Building a Community- What's the Secret Sauce?In just two days, I will be joining Karen Wilson, Lara Wellman, and all of my Canadian friends at Social Capital and I cannot wait (though I think Lindsay Bell might be just a tad more excited than me)!

My keynote topic this year is Blogging, Community, and Making it Work and we’re going to spend some time talking about building a community and the secret sauce.

No, not like the Big Mac secret sauce (though I hear you can now make it at home), but what it takes to not only build a community, but grow it and make it stick.

We’ve done this right here and, while it’s been a fun ride, it’s also been a ton of work and there are some days I wonder why we do it at all. As it turns out, building a community through blogging is hard work that doesn’t have many rewards for a very long time.

So why do it?

What is Community?

Let’s first start with what the heck community even means.

When I was trying to figure it all out about four years ago, I turned to Mitch Joel. He wrote a blog post about building a community and he said something that really stuck with me.

He said (and I’m paraphrasing here) you don’t have community until the members begin to talk to one another without the help of the author.

At the time, I remember thinking, “How, on earth, do you make that happen?” It turns out, you don’t make it do anything. It happens organically.

There are a few things you can do to help massage it:

  • Install Livefyre. I’m a big, big proponent of this commenting tool because it helps you create conversations. More than any of its competitors. 
  • Answer comments. There is a big debate in the blogosphere about whether or not you should respond to comments. I stand firmly on the side you should answer comments, particularly if your goal is to build community.
  • Engage people with one another. If you visit the comments section of Spin Sucks, you’ll notice I invite others into the conversation (by tagging them with an @ sign), which begins to build community.
  • Introduce readers to one another. We do this through our weekly #FollowFriday blog post. Every Friday, you are introduced to one member of our community, which provides information about professional and personal lives, including hobbies, interests, and fun facts we’ve learned about them while they hang out with us.

But, of course, these things are just the starting point. What, really, is the secret sauce?

Secret Sauce

Are you ready?

It’s simple, really.

Stroke people’s egos.

Seriously. That’s it.

It’s not a new concept. But it truly is the secret sauce.

That means responding to people when they comment on your blog. It means going to visit their blogs. It means commenting on their blogs. It means sharing their content. It means giving them a reason to want to visit you…again and again.

It also means visiting the blogs of those who you want to notice your content, commenting, and building a relationship. You’re stroking the egos of the bloggers and soon they’ll pay attention to you.

I know, I know. I can already hear the criticism: But if I’m stroking people’s egos for the sake of building community, isn’t that fake?

Um, no. Sure you have the goal of building community, but you can’t be fake about it. People will know if you’re not being genuine. They’ll spot it a mile away and it won’t work.

You have to do so from a very good place. Fakeness won’t work.

Because of that, it is hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. Some days you will get really sick and tired of it all. But it’s worth it.

Building a Community

How worth it depends on your goal. Our goal for blogging initially was to figure out what the whole thing was about so we could correctly counsel clients. Then we discovered there was a way to monetize the blog through increased clients to Arment Dietrich, the integrated marketing communications firm in Chicago.

Today this blog right here is the number two driver of new business. In fact, just last week I received a phone call from a woman looking for a PR firm. When I asked her how she found us, she said she Googled B2B PR in Chicago (yay SEO) and then found the blog. She liked our thinking and our approach so she called.

We won’t compete for this business. It’s ours for the taking. This is the mecca in professional services firms.

All because of a blog that started with all of 128 readers and no comments or shares and has grown into one of the best communities (in my opinion) on the web.

A Gift for Our Community

If you’re going to be in or near Ottawa this weekend, we have a free ticket to giveaway.

If you’re not already a Spin Sucks subscriber, get yourself signed up. If you are already a subscriber and want to be included in the drawing, let us know. We’ll confirm your subscription and then we’ll do a random drawing.

I know it’s last minute, but hopefully it works for someone!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich