Some websites have it easy. They go from being entirely unknown to enjoying worldwide fame and recognition nearly overnight. Or, at least, that’s how it can seem to the people who stumble upon them after that success.
The likelihood of a website going viral by itself is incredibly slim. Chances are, not only did the person (or people) behind the website put in a ton of work, there was also some huge contributions from the site’s community. Fans were sharing their love of the site with their friends and social followers. As more people visited the site, their community grew larger.
You can do the same thing for your website, regardless of what your niche is. You don’t have to write about current events, celebrities, or receiving texts from your dog to make it big. All you need is a dedicated community. The best way to build that community is to encourage your readers to get involved, both with the site and with each other. There are a few different ways to do that.
The first, and most obvious, is to make sure that you’re involved in your site. Invite comments and then make sure that you’re responding to them. If you’re having difficulty getting readers to respond, start asking questions. Write posts that lend themselves to reader discussions. The important thing is that you interact. If people see that you’re reading what they say and then responding to it, they’ll be more likely to comment again in the future.
Use tools that encourage reader participation. Put up a weekly poll. Run a competition in your comments section. One popular way to do that is to give people an entry for each comment they make over a specified time period, and do a drawing at the end of that time. This is something that you can do every so often to perk up a slow comment session, and it’s great for every niche.
Create user-centered posts on a regular basis. Invite readers to share any questions they have, and answer them in a blog post. Post questions for discussion. Feature an insightful comment or blog post shared by a reader. These techniques all prove to your readers that you’re paying attention, and that you value their thoughts.
Encourage community identity. Instead of telling readers that your blog has reached 100 posts, or 1,000 comments, say that we’ve reached a new milestone. Make it a team accomplishment.
Create weekly tasks for members of your community. For example, if you blog about home repair, you could create a weekly maintenance task and then ask people to report back with their success. They could even post pictures of the task in progress or the finished result. People love sites with this feature. Being able to break down a huge task (maintaining a home, implementing SEO on a site, or even learning a new skill like photography or cooking) into smaller tasks makes it much easier to succeed, and readers will often jump at the opportunity to do this as a part of a community.
If you already have a large, active group of readers, consider building a forum. This isn’t for every site, but the sites that do it well see a huge jump in participation. If you’re still focusing on building traffic, this isn’t the right time to create a forum for your site. However, if you already have a large number of daily visitors that already comment on your posts, but you want to encourage a better sense of community, a forum could help you to achieve that.
Creating a community based around your website leads to more than just active participants on your site itself. Your community becomes your fans, and they’re going to spread the word about your site, helping you to build an even bigger community. And that’s how a super successful website, the goal of most webmasters, develops.
How do you encourage a community on your website? Which methods did we miss?