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7 ways to build a blog community from the ground up

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Photo credit to Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved - used with permission.

I’m often approached by clients thinking about starting a blog. One of the challenges of doing just that is building a readership. In other words, how do you get customers and potential customers to notice and read your blog?

Now, when a client comes asking these types of questions, I’ll usually stop them and starting firing back questions myself. Are you ready for the type of commitment it takes to keep a blog up-and-running? Do you have the patience needed to be successful at blogging? Do you have enough to say? All questions that can and should weed out a few folks–after all, blogging really isn’t for every organization.

But, for those that answer these questions and do have the passion to start blogging, I usually start referring to a few key tenets to keep in mind when building a blog readership during those first few months (for a host of other ideas, see this post from friend and colleague, Heather Whaling):

* Take advantage of existing email lists. You probably have an email database of existing customers somewhere, right? Why not repurpose blog content in the next email/e-newsletter to that audience? Tease these readers with a tweak of your blog headline and give them a link to your new blog (even ask them to subscribe so they can get each new post right in their email inbox).

* Set a sound link strategy. One of the more overlooked strategies when it comes to building a readership online. Be purposeful about sites and other blogs you link to. Link often to blogs on your blogroll. Link to potential customer blogs you’re hoping to attract. Link to prominent bloggers in your niche. Remember, each time you link to these blogs, those bloggers will get a note alerting them to your post (the hope is they’ll visit your blog read it and possibly comment, share your post or subscribe). Simple, yet potentially powerful strategy to build a blog community.

* Start with your own employees. Don’t forget, your employees are your best evangelists. Arm them with the information they need to pass your blog posts along to their friends, colleagues and families. Maybe it’s a sample tweet or Facebook update along with a bit.ly link to the post (remember, you want to track these links). Or, maybe it’s a simple reminder on your intranet each week with that week’s posts. Either way, make sure you share blog posts regularly with your internal teams.

* Take advantage of speaking engagements. So you might not get 500 new readers from your CEO’s next speaking gig. But, if you get one new customer who follows your blog as a result, you could argue it’s worth it. After all, all your speakers need to do is include the blog URL in the presentation deck and work a mention of it gently into their speech. Minimal effort, with a potentially huge impact.

* Promote your blog at trade shows. Sure, you can list your blog URL on your trade show graphics, but I’m talking about promoting your blog by interacting and taking the offline online at these shows. Have a couple computers open with your blog up and running with staffers talking about recent posts and encouraging visitors to subscribe. Maybe you ask a few key customers to write guest posts for the blog “covering” the event you’re attending. Then, use that as an example to encourage new customers you meet on the show floor to do the same.

* Integrate–in your operations. I’m not just talking about adding your blog to your Web site here (although that’s a no brainer). No, I’m talking about integrating your blog into your actual operations. If you’re retailer, why not start including your blog URL on receipts? If you’re a hospital, why not build a mention of the blog into talking points and scripts for patient service reps and those answering the phones. Many possibilities here.

* Insert the blog URL into your email signature. Simple, but again you’re looking to build the blog into your comprehensive marketing approach. And, keep in mind, by inserting your blog URL into your email, different audiences will get a glimpse of your blog–audiences (vendors, analysts) you may not have been targeting.

Those are just some ideas I routinely share. What would you add?

Note: For more photos from Wil C. Fry, check out his photo page on FlickR.

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7 ways to build a blog community from the ground up

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