Building community is more than you and me
- 36 Comment
Guest post by: Valerie Merahn Simon serves as a Senior Vice President at BurrellesLuce media monitoring and measurement, and writes a national public relations column for examiner.com. She is also co-founder and host of #PRStudChat, a monthly twitter chat between PR professionals and students moderated by Deirdre Breakenridge. She can be found on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Like PR practitioners, the best bloggers understand. Readers don’t care about you. Readers don’t care about your client. They don’t even care about the event or product or service you are eager to share. What do they care about? Themselves. Period. Readers don’t care about you, your client, or your clients products or services… unless it relates to them. Do I sound too harsh?
I do not mean to say that readers are selfish. On the contrary, I believe most readers want very much to become a member of the community and to share their opinions. But many bloggers talk AT their readers, not to the community. A blog is not an article, but it is not social media either if there is no conversation. So how can you transition from posting articles, to creating a community?
- Include members of your community. Interview your readers, reference their posts, highlight their accomplishments, include their blogs in your blog roll, or even invite a guest blogger over. Arik Hanson does a fabulous job of this. Check out his PR Rock Stars Series, the guests he invites on for his “rants and raves” section, or his Reader’s Choice Blog Awards for tremendous examples of how to include members of your community. I think this also goes a long way in helping you to be “Valuable not Voluable”. As Todd Defren points out, “No one wants to hear from you that much.”
- Ask questions, or better yet ask for help. Sounds simple doesn’t it? If you want conversation, ask a question. Ask a question that your community is qualified to answer. Let them show off their expertise. You will all be smarter for their participation! I love how Danny Brown is always reaching out to his community. The attitude of his blog is summed up by the quote, “If there’s something you’d like to read about and you can’t find it here, please feel free to contact me and ask me to look at it for you. I may not always have the answer, but I’ll try my best – after all, this is as much your blog as it is mine. Community is everything.”
- When you write about a product or service, go light on features, heavy on benefits. Make it easy for folks to understand why they should care…why they should be excited. Features are nice to know. Benefits warrant conversation!
- Spend some time with your community offline! Tweetups, tradeshows, conferences, seminars, lectures. Yes, get to know your community “in real life”, and make it easy for them to meet you! Shel Holtz does an excellent job of this. A quick look at the front page of his blog and you can get an overview of “what Shel’s up to,” with a quick link to a full calendar. Of course, you need not be the special guest of honor or speaker to promote your attendance at these events (or attempt Shel’s ambitious travel schedule). But do make an effort to make the most of opportunities to shake hands with some of your virtual friends.
- Be relatable. I love that Chris Brogan, shares his experiences as a parent and that Jeremiah Owyang shares up his personal family history. It seems that although the brilliant may be different than you or I, the truly brilliant will have you believe they are just like you and me!
How do your favorite bloggers make you feel “at home” on their blog? If you blog, what do you do to engage readers?
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of upcoming guest posts from those in my community. If you have an idea for a post about the communications, public relations or journalism industries, email me at email@example.com.