Building Community: My Secrets

Posted 30 November, 2012 by Amanda / 32 Comments

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?

Filed under: Discussion,


32 Responses to “Building Community: My Secrets”

  1. AMANDA.

    “2. Be an active participant in the community (outside your blog).”

    I think this is one of biggest, single most important things.
    The other things are crucial to back everything up, but if one wants community, they must communicate. Sitting in your little corner of the interwebs, blogging into the ether, with no audience is absolutely fine. Truly. Many people start blogging as a space for their ideas, and that’s wonderful, but it’s the participating externally to that that allows you to meet people, to grow community, and and and.

    Hail Athena! Almighty Peen Queen!

    • #2 is at once the easiest and hardest things to do. It’s time consuming and I’m often TERRIBLE about visiting new blogs who visit me, but I try. And I think commenting on other people just builds a relationship with other people.

      lol. Athena, the almighty Peen Queen.

  2. Great Post! One of the best I’ve read in quite some time. Thanks so much for posting. These things you mention often get lost in the shuffle of interacting on social media, but we must try not to let that happen. I totally agree with you. We are all in this together and there no reason not to help one another and be supportive. That doesn’t mean one cannot have an opinion, but one should be respectful in voicing in it. I love your outlook and am so very happy that I have found your blog! Keep up the good work.

    Paul R. Hewlett

    • Thanks, Paul!

      Social media plays a huge role in growing your own community, but I think that you’re right in that we can’t let it take over everything else. I’ve always viewed social media and blogging in the context of a playground. That is, if blogging is like being in school, social media is recess where we get to do our playing around and having fun. It’s important, but it’s not everything.

  3. Awesome post, this is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about as well. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of what sort of posts build community the best. Do you think that memes or reviews or discussion posts influence what sort of community you build on your blog or how successfully you can build a community?

    Also I love your giraffe shifters notification email thing, since it goes a long way to building a community by telling me when there is a response to my comment :D How do you set that up?

    • Do you think that memes or reviews or discussion posts influence what sort of community you build on your blog or how successfully you can build a community?

      I think YOU influence the kind of community you build. In many ways, your desire to establish a community will come through in whatever you do. For me, personally, I’ve found the memes are generally more about gaining followers and comments than about building a community. Followers and community are two different things in my mind. I also think that establishing a community is less about what you write and more about how you respond and treat other people in the blogosphere. It’s important to respond to other people on your blog to make sure they feel like they’re an accepted part of your community, and commenting on other blogs also shows that you care about THEIR success, not just your own.

      The notification is a plugin. It’s called “comment reply notification” and the entire response email can be customized. (Hence the giraffe shifters.)

  4. I honestly can’t reiterate enough how important I think commenting is, at least for me, to add to the feeling of community. Commenting on other blogs, while time-consuming and not always possible every single day, makes me feel like I’m a part of something, perhaps even more so than simply responding to comments on my blog. Visiting other blogs not only introduces me to new bloggers or strengthens already-established relationships with awesome blogger friends, but it keeps me in the book world loop. I get book recommendations, I learn about book to movie news, and I find out all sorts of fun publishing tidbits, and I love every second of it:)

    I don’t mind when someone leaves a comment that disagrees with my opinion of the book, it’s actually fun for me to see what some people didn’t like that I liked so much, but telling someone their opinion is just wrong is ridiculous. It’s their opinion, they’re welcome to it:)

    • Jenny, you’re one of my commenting heroes. I always see your comments on other blogs and I think you are GREAT at establishing community.

      I don’t mind different opinions, but I’ve had comments that completely bring me off my “this was an awesome book!” high. Stuff like how my review says, “I loved this aspect” and then the comment talks about how that aspect was utterly terrible. And I just sit there and stare and wonder how I’m supposed to respond. I guess that even though a comment like that doesn’t explicitly *say* my opinion is wrong, it kind of implies it. It’s like, “Oooh, you like this? Huh. I thought it was stupid.”

      • Oh yeah, comments that hate on a book I love definitely rain on my flaily (I’m stealing your word) parade, but I haven’t had too many that are all “I don’t know why you liked that about this book, it was the worst part of the whole thing”. That would be frustrating for me. When I have a differing opinion on a book someone else has reviewed I usually acknowledge that the reviewer does make good points even if I don’t necessarily agree with them personally, or try to make light of our difference of opinion, but I would never leave someone a comment that made them feel guilty for liking a book I didn’t. That’s just silly.

        • Yes. If I comment on a review that has a different opinion than mine, I usually try to find something we agree on or find a way to keep it positive. It’s all about keeping that flaily parade going.

  5. Thanks for such an awesome post – with ideas! I comment often on other blogs, but don’t respond to comments a lot on mine. Point taken!!!

    I also don’t have much time for twitter – I honestly prefer to use the time commenting on other blogs, but I’ve been wondering if there was a way I could more effectively use the time I do spend on twitter. AND surprisingly I had my “duh” moment just this week. I come across lots of awesome blog posts which I comment on, but why I haven’t been sharing them via twitter I do not know. I use bufferapp and it makes things super easy.

    • To be completely honest, I tend to avoid commenting on blogs that either don’t respond to comments or that take more than few days to respond. I definitely still read, but it comes down to a return of my time investment for me, so I’m more likely to comment on a site where I know someone will respond. That’s me, though. I don’t know if other bloggers feel the same.

      I think sharing posts on Twitter is AWESOME. It’s a great way to discover new blogs. I’m usually more likely to click through if I know another blogger has read and loved a post. :)

      • I often discover new bloggers from friends that link in twitter to other’s posts. But some bloggers do this excessively which makes me leary of those. It’s kind of like when someone rates all books a 5. Felicia does a great job of this. How do I know? Because I often follower her links, read, comment and often follow.

        • Twitter (and, by default, Twitter sponsored apps) doesn’t show the source of the tweet. If you use TweetDeck or Hootsuite, Amy, you’ll find that A LOT of linked posts are Triberr posts, which are mostly automated tweets based on what people in your tribe have posted. This is NOT the same as visiting a site and clicking on the tweet button. I often wonder if people using Triberr read every single post they’re tweeting. (One of the best ways to figure out if it’s a Triberr post is that it follows the “title google short link via @TwitterHandle” form.)

  6. *hugs* I love my blogging community. And you’re such an inspiration with your Clock Rewinders and thought-provoking posts. Commenting on posts and getting a little squee-y feeling when someone adores a book I did or even dislikes a book I liked or whatever, I’m all good. It’s just fabulous to be talking books with people who love books.

    Our time is a big investment and commenting both directly on a blog and responding to comments on one’s own blog is a major element of building community. That and avoiding ridiculous negativity. You can dislike or disagree with something without being hateful or spiteful.

    • I generally tend not to comment on reviews where the opinion is different from my own, unless I can find a positive commonality. With limited time, I’d rather spend it on something positive. That and I’d hate to accidentally bring someone off their book high. Just because *I* think I’m not being negative doesn’t necessarily mean that others will interpret it the same way. I’d rather play it safe. (And yes, I’m a total avoider that way.)

  7. I have nothing much to say except for, I agree! Especially about staying positive! Although I bad at one point, which is insta-ranting. LOL. My twitter is an account that was used for personal means, but I started using it as a book blog kind of thing as well, so I didn’t want to start a new one. I insta-rant, but sometimes I just kind of express my thoughts, I guess. It’s hard for me since I pretty much have no one else to talk to except the WORLD! HAHA.

    Also, I really love the analogy of “walking into someone’s home and telling them they have bad decorating skills”. Just because it doesn’t fit our tastes, doesn’t mean others don’t like it! I mean, my friend doesn’t get that sometimes, but it’s just kind of her personality, she just kind of thinks she’s on top?! But I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but there’s a difference between thinking it and directly telling someone. I can’t really explain it, I hope you understand!

    • A lot of people use Twitter for personal reasons. And that’s okay! I think perhaps what people don’t realize is that for your Twitter followers, excessive ranting is a bit… off-putting. I’ve unfollowed people for always being negative. But that’s when every tweet involves hating on something. I don’t think you’re that way at all. :)

      I do understand. And I agree! Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you have to make sure everyone knows what your opinion is.

  8. Forgetting that I haven’t commented on your discussion posts is becoming a thing with me, isn’t it? Like how I sometimes forget to actually send the emails after I compose them. *headdesk*

    I agree with you on SO MANY points here. Negativity can be hard to address because sometimes we don’t see it in our own actions. Or we see it and don’t realize how other people are affected by it. As you know, I’ve unfollowed people on Twitter because every tweet is negative or whiny or downright mean. No one has to be upbeat all the time, but then no one has to be online telling the world about it all the time, either.

    It comes down to balance. I could be way way WAY better at commenting on other people’s blogs. I try. I really do. But sometimes life (or special projects!!!) get in the way.

    I don’t know what I’m trying to say anymore. Awesome post!

  9. Loves you & your community love thing. Finding you opened me up to replying to comments on my own blog. I’ve actually enjoyed my own blog since I became more active in bookgoonie world. I’ve always tried to be a good commenter abroad. But what I hate is not knowing what to check on following replies. I always check the wrong one and get a running email of every other person that stopped by. *hair pull*

    • Amy, I’m really glad to hear that you’re enjoying YOUR OWN blog more. That is really important, too! I agree, though, about checking back on blogs. I think that’s probably why I stick to a limited few “regular” blogs, and then check multiple posts to see replies. It’s not the best way, but it works for now.

  10. Great post, Amanda! I do love the book blogger community and the friendships I’ve made. I never used to comment back to comments on my blog, but have only done so in the past 6 months or so. It’s a great way to build community! Of course, these days I’m so busy that I can only get around to doing it once a week, but it does get done!

    It takes a lot of work to really get out there and build relationships, but it’s worth the work. :)

    • Responding to comments on my blog was something I actually carved out time for when I was in the middle of teaching and super busy. I used to respond to comments before I left in the morning, during my lunch, and once again when I got home. Letting them pile up makes it worse, I think. Then it’s a chore.

  11. I think all of this is definitely true, but I especially love that you specify the need to be positive! You can be interacting with the community all you want but if you’re really negative about everything, people aren’t going to want to be around you, no matter whether it’s an online community or otherwise!

    Unfortunately, I need to work most on the being active in the community thing. I tend to need internet breaks every once in a while, which is fine, but then I don’t get myself back in the habit of commenting on posts, and commenting back to people on my own blog. SHAME ON ME!

    • Yes. The negativity thing is something I notice on Twitter A LOT. It seems to be the place people go to complain.

      I think of it like a habit. I do sometimes go through periods where I’m on a “break” but my breaks are usually where I step back into an observer role so that I’ve never actually fully disconnected (there have only been a couple times where I’ve disconnected completely). I also tend to make my blog a priority. So even if I don’t comment on other blogs, I ALWAYS comment on mine.

  12. “Commenting on a positive, glowing book review to list everything you disliked about the book when the reviewer really liked the book.” – Seriously one of my BIGGEST irks! It makes me say, “Why, person? WHY?!”

    Great post, Amanda! As always, really. :)

  13. Commenting. I have a love/hate relationship with commenting.

    You are fully aware, of course, of why I disappeared for the last several months. But before that – I was *very* active around town. I commented everywhere. On reviews. On features. On Twitter. On Facebook. But… it seemed like it didn’t really matter unless it was to someone like you, where I had an established friendship.

    So it can often feel like why bother? There are SO many people out there who just don’t respond to comments or interact at all with their followers. Finding you was a fluke. And all of the people I know who are super interactive are generally people I met through you (like Smash or Kelly).

    All of that is to say – it’s frustrating! But I’ll still keep it up. Because one day, there might be another fluke.

    • 1. Sorry I was a BAD FRIEND and didn’t link this for you. I should have.

      2. Part of commenting, I think, is finding the right blogs to comment on. There are definitely going to be people who don’t comment back (or who may comment on their site but never go to yours). It takes persistence. (Or maybe it just takes time?) Honestly, I usually avoid blogs that don’t comment back to me. That’s a sign to me that they’re not interested in interaction or establishing a relationship, and I don’t waste my time.

      I was lucky when I first started blogging because I already had a great couple of people who commented on my stuff from the get-go and supported me. But I’ve also established new relationships. In some ways, I think where you meet people has a big influence on the relationships you find. I’ve avoided participating in a lot of the bigger memes, for example, because I never felt like they truly connected me to anyone. It seems more about getting page views and comments than establishing relationships.

      I guess my point is that adopting a strategy to commenting and networking with people might net you the kind of relationships you want. Look at what you’re doing now and figure out what isn’t working. Make changes until you get what you want.