Successful bloggers share their experiences in fostering community at SMWNY #smwblogcommunity
As blogs have expanded on the web in scope and size, so have the ways that blog writers can interact with readers. Jessica Harlow (JessicaHarlow.com), Angel Laws (ConcreteLoop.com), and Gala Darling (GalaDarling.com) sat down with Paul Steketee (@steketee), Head of Social Marketing at Rapp, to discuss how they interact with the communities that they have built. The panelists shared their experiences in an open conversation with the audience at our panel, “Creating Community Around Your Blog,” part of the Blogads Social Media Spectacular at Social Media Week in New York.
The first step of building a community is producing great content
Gala, who posts 3-4 times per week about fashion and style, invoked Allen Ginsberg’s quote “If the muse comes to your bedside, don’t tell her you’ll f&*$ her later!” If you feel inspiration, stop what you’re doing and write it down! ”Don’t spend too much time reading everything online,” she recommended, “You are living your life, and your content can be so much better when you are original and you do your own thing.”
Jessica makes beauty tutorial videos a few times a week. “I started out using a dinky camera, and now I use a nice SLR camera,” she said. “Readers want a clean and concise video; 3-5 minutes is more than enough.” Angel attaches a microphone to her iPad, and filmed all of her Grammy red carpet interviews with this simple, but high-quality set-up. She updates hourly in order to cover the latest entertainment news. Angel blogged solo for her first 2 years, and then brought in friends to focus on expanding music and fashion content.
So you created a blog… what next? Promote and grow your community
Angel, who recently published the book “Angel’s Laws of Blogging,” recommends looking at yourself and your blog as a brand. “I also try to keep it organic and stay true to myself and what I’m interested in,” she added.
When Gala began blogging, she wrote a lot of “how-to” posts. “This is really sharable content that doesn’t expire. ‘How to dress like Edie Sedgwick’ will be relevant and get shared for a long time.” Gala also spoke about seeking media exposure in other realms – including events, television, and magazines.
Jessica recommends using your friends and family to share and to help out. Jessica has also seen success with product giveaways as a way to reward readers for promoting her content among like-minded friends. Angel pointed out that most of the blogging community is pretty cool and that you can always email people. “If there are people that you are inspired by, tweet at them! They could help you, and at the end of the day, you could even become friends,” added Jessica.
How you communicate with your readers is up to you…as long as you’re listening
The comment area of Concrete Loop is Angel’s community, and it’s where people come together to have a conversation. “There is always a heated debate about entertainers,” she laughed. Her intern handles comment moderation, but having people sign in with Twitter or Facebook IDs can also improve comment quality. Hearing feedback from her readers is important, and she often uses polls to engage her community.
Jessica engages the most on Twitter and Facebook. The majority of her content is on Youtube, where comments can get overwhelming. “Re-tweeting is also a quick way to make people feel heard. Even if you don’t post on your blog for a little while, stay involved in the conversation” Sometimes people argue, but Jessica values the passion behind conflicts.
Gala used to obsessively check her comments, and she didn’t like the feeling of needing validation for her content. A fellow blogger turned her comments off, and told Gala that it felt like 30,000 people left her living room. She turned her comments off for her 26th birthday. “It was the best thing ever,” said Gala. Most of her conversations now take place on Twitter and Facebook, but she also created the Radical Self Love Bootcamp – a private, password-protected forum to which fans purchase memberships.
You’ve created a community! Now let’s monetize
Jessica made about $200 a month at first on Youtube. Eventually, as the views started growing, the money grew as well, and so did the opportunities to work with top beauty brands. Angel pointed out that making money doesn’t happen over night, and that you have to be consistent, motivated, and organized. With Google Adsense, the money does add up, but it takes time.
Giveaways and contests for your readers are often pitched by brands, but there are often legal ramifications that come with a good contest. Angel recommends Googling for legal contract templates, but you may choose to only work with a brand that pay your legal fees “At some point, you need a good team of people that support you and that you can trust,” Angel said.
Gala said that Blogads has been good to her, and she was innovative with her pricing structure. She sold 75 ads a day by offering small, very affordable spaces. “It’s good to have lots of entry points for advertising, because that money adds up!” said Gala.
Gala also recommends creating your own products. “I wrote a book. I did a chapter a month by subscription. I did 12 chapters total, and that was one of the most successful things I’ve ever done.,” Gala said. “It’s really easy to develop your own products. Get a graphic designer, or use one of the thousands of online tools to publish or create things yourself.”
Community tools for Bloggers recommended by panelists:
- Choopa (web hosting)
- Facebook Groups
- Google analytics
- Disqus (commenting plugin)
- iMovie (video editing)
- Zazzle.com (custom merch)