6 Ways To Build A Strong Community

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"What am I doing wrong?" is often the question many people who are just starting out in online social networks and Social Media (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc…) ask. It’s a fair question, but then again, it’s not a fair question because there are no real rules for success.

That being said, there are some good guidelines.

Here are 6 things you can do right now to improve your chances of building a strong community (that involves little more than a simple mind-set shift):

  1. Be consistent – you have to gauge your community and make sure that you are consistently publishing something for them of value. The old saying, "out of sight, out of mind" becomes even more powerful in a world where everyone is publishing their thoughts in text, images, audio and video instantly to the Web.
  2. Be contextual – it’s not just about publishing anything and everything online. While "content is king," we’re getting closer and closer to the moment in time when the new king becomes context. Knowing what to publish is even more important than knowing when to publish.
  3. Figure out a pulse – this is a little more complex than being consistent. Knowing what time to publish, how self-promotional you can be, and tying in the frequency with the context all culminates into your pulse. It’s about knowing your community so well, that you’re pulsing out your content in a way that continues to build (and not annoy) those who are following you (and commenting).
  4. Set the stage – it’s a delicate balance between not repeating yourself in everything you publish and also being able to acknowledge that some of your community may be very new to this space. Always remember to set the stage. Help your audience understand where you’re coming from (and even some of the words that may sound foreign to them), and why it’s important to their lives. Many of the more advanced concepts you discuss could well be over their heads. Focus on making yourself an ambassador between your industry and how these new media channels can help them connect.
  5. Define the starting point – many people simply don’t know where to begin once they find you. Most online social network profiles or Blogs are just long laundry lists of the many spaces that people can find, follow and connect to you. Choose one as your primary touch point. Stick to it, and make it the main gateway to everything "you." Help people know the best place to get started with diving into your content and community. For me, it’s this Blog. In publishing all of this content, it’s always important for me (and my team at Twist Image) to direct people here. Remember, "all roads lead to Rome" (your Rome).
  6. The long haul – there are a lot of people who say, "ok, I started a Blog about a month ago, what am I doing wrong? Why are there no comments? What can I do to build my audience faster?" Always remember, that this is not an advertising campaign where you can buy attention. You have to earn it. Building community and trust takes time, effort and then more time (for more on this, please read the book, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith). It’s not easy. So, even though you may be doing everything "right," building community does takes time. You will be earning it one person at a time, and it’s important to stay the course (you can read more about this right here: In Praise Of Slow).

Any other thoughts or additions to this list?


  1. I really like point number 1: “Be Consistent”
    Consistency in *everything* is key! In publishing, follow up and follow thru! The second you fall short in either of these areas is the second you lose the community you worked so hard to create. Consider the blogger who takes a blogging break… It’s so much easier to lose a community in that moment and it’s so much harder to rebuild it (IMHO).

  2. I believe the first five things are important, but the lack of understanding of number six is a common cause of failure. Social media is an endurance game. It works like compound interest. Time (while following the first five suggestions) develops the long tail and the rewards that come with it.
    I also like the idea of setting the stage. Help people understand where you are coming from – good thought.

  3. This says it all for me and certainly where it is heading – FAST
    – Knowing what to publish is even more important than knowing when to publish.
    Also be mindful with point 5 – that other portals etc are great places from which to point people to the main gateway. A simple, catch Twitter post to a blog link can generate a lot of new readers.
    Just my toonies worth

  4. Yeah. You’re missing the points of listening and pausing and everything else your cohorts contributed last year when you launched that meme on the first thing one should do when launching a social media campaign.

  5. Great post!
    I’ve been managing a large community on Linkedin for some time and it’s difficult to keep things together sometimes when people break the “rules”.
    Thanks for articulating clearly what I’ve been feeling for a long time.

  6. Great list Mitch, the only other thing I would add would be referencing your blog on facebook and linkedIn. 80 percent of my website traffic comes from my social media community. Don’t forget google analytics. This way you know where everyone is coming from.
    Make it a great day!
    Kyle McGuffin

  7. Great post Mitch.. So true about “what am I doing wrong”… The answer usually is… “not working hard enough” (sweat equity)
    Take care, Brian-

  8. I think this post is a good starting point for engagement and building a following, but not so sure about community. In my mind, a community requires that the members of the community interact with each other, not just a host. In developing a blog following (your post mostly refers to publishing content), the blogger is the only one contributing to content to their community, but there is limited opportunity for members of that community (readers) to interact with each other (yes, there is commenting) or contribute their own fully developed content with the rest of the group (guest posts are quite rare I’ve found).
    I often wonder if people have clear definitions about some of the terms that are thrown around as synonyms, but don’t really mean the same thing. Another example is ‘social media’. For many this incorporates both media (e.g. blog posts, video, podcasts) and mediums (community and sharing platforms, broadcast mechanisms; e.g. Twitter, FB, Slideshare, YouTube). Others throw the kitchen sink in and include SEO/SEM which while related, are neither social media nor social mediums.

  9. Mitch,
    Great topic. People are finally getting over the “I’m on Twitter” Now what? phase and are really ready for this type of info!
    I would add that like any website, a community needs a compelling reason to comeback again and again. Networking alone is simply not enough, especially in this landscape of “anybody can create a community”.
    Make certain you have a focus around content and give educational value. If you do that, you will be well on your way.
    Tony Veroeven
    Engage365 Community Manager
    Profile: http://engage365.conferencespot.org/user_profiles/tony-veroeven

  10. Great list. The one thing I would add is to respond to the community. Nothing is more annoying than when someone posts something, gets tons of responses, and never responds. (that’s not pointed at you because you respond).
    We launched our internal blog about 6 months ago, and the most important lesson we’ve learned is that employees want us to respond to feedback. We do.

  11. I think you should add something about nurturing your community to keep the people who have decided to join your community involved. Responding to questions promptly and listening to the community for suggestions that can help make your blog/site/product better is a huge part of it.

  12. Number 3 (figuring out a pulse) really rang true to me. It’s a delicate balance between resisting the urge to post manically in the beginning and instead build up a pace that you’re able to keep up with in the long run… Also, I appreciate Laural and Buzzlord’s advice about responding to and nurturing the community (not that I have much of a community yet, but I’ll definitely keep that in mind). Thanks for an inspiring blog!

  13. The points that hit me the most here are numbers 3 and 4 – figuring out your pulse and setting the stage. To strike that balance between not repeating yourself too often and also making newcomers feel welcomed and not left too far behind so they can catch up. I suppose this alone takes as much time as the entire building community effort.
    Cheers for the article, Mitch.

  14. Hi Mitch — I’ve been struggling over your use of “community” for your last couple posts, including the Media Hacks episode with Julien. You say “community” a lot but I really see what you have as a solid readership / audience.
    I see community as having more interaction between members, a common goal, etc. I don’t ever hear you talk about the people in the community you are forming, for example.
    This isn’t a shot (honest!), but just a question from a guy trying to figure things out.
    I’d love it if you shared more of your thoughts on what makes what you’re building here a community vs an audience.
    *PS — if you can energetically debate what is a Book, or what is Literacy, what is Community is well worth the debate! 🙂

  15. Number 6 combined with number 1 are the points I find come up regularly with people I work with to get the best out of their web sites. The get frustrated because it seems to take forever to build that community, and because it seems to take so long (even though it might have only been a few months), their consistency starts to drop since it doesn’t seem worthwhile, and after not long at all, they aren’t publishing anything new at all. The encouragement to keep at it and be patient I think is something a lot of newcomers lack, especially when it all looks so easy.

  16. I’m about to create a namesake blog but have already started a blog for a niche topic I’m passionate about. It’s true, you build credibility one person at a time. And it does take time. Today’s world of instantaneous results seems impossible, but is made possible if you are seriously sincere in what you’re doing and what you’re offering to your community.
    To make an impact now, there are no shortcuts. You have to see your market not as a target but as a sea of people who have different needs, perspectives and ideas which you have to engage on various levels.
    I have the book Trust Agent by Chris Brogan and I’m reading it after I read Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics!

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