There 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!
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