Reach Outside Your Fishbowl to Build Community

new crowd

Friend and blog community member Ed Shaz asked me why I thought my post about the magazine designers all using the plus (+) symbol was worth a digg request. I responded back that he certainly didn’t have to Digg it if he didn’t like it, and that led Ed to ask me why I bothered wasting a Digg request (which is sometimes viewed as offensive by a community) on such a post (which means that I presume Ed found my 24 pictures of magazines to be less developed than my typical post).

All this to tell you that finding new and engaging community members doesn’t come from sitting on your blog and writing great posts. It takes outreach, and it takes attempts to find disparate audiences that wouldn’t normally slip in to see what you’re doing.

Put another way, I know most of the social media types. I’ve had beer or coffee with most of them. They know I’m here. But maybe with that post, I might find a designer or two, or I’ll find someone who was intrigued by the observation at all (did YOU know all those plus signs were everywhere before my post?).

5 Ways to Find Community Members From Outside Your Fishbowl

  1. Go to Alltop and search some categories not related to yours. Read three to five blog posts on someone new’s blog, and then leave a pertinent comment or two. Subscribe to their blog via RSS feed and get to know them. Over time, your comments (if pertinent and left without spammy promotion of your site) will encourage a reciprocal visit or two or three. (I never said this was a quick fix).
  2. Go to Delicious and search for topics that are just outside your blog’s main subject, or that are at perhaps tangential. Do the same thing as step 1.
  3. Write posts about an industry vertical using your blog’s perspective instead of just writing about your main focus. If you’re writing a running blog, write a post like “Top 5 Runner-Friendly Companies in Seattle” or if you’re a food videoblogger, shoot an episode called “Election Day Dinners.” In these cases, make sure you’re using tagging and that you’ve claimed your blog in a search site like Technorati.
  4. Make the occasional dip into social bookmarking promotion. For my magazine design post, I actually dared to be a bit over-the-top and dugg, stumbled, reddit-ed (?), and put it up on Facebook. That’s the first time I’ve done that kind of thing in several months. Why bother (as Ed asked me)? Because I wanted outside-of-the-fishbowlers to come and see if what I was doing here stuck.
  5. Encourage the occasional guest post. Partly because I’m on deadline to finish a book, and partly because I feel that guest posts are a great way to raise awareness of other great bloggers (hat tip Louis Gray for that idea), I like to encourage guest posts. The side effect of doing this, however, is that THEIR audience will come and see their post, provided the guest author points them to it. Voila, instant new friends (potentially).

One key warning is that you have to try hard not to come off as spammy in these efforts. If you burn social capital to get a few more people into your community, what good is that? Ask yourself seriously whether you’re being humble and honest about your requess, and make extra effort to promote others unbidden during this same time. (I call this karma.)

It’s nice to grow organically, and your community deserves that. Dropping off a few hundred new RSS subscribers who haven’t been around, and aren’t regulars like Sue Murphy, Ginakay Landis, Ed Shaz, Steve Garfield, Zena Weist, etc, might be a bit jarring to the community.

One last thing: if you’re going to bother to try and build community, do ask them to stick around.

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Did That Explain Things Better, Ed?

And everyone else?

Photo Credit Phille Casablanca

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