Practically everything I know about participating in communities online – everything that I do myself and that I teach to clients – was something I actually discovered as a member of a 400-person local community that is based in my current city of Boulder, Colorado. It pays to invest in other kinds of communities – not just blogs – if you want to build your fan club.
Want to know what I learned that is relevant in the blogging world? Here are a few highlights:
- Don’t talk ONLY about yourself, your products or services, or your accomplishments. Answer questions; provide praise, host get-togethers without ulterior motives. Just be around. Meet people and participate in communities (whether online or offline) because you genuinely like people, not because you want to talk about yourself and promote your own stuff.
- Give stuff away for free. I still give advice away for free on a regular basis when people have questions I can answer over email. When you practice this give-away stuff on a regular basis, it establishes you not only as an expert, but as generous person. That’s ALWAYS a good thing.
- Show up on a regular basis. Don’t show your face once a year and expect everyone to remember you. Participate, meet lots of people, make REGULAR contact with the people that you’ve met, and what do you know? All of the sudden, when you walk into a party, everyone’s cheering for you like Norm in that old sitcom Cheers bar. And you WANT fans like that.
- Treat the members of your community like real people – because they ARE real people. Don’t over-promote yourself, act like a used car salesman, or use people. Follow the Golden Rule as much as possible.
The community I’m part of (that has taught me all these amazing lessons) is a Boulder-based women’s group called Boulder Media Women. The group, which members like to call BMW, is a networking group for professional women who work with words and images. BMW members include writers, editors, photographers, journalists, filmmakers, graphic artists, web designers, TV producers, screenwriters, publishers, agents, PR specialists, and others who work in the media business.
Right now, the Boulder Media Women group has more than 400 members, many of whom actively participate in a very lively Yahoo! email group as well as weekly happy hour gatherings and monthly potluck dinners.
I started my blogging business three years ago by taking the knowledge I had gathered about blogs, community and writing – and declared myself an expert. I did this because I ran my own (personal) blog at the time, and many of my friends and colleagues had started asking questions about blogging and Internet marketing. They wanted to know if I would teach a class, so I summoned up ALL of my courage (every last ounce) and taught a very small (3-person) class to a couple of friends.
After that first class, I starting holding regular classes on blogging, social media, building traffic on websites, and Internet book promotion techniques. I advertised my classes on a regular basis to the Boulder Media Women email list, and the members – much to my continual surprise – showed up for the classes. I got to meet more and more women face to face. I found out what their needs were and expanded my teaching skills accordingly. Many of the members wrote glowing testimonials about me and my classes to the BMW list.
But at the same time, I made sure to chime in (regularly and LOUDLY) whenever someone had a question about blogging, Facebook, Linkedin, or Internet marketing. I gave advice, answered questions, provided resources, and generally tried to become a real resource to people in my area of expertise. The Boulder Media Women Community rewarded me handsomely for this, and I am forever in their debt.
After three years of being an entrepreneur, I now have a very successful business, a whole file full of testimonials (many from my first clients, who are BMW members). And I still go to potlucks and happy hours, answer questions when I can, listen to people’s needs, and generally get to know these amazing women. I have a reputation for being “The Blogging Guru” in the group, and I thank my lucky stars every night for the continued support and well-wishes and praise that I receive on this local Yahoo! List. I genuinely like these women, and I will forever be grateful to them for teaching me some incredibly valuable lessons.
I thank Boulder Media Women on a regular basis for continually teaching, encouraging, and supporting me in my journey as an entrepreneur – and I’m particularly grateful for them teaching me everything I know about how to be a productive and community-minded member of the blogging community!
Lesson to be learned here? You don’t need to spend all of your time on the computer in order to develop a fabulous community, both online and offline. Get out of the house and join a networking group in your area of interest! Boulder Media Women was a good fit for me, and it has taught me SO much, and you can find a group that will suit your interests by asking your friends and contacts for suggestions AND utilizing resources like Meetup.com. Shut off that laptop and get out into the real world – you’ll be astounded at what you learn and the people you meet! And then of course, blog about it. 🙂