Sunday, 18 May 2014

Creating a Virtual Community to Build a Better Blog

Blogging with purpose

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Image via Flickr user Steve.Garner32

This is a guest contribution from Sarah Loomes of

There are many online communities available for your readers to reach out to, on all manner of topics – so how can you fill a need that isn’t already being taken care of out there?

I was stuck in a bit of plateau in my blogging and found myself re-reading the “31 Days to a  Build a Better Blog” and brainstorming about a problem that my readers might have that I could solve. It was January, and New Year’s resolutions were aplenty, so having a health and fitness blog I needed a way to help my readers achieve their goals. I am notorious for losing motivation around March (if I am lucky enough to even make it as far as March), so I figured many of my readers would be in the same boat. I had been wanting to host a fitness challenge for some time but there were hundreds of different variations already out there that were all much the same – short term.

That was where my Virtual Race Series came in. I created a series where 12 virtual races occur across the world throughout the year. A Virtual Race can be done anywhere around the globe within a fixed timeframe, and the GPS data from a sports watch or smart phone is submitted for your time.  

I found it built a wonderful community on my blog, and provided a place where readers could come together to cheer each other on and support each other. It had the added benefit of creating a sense of collaboration and real engagement – something every blogger wants. This is how I made sure I made the most of that momentum:

Interact with the Reader

Due to the engagement of everyone involved with the race series, once there is a great community environment then the interaction starts to become self-perpetuating.  Before launching the race series, I found myself spending a lot of time on sharing my content, trying to find readers and I really wasn’t seeing any significant increase in my readership. Now I can concentrate my time on those elements of the blog that will actually lead to engagement. 

Finding the Time

I am not a full-time blogger, so finding the time to develop new ideas for the blog and stick to a consistent posting schedule can be tricky. I generally post two to three times a week and schedule my posts ahead of time including automatically posting to social media. Finding the time to consistently post on the same days at the same time has definitely seen an increase in the engagement of my readers and the visitors to my site.

Dealing with Challenging Readers

This is the internet and, let’s be honest, there will always be people who don’t like what you are doing or saying and want to be vocal about it. There have been a few people not happy with the rules and requirements that I have placed on the participants of my race series. I am the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to hosting Virtual races, in particular an entire series. So honesty is my policy, I ask for feedback from the readers and implement what seems fair and equitable.

Social Media Platforms

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been the primary gathering place for the community of runners – platforms that are easy to use and allow easy conversation.  For the particular group that I am appealing to, I found Facebook to be the best way to create that sense of involvement. I have set up a group for all the race participants where everyone can post their run pictures and running events. There is a lot of communication and encouragement between the runners including information sharing on all running related questions.  Instagram has quickly become a gathering spot for all things health and fitness. So naturally I have a hashtag that the runners can use to share their photos of their run.

Key Points:

Know your reader – why would they come to your site and gather around it? How can you cater to that?

Take your reader into account when targeting social media – use what they already use.

Remember you are human – everything you do won’t be perfect.

Sarah Loomes blogs at Licorice and Olives about her newfound love for running, biking, and OzTag. You can join her Virtual 5k race here.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Creating a Virtual Community to Build a Better Blog

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Creating a Virtual Community to Build a Better Blog

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