As a small business owner, you love your blog. Your blog is where your community goes to hear your insight, it’s where they learn more about you, and it’s where they put a human face on your logo.
Or, it would be all of those things if anyone was actually reading your blog. Unfortunately, they’re not. And this is a problem.
Growing a small business blog can often be more difficult than we’d like. But you can conquer it and growing a thriving, engaged community to complement your business. Below are ten tactics to help generate more discussion and eye-balls on your blog. I suggest picking several and doing them in combination.
1. Let people know how to engage: It sounds silly, but not everyone knows how to leave a comment on a blog, or how to subscribe or what actions they’re supposed to take to become part of your community. It is your job to tell them. Have a tutorial for how to leave a comment. Let them know how they can respond directly to other users. Have a comment policy on your site. All of these things give readers the information they need to engage responsibly. No one wants to look dumb.
2. Promote your members: The folks who are active in your community aren’t just active there. They have blogs and Web sites and businesses of their very own – so promote them. Tell people about their cool business. Offer a LinkedIn recommendation. Pass their name to someone you think should know about them. By lifting up the people in your community, you show them how valued they are and that you see them.
3. Seed your blog conversation: In a perfect world people will differing opinions would come to your blog and have intelligent discussions on topics that are relevant to your industry. However, this isn’t a perfect world. This is the Internet. To help combat this, consider seeding your blog conversations to help them get started. Call in your blogging buddies and have them take different viewpoints in the comments section of your blog and have them debate your post passionately in the comments. Sure, maybe it will start out a little manipulated, but the real people will see the action and join in. Sometimes we all need someone to start the conversation for us and show it’s okay to hop in.
4. Go out and find new readers: Go to other blogs and discussion forums where people are talking about your industry, scout out the most active/respected commenters, and introduce yourself. Do not spam or market to them but say hello, let them know you’ve noticed their contributions, and thank them for making you a smarter individual. That is it. Without you ever asking them to, these people will do their homework to check you out and will stumble onto your blog. If they like what they’re seeing, they may join in.
5. Recruit new readers: Same as the above, but now offer an incentive for them to go check out your blog. Do not offer them money or a new television (this will change their motivation), but maybe invite them to be a beta tester for your new product or to act as a site moderator. Give them some non-monetary perks for getting involved.
6. Offer rewards for participation: You may have noticed that some blogs give users “points” for leaving comments or participating in the conversation. The goal of this is to provide an incentive for someone to get involved. If you’re going to do this, try not to reward people simply for quantity or you’ll wind up with people contributing nothing but low-quality content.
7. Create posts designed for community action: Sure, in blogging for your customers, you’ll want to create great resources on how to use your products and how to solve that common problem they’re facing, but also create content specifically geared toward getting interaction.
- Maybe it means you posing a question and then asking your community to answer.
- Perhaps it’s a Caption This Photo contest.
- Maybe it’s a giveaway.
- Maybe it’s asking users to create something and submit it.
These types of content pieces are written for your community and give them a reason to get involved.
8. Get people offline: I know it sounds weird, but one of the best ways to strengthen your online community is to encourage people to take it offline. Hold a meet up, have an in-store party, tweet you’ll be at X restaurant at 9pm and ask people to come join you. Get people away from their computers and talking in real life and they’ll from far stronger connections.
9. Eliminate bullying: As your community grows, you may find that some of your more established members don’t always react so kindly to new people. They may respond aggressively, question their knowledge or not allow them to enter insider discussions. It’s your job, as the blog owner, to nip this in the bud. Fostering an environment that has too much “insider baseball” and doesn’t do an adequate job making new people feel welcome will stifle your community’s growth. Don’t be afraid to reprimand members when necessary.
10. Have swag: What? People love *stuff* and they love showing off their stuff. Give people stickers and T-shirts with your blog URL when they make an in-store purchase or send out stickers to your most active on-site community members. Get swaggy with it.
Those are just ten ways you can work toward growing your blog’s community today. What other tactics have you used?