, our traffic grew 281 percent. Our community grew. And you know what else? Our sales increased because we gave people a reason to buy from us.

Three years of blogging. Nearly a 30,000 percent increase in traffic since the beginning. Ten blog posts per week (four from guests). A highly engaged community. And increased sales.

All because I believe if you stroke other people’s egos, your benefits far outweigh the cons.

Thanks to PowerPointNinja for the image. I always think, two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun when I think about community building.

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.

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273 Comments on "The Secret Sauce of Online Community Building"

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faybiz
4 years 10 months ago

G- you give good community

faybiz
4 years 10 months ago

G- you give good community

faybiz
4 years 10 months ago

G- you give good community

Shelley Pringle
Shelley Pringle
4 years 10 months ago

Great post, Gini. As someone who is just starting out on her social media journey I really appreciate the suggestions you share. I just have one question for you: where do you find the time?

AranH
AranH
4 years 10 months ago

@shelleypringle you’re looking great today…

AranH
AranH
4 years 10 months ago

@shelleypringle you’re looking great today…

CarlThress
4 years 10 months ago

Great post (as always). Lots of good takeaways. My favorite: “You know you’ve hit community mecca when people come to your site to talk to one another, with your content as the conversation starter.”

CarlThress
4 years 10 months ago

Great post (as always). Lots of good takeaways. My favorite: “You know you’ve hit community mecca when people come to your site to talk to one another, with your content as the conversation starter.”

martinwaxman
martinwaxman
4 years 10 months ago

RT @shelleypringle @ginidietrich: Online Community Building & the Secret Sauce via @SpinSucks http://t.co/dL6ifwR

martinwaxman
martinwaxman
4 years 10 months ago

RT @shelleypringle @ginidietrich: Online Community Building & the Secret Sauce via @SpinSucks http://t.co/dL6ifwR

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@Shelley Pringle Ha! I’m better at it some weeks than others. But just like you’ve commented here, you’re beginning to build good will for when you launch your own things.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@CarlThress I like that too…and it really started with Mitch challenging me.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@faybiz I don’t know what to say. You said something nice and didn’t call me names!

ArveyColumbus
ArveyColumbus
4 years 10 months ago
This reminds me of something I borrowed and quote from a @toddschnick blog post. Todd said, influencer that he is, that each of us should be reading and commenting on a minimum of five blog posts per day. So I do (I can be such a herdwoman sometimes). I’ve unsubscribed from blogs based upon posts from the blogger stating that comments on blogs are irrelevent. If a blogger doesn’t care what my thoughts may be on their subject matter, they must not care about it enough to invite conversation. I’m getting old and have little patience too. But that’s another… Read more »
ArveyColumbus
ArveyColumbus
4 years 10 months ago
This reminds me of something I borrowed and quote from a @toddschnick blog post. Todd said, influencer that he is, that each of us should be reading and commenting on a minimum of five blog posts per day. So I do (I can be such a herdwoman sometimes). I’ve unsubscribed from blogs based upon posts from the blogger stating that comments on blogs are irrelevent. If a blogger doesn’t care what my thoughts may be on their subject matter, they must not care about it enough to invite conversation. I’m getting old and have little patience too. But that’s another… Read more »
AlinaKelly
AlinaKelly
4 years 10 months ago
Great points ginidietrich . Maybe it’s intuitively obvious, but I think it’s worth noting that disingenuous ego-stroking for the sole purpose of community building is a fail. I’ve seen a bit of what looks like that on the blogs and find it off-putting. No one wants a sycophant for a friend. I have to agree that some of the best (and often most entertaining) community building happens in the comments (e.g. mock competitive banter between you and dannybrown). For all I know, your blogs could be ghost-written, but the banter in comments is real and that’s where I’ve grown to… Read more »
ItStartsWithUs
4 years 10 months ago

@faybiz@ginidietrich “You give community” made me laugh. 🙂

KDillabough
4 years 10 months ago

@AlinaKellyginidietrichdannybrown I had to look up sycophant. I now have a new word:) Thanks Alina. Cheers! Kaarina

KDillabough
4 years 10 months ago

Confidence-building, content-rich, relief-providing reality check: that’s what I call this post. Thanks! Kaarina

KenMueller
4 years 10 months ago

I’m with you 100% on this, and it’s why I’m here. I’ve become a part of this great community and some of it has carried over to my blog. And…I love it!

NancyD68
4 years 10 months ago
Now you have me thinking about Big Macs. 🙂 You make a very good point about people come back when they feel they are wanted. So it is in my case. I began reading and commenting on blogs and noticed that some bloggers never replied to my well thought out comments, while some always did. I always come back if the owner of the blog replies to me. If they don’t, I may still read, but won’t comment. I think everyone wants to be liked and accepted. This is part of life. I want to be liked and accepted too.… Read more »
Shonali
4 years 10 months ago

I think what is especially cool about Livefyre is that it helps you identify your community. Before I was blogging frequently, and before I had Livefyre, I certainly got comments, and even some replies/sub-comments between commenters, but it was difficult to bring them back to different parts of the conversation. That’s one of the things I really like about Livefyre. But as you said, it’s a tool – it’s how it’s used that makes the difference.

And I’ll second what @faybiz said – you give good community, Jean Genie (have you figured out why I call you that yet?).

Shonali
4 years 10 months ago

I think what is especially cool about Livefyre is that it helps you identify your community. Before I was blogging frequently, and before I had Livefyre, I certainly got comments, and even some replies/sub-comments between commenters, but it was difficult to bring them back to different parts of the conversation. That’s one of the things I really like about Livefyre. But as you said, it’s a tool – it’s how it’s used that makes the difference.

And I’ll second what @faybiz said – you give good community, Jean Genie (have you figured out why I call you that yet?).

kamkansas
kamkansas
4 years 10 months ago

A great success story! RT @KDillabough via @ginidietrich Online Community Building and the Secret Sauce | Spin Sucks http://t.co/3FzLLts

kamkansas
kamkansas
4 years 10 months ago

A great success story! RT @KDillabough via @ginidietrich Online Community Building and the Secret Sauce | Spin Sucks http://t.co/3FzLLts

AlinaKelly
AlinaKelly
4 years 10 months ago

@KDillaboughginidietrichdannybrown Well if I’ve done someone some good, then my work here is done. You’re welcome Kaarina! a.

NancyD68
4 years 10 months ago

@Shonali@faybiz I know why you call her that – but I bet you she has no idea why!

captain_diver
captain_diver
4 years 10 months ago

I didn’t see a call to action in this article.

Good Post. I’ve been reading your blog since the Vocus webinar a few weeks ago. I’m getting a lot of ideas and daily inspiration.

jackielamp
jackielamp
4 years 10 months ago

Lifefyre definitely helps the comments become more of an ongoing conversation that just a one-and-done sort of thing.

Question: do you think building community is the same for personal reasons vs. building one for a brand? I agree with what you said about “stroking egos,” but how does a brand do that without coming off as sort of cheesy? (because it’s not as subtle when a brand strokes someone’s ego)

jackielamp
jackielamp
4 years 10 months ago

Lifefyre definitely helps the comments become more of an ongoing conversation that just a one-and-done sort of thing.

Question: do you think building community is the same for personal reasons vs. building one for a brand? I agree with what you said about “stroking egos,” but how does a brand do that without coming off as sort of cheesy? (because it’s not as subtle when a brand strokes someone’s ego)

nikkimartinpr
nikkimartinpr
4 years 10 months ago

Amazing what happens when you stroke egos RT @carrieatthill Online community building & the secret sauce http://t.co/LxAgauH @ginidietrich

jackielamp
jackielamp
4 years 10 months ago

Lifefyre definitely helps the comments become more of an ongoing conversation instead of just a hit-and-run commenting sort of thing.

My questions: do you think building community works the same for a person vs. building one for a brand? I agree with what you said about “stroking egos,” but how does a brand do that without coming off as sort of cheesy? (because to me it’s not as subtle when a brand strokes someone’s ego)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 10 months ago

@captain_diver HAHAHA! Smarty pants! The fact that you’re reading the blog is a call-to-action.

And thank you…I’m happy to hear (er read?) you’re getting inspiration.

DannyBrown
4 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich@captain_diver Doesn’t that call-to-action come from *outside* the blog, though? So, technically, C_D is correct. 😉

fitzternet
4 years 10 months ago

@jackielamp Good point. For a brand to do that effectively, they should probably have a face behind their ego boosting… Or at least a name.

Of course, that may be perceived as risky and risky is bad. Or so I’ve heard.

DannyBrown
4 years 10 months ago

@AlinaKelly Shhh, don’t let @ginidietrich hear you complimenting me in the same sentence as her, you’ll be banned for at least 7 weeks!

fitzternet
4 years 10 months ago

@captain_diver I was JUST about to make the same wiseass comment.

DannyBrown
4 years 10 months ago

I think the reverse can be true. If you question people’s egos, and deliver the question with solid facts and research as to why their ego is out of check, that can have the same effect as stroking an ego.

Additionally, people are becoming wary of the posts that list X Amount of Bloggers to Follow, or Y Amount of Twitter Users to Know. Blogs with lists like that especially are often seen as nothing but linkbait.

While the opposite may be true, and there’s genuine praise within, it can often be seen as the opposite, and put people off.

MARLdblE
MARLdblE
4 years 10 months ago
Hey Gini, This is really interesting. I think you have a solid point and agree with your perspective – developing an engaged community is all about giving first. That said, I do think blogging to build community vs. blogging to build your business can sometimes present conflicts. For example, when you “stroke the ego of others” for comment it’s likely that you are engaging your peers not your clients. That is great, but it takes time away from revenue generating activities. I think it goes back to your additional points which is to have goals. Why are you blogging? If… Read more »
captain_diver
captain_diver
4 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich yeah, I guess that fact that I registered for a name on here (kind of a lame name, will have to rethink that) just to make my post means I heeded the call.

captain_diver
captain_diver
4 years 10 months ago

@ginidietrich yeah, I guess that fact that I registered for a name on here (kind of a lame name, will have to rethink that) just to make my post means I heeded the call.

NancyD68
4 years 10 months ago

@KenMueller thought you were here for the cake!

Al Smith
4 years 10 months ago

@NancyD68@Shonali@faybiz Now I will be singin THAT song all day. David Bowie. Wow ! Thanks.

Jean Genie !

Al Smith
4 years 10 months ago

Love this Gini. I guess thats what you would call it. stroking their ego. I would rather say, appreciating and supporting good writing. Whatever you call it, It works.

As long as it is genuine and we are not just blowing smoke, then its a good thing. just to be commenting, so someone will comment on your blog ? don’t seem right to me. But, you gotta start somewhere.

Thanks for sharing all you have learned and what is working for you. i appreciate it.

Thanks.

Al

Brankica
4 years 10 months ago

Hey Gini, that is exactly what pushed my blog from a completely new blog to a up and coming one in matter of months. I commented like crazy but not like a lot of people do, for link, it was to meet new people and connect. I am the living proof it works like a charm 🙂

Brankica
4 years 10 months ago

@captain_diver@ginidietrich lame? Nothing including diving is lame 😉

Al Smith
4 years 10 months ago

@Brankica Thanks Brankica. Exactly. To meet new people and connect. The rest will take care of itself. Glad i just saw this. You are a perfect example of this, too. Thanks again.

Al

AlinaKelly
AlinaKelly
4 years 10 months ago

@DannyBrown Thanks for the heads up. Would not want to get on the wrong side of @ginidietrich. Seven weeks – HARSH!!

skooloflife
skooloflife
4 years 10 months ago

HEy Gini

Great points. Interesting point you brought up about using LiveFyre. ONe of the things I remember in Seth Godin’s book Tribes is the idea of Tribe Member to Tribe Member communication. I wonder if a commenting platform like Livefyre facilitates more of that. It would be interesting to see the community pre and post Livefyre.

skooloflife
skooloflife
4 years 10 months ago

HEy Gini

Great points. Interesting point you brought up about using LiveFyre. ONe of the things I remember in Seth Godin’s book Tribes is the idea of Tribe Member to Tribe Member communication. I wonder if a commenting platform like Livefyre facilitates more of that. It would be interesting to see the community pre and post Livefyre.

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