With Community Comes Everything

website trafficThere is something you can start doing even before you build a website that may have the biggest impact on your site’s eventual traffic. Start cultivating community online.

What is a community? Jeremiah Owyang defines community online as:

An online community is: Where a group of people with similar goals or interests connect and exchange information using web tools.

And community is one of the keys to your site’s success.

Eventually, you will want online communities to form around or within your product/website/blog. But until you get there, you can start now by cultivating community in other places around the web. The communities you join and participate in now will eventually help you grow your website traffic.

Where Do Communities Interact Online?

The Internet these days is all about community. You might have heard the term “social media” used recently. That’s another way to say community too.

Some of the most popular places around the web where communities form include Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and MySpace. Communities also form in forums, blog comments, over email and in instant messages. Any site that allows people to interact around a common interest or goal can be a community.

You probably already belong to some communities online. As a person who wants to build a high traffic website or blog, you should start thinking about how those communities can drive traffic to your site.

How Communities Can Drive Traffic To Your Site

I spend a lot of time interacting on sites like Facebook, Twitter and popular blogs, and I constantly recommend to clients who want to build an audience online to invest in those type of sites as well.

Why? Because sites with strong communities consistently send the highest quality traffic to my websites and blogs.

When you invest time in social media and become a real participant in the conversations that take place, you will gain social currency that you can spend promoting your online projects.

The stronger your reputation in online communities, the more likely people will be to check out your sites, become subscribers, join the community on your site, provide you with feedback, purchase your products or services and even help you create products or help you with marketing.

Start Building a Reputation

Building a strong reputation in various online communities isn’t hard. It just takes effort and time. You don’t need your own website or blog to get started either.

To build a reputation, you’ll need to decide on a couple of things. First, you should think about some topics that you’re interested in.

When you participate in conversations happening within social media, you will want to become a regular contributor on some topics. This will help you become known as someone who is passionate about or even an expert on those topics.

Obviously if you already have a site on a certain topic, that topic should be something you talk about online. Otherwise, choose some things you enjoy talking about, or a topic that you plan to start a blog or website on in the future.

Next, with those topics in hand you’ll want to figure out where people are talking about those things online. Twitter is a great all-purpose outlet where people talk about all kinds of subjects. Facebook is another site with a lot of breadth of topics. You will also likely be able to find sites or blogs dedicated to your specific topic.

Choose a few places to start building your reputation in. Set up an account (if necessary), and start making comments on things you feel strongly about. If you’re shy, you can just post under your first name.

Your goal on these sites should be to be as honest and helpful to other people as possible. You want to establish trust and authority as someone who knows all about “puppy training” or “unicycle riding” or whatever subject you’ve chosen to jump into.

Don’t be a know-it-all; just be helpful and try to make friends. Watch what some of the more respected people do with social media, and follow their lead. Chris Brogan, Chris Guillebeau and Gary Vaynerchuk are three great examples of people who use social media the right way.

The more people you get to know and potentially offer helpful advice to, the better. When it comes time to promote your own sites or projects, your online friends will be there to help you spread the word.

Also, don’t worry about amassing thousands or millions of weak connections in these communities. Focus on quality connections and real conversations. The quantity of followers you have means nothing if those followers don’t really know who you are or care about you.

We’ll be talking a lot about the power of online communities, trust and reputation at Think Traffic. I hope you’ll join the conversation here.

What do you think? Is community the key to online success? Let us know in the comments!

Continue with the Website Traffic 101 series.

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Published by

Corbett Barr

Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.

5 thoughts on “With Community Comes Everything”

  1. Great advice — and surprisingly hard to do. The 2 biggest obstacles I see — with myself and with clients — that make this hard to do? 1) The natural difficulty that humans have with listening. Just as most people find it easier to talk than to listen, most people wanting to enter the social media realm would prefer to start their blog rather than listen to what others are saying on their blogs. 2) The distracting nature of the Internet. It’s very hard to concentrate on a few sites to form one’s community when you’re so distracted by the thought of 10,000 other sites awaiting your attention. Nevertheless, I agree that a focus on small community is key, especially to get started.

  2. Hi Cindy! You’re right that building community is difficult, but I see it as imperative for building a really popular site. If you don’t have time to really connect with people (and listen to their needs), you’ll have a tough time attracting repeat visitors. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Some good advice here, Corbett. Interacting with people has a bigger impact on building our brand than we sometimes realise.

    Any tips for building an on-site community? Like adding BuddyPress or a forum to your site?

    1. Thanks, Mel. As for on-site community-building tips, if you’re running a blog, the first thing you should do is to encourage comments. You can do that by purposefully asking questions within or at the end of your posts. You can run “ask the reader” segments which are all about getting reader feedback. You should also actively answer comments and also thank people for leaving them.

      Beyond comments, you can run surveys of readers. Some plug-ins or extra site features like forums might work, but it depends on the size and nature of your site. Forums don’t usually work well for small sites. Experiment and find out what works best for you.

  4. it’s nice to know that I was doing the right thing participating to a few similar communities that verge into my blog topic. I’m striving on building traffic on my blog and, so far, the most of it comes from those “referral”.
    What i really need to get some traffic from search engines is to know how to manage these critical keywords. Hope to find an answer here!
    By the way, thanks for the practical and “moral” support.

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