Creating community is a topic that is important to me, and if you have followed me for a while, to some extent, you probably associate “community” with me or my blog. However, I don’t think I have ever actually really talked about how I create community, or aspects that I feel are fundamental to a happy, healthy community. So, these are my secrets. Please keep in mind that these are ideals–behaviors that I strive to live up to on a daily basis and not behaviors that I implement on a daily basis. There’s a big difference. (I can’t do it all the time. It’s impossible. I’m only human.)
1. Respond to comments on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media
Responding to comments shows the person you saw, read, and appreciated their comment. Part of creating community is to show people that they are an accepted part of your world. For me, responding to comments–especially on my blog–and encouraging discussion and the expression of all opinions sends the message that I value my readers’ and followers’ contribution to my book blogging world.
I operate on the principle that if someone else makes an effort to connect with me, then I should return the effort and respond*. Establishing a blogging community is a two-way street.
*But I also tend to ignore cross-platform comments. If I post a review or discussion post, I want to interact on that platform, not Twitter or Facebook. If I wanted to interact on Twitter, that’s where I’d post. I’m oddly particular that way.
2. Be an active participant in the community (outside your blog)
I hear a lot–even from myself–that commenting can often be difficult. We don’t know what to say, we decide we have nothing to contribute, what we have to say is nothing more than ‘great post’ or ‘great review.’ And I get that. But I also know that beyond what we say, the act of commenting on someone else’s posts shows that we are reading and that we appreciate and enjoy the blogger’s content. Sometimes it’s not WHAT you say, but the fact that you SAY something. Commenting is one way to establish a connection with another blogger. It’s also not necessary to comment on every blog you follow every day. That’s impossible. I usually comment on 2 to 5 blogs every day, and those blogs aren’t always the same. For me, sometimes commenting is about reminding the person that you’re there, you’re reading, and you’re engaged.
Another way to be an active participant in the community is to join social media. Personally, I’m a fan of Twitter. But whatever you choose to be your main social media account, be active, participate, and reach out to other bloggers. Nothing is more frustrating than reaching out to someone multiple times, only to be met with continual silence.
SHARE. If you find a post you like, link to it on your Twitter or Facebook account. And this goes beyond helping your friends promote their giveaway–sharing a particular review or discussion post that resonated with you is another way (besides commenting) that shows a blogger that you read and appreciated their content. You also help spread the word, which can be beneficial for them. Showing that you are invested in OTHER bloggers’ success is a good way to establish community. (Because, after all, we’re all in this together.) And, truthfully, if you treat others well and they appreciate it, they will likely follow your example. Lead by example, and all that. Or, treat others as you would like to be treated.
3. Keep it positive
This is something that I’ve recently started to pay more attention to. Earlier in the year, drama seemed to be more common than not, and how people reacted to it was pretty eye opening. So for me, this goes beyond avoiding complaining and whining. It’s about attempting to avoid other negative blogging behavior (attempting, because I’m not perfect). Examples of negative blogging behavior (as defined by me) include:
- Commenting on a positive, glowing book review to list everything you disliked about the book when the reviewer really liked the book.
- Strongly criticizing (to the point of condemning) other people on your blog, Twitter, or any other social media outlet.
- Comparing yourself to other bloggers (by follower count, number of books read, ARCs or books received, etc).
- Telling or implying that a blogger’s opinion of a book is wrong.
- Book bullying.
- Publicly insta-ranting via blog, Twitter, or other social media (insta-ranting defined here as going to Twitter or another public forum to air your frustrations and complaints without first giving it time to settle).
These are negative behaviors for a variety of reasons:
- Excessive criticism silences observers and establishes a pattern that wrong-doing will be publicized and condemned.
- Comparison is a fast track to insecurity and jealousy, both of which contribute little to being happy in blogging.
- Book bullying and not respecting opinions create a negative environment that keeps people from being open and honest about books they haven’t read or books they didn’t like.
- Venting your frustrations about a book someone else liked is like walking into someone else’s home and informing them they have terrible decorating skills (i.e., having an opinion does not mean you are entitled to voice your opinion without thinking about the consequences of your words; you can discuss points where your opinion departed, but it should be in a way that creates a respectful conversation, not a one-sided venting session).
- Publicly insta-ranting can incite unnecessary and additional drama, and we often view situations different (more logically, perhaps) after we’ve vented, and that difference can make our initial rant seem like an over reaction.
In other words, the negative book blogging behaviors I mentioned all lead to creating an atmosphere that is not completely comfortable and safe. For me, respect is the most important thing. I want the people in the book blogging world whom I communicate with to know WITHOUT A DOUBT that they can say anything to me or on my blog without fear of judgement or condemnation, even if it is to disagree with me. The world is a subjective place. I know that there is NO ONE–not even Kelly, and we’re practically the same person–who agrees with me on everything. It’s much better for me on an emotional level to shrug at differences and move on. To stay positive and make my blog a welcoming place, I need to divorce myself from my opinion of books (and other opinions as well); my reviews are just my opinion–they are not my life or a fundamental aspect of who I am.
How do you build community?