How do you build community? What focus is required to succeed in building community online?
Justice Wardlaw just published a fantastic post on “Why Building A Blogging Community Is More Important“. I think he is onto a crucial point in the area of building community.
Most of the websites I get to create are built around the idea that a goup of people will be engaged. They are places for people to connect and contribute. Conversation. Community building websites fit people like authors, speakers, bloggers, photographers, designers, educators, influencers, and the like.
Justice says that when he got started with blogging his priorities didn’t necessarily build community. (Note: blogging is one of the most practical options to attract like minded people into community.)
The priority: “having a community of like minded people is the one focus that I should concentrate on.”
When you start to think of the idea of creating a community you want to [know] WHY you should create one and how you should grow that community in a unique way to get the best benefits for both your community and your brand.
Options For Community Building
(via WordPress Powered website):
a. Configure Commenting On Blog Posts
When you publish content using WordPress your readers have the opportunity to become content contributors. You can even turn on the option for readers to respond directly to a single comment. Each comment can then become its own conversation thread. I’m a fan of the threaded comments option.
b. Create A Blog Commenting Policy (for the health of the community)
This is your own set of criteria for what kind of comment is helpful or not. When you will delete comments or directly respond. Your commenting policy can be shared with your community or not. The point is, have a clear idea of how you will keep the contributions on the blog focused on the topics at hand. This becomes your outline of acceptable and encouraged comments behavior while negotiating what is not helpful.
Recommended Comment Plugins:
Recommended Plugin #1: I absolutely love the Akismet spam protection. Each WordPress site can benefit from this – keeping your site clean of unwanted spam!
Recommended Plugin#2: Comment Redirect This added function allows you to greet people who comment for the first time. Simple attention to detail can vastly improve how clearly people catch the overall tone of your group. A really nice touch!
Note: as the website manager you have the ability to moderate everything that happens in regards to content viewable on your site. Extremely helpful! A nice option built in to the system is allowing previously approved commenters to have comments published immediately. Even so, you can turn off or remove an unhelpful comment at any point – though your definition of unhelpful content may be challenged
b. Invite Community to Contribute Blog Posts
This takes your site to a different level. Beyond valuable comments and the conversation built around comments; invite likeminded people to contribute and build value online through quality guest blog posts.
What kind of plan is needed to see people regularly contribute to a community building website? What kind of incentive or reward does your community offer to it’s own guest bloggers? There are number of questions about incentive, quality and topics your community bloggers can contribute. A community driven blog is clearly a way to go about community building!
Options with WordPress: 1) Turn on open registration allows anyone to register on your site (generally not recommended). You can set the default level of new users to subscriber or higher – allowing them to blog. 2) Perhaps a better route is to get to know the people who you want to contribute content to the community, invite them and then register them as an Author on the site. Then they have permission to blog on the site. 3) Alternately, you can have people contribute content for you to review through email or even an online form (see below).
Plugins to help with community building (guest) blog posts:
GravityForms: This is a complete form builder that can handle simple contact requests to allowing people to create a draft post complete with title, content and an image attached. (Yes – that’s an affiliate link. I like this plugin that much that I’m happy to promote it and get a couple $ for the referral)
Members Plugin: A very powerful plugin allowing you to set permissions for user roles and content on your site. This goes beyond inviting people to contribute to a community site and actually gives you what you need to setup custom roles and content access. Read the documentation and check out the Members Plugin forum for additional insight.
More options for Community Building Websites?
Alright, so once again – the point is not to get bogged down in the technical aspects of a community website, but to really get into the relational behaviors and skills that it takes to participate with people. How do you keep your focus on the people who makeup your community when developing your website content? What do you find is necessary to get the invitation in front of the right people? Do they get it?
More to come,
Related Community Building Resources:
- “The Ultimate Guide to Accepting Guest Posts on Your Blog” - Ann Smarty
- 3 Ways Leaders Demonstrate Commitment and Intentionally Build Community – Liz Straus
- Story Telling: Building Community for Post-Secondary Students – Liz Straus
- 5 Elements to Building a Successful Blog – Brian Gardner