When you start out blogging, you might find yourself having big dreams about having a huge following with thousands of adoring fans (and maybe making lots of money too). I’ve seen many bloggers do this and I don’t begrudge them those dreams because it is good to have goals and hopes for the future. It is good to see ambition and drive in the blogging world, even if I have a different take on the subject.
My advice to those who seek it is this: Build a community, not an audience. There are some major differences between the two that will directly impact your success in the future.
Here are four of the differences between building an audience for your blog, and building a community with your blog.
1. A Community is Loyal
I know that having lots of followers and fans sounds infinitely more prestigious than a community, but in the long run “fans” are going to come and go like the wind, while people who make up the community of your blog will stay even if you post something they don’t agree with. People are so quick to get offended these days and if you have a bunch of fans who are surface-level followers of your blog, your numbers are going to fluctuate infinitely more than if you are growing them slow and steady by engaging with readers.
Having a lot of fans can be exciting and a good confidence boost as you watch your numbers on social media grow, but the people who faithfully consume your content should be the ones that truly matter to you. They take time out of their week, every week, to see what you’ve created. They don’t just see you as some random person on the internet that they happened to think posted something cool once, they think of you as valuable.
2. A Community is Encouraging and Supportive
A blog built with a community atmosphere in mind knows who is important and who isn’t, and when you doubt yourself or have a bad day with trolls, your regular readership will be the ones defending you and cheering you up. It is better to focus on the people who will build you up than to worry about how many unfollowers you’ve gotten on social media. Having the community mindset is also important so that you know who to protect when a brawl breaks out in the comment section (especially if you blog about trauma or mental health). Protect your community, not the random fan who declares they are unfollowing you and your blog because of some belligerently stated reason.
3. A Community Can Become Too Close for Comfort
There are a few downfalls to creating a community, like people trying to push boundaries with your time or advice. On the internet, there can be a loss of the concept that in reality, no one really knows each other on here. You cannot read all of the articles a blogger posts and honestly expect to know them well. There are simple things we don’t share, even if we share very personal things on our blogs. Some people don’t understand this and will try to blur their relationship with you to friends when in reality, you are the content creator and they are the content consumer. You can still run a community through your blog while enforcing that boundary in this digital world, and I highly recommend you do.
4. Both Take Work, But A Community Takes More
Gaining followers can be as easy as hashtagging your posts and sharing them. It is a lot of work, but in my opinion building a community is even more. Even though it can take a lot of hard work and dedication, it is as simple as responding to comments and interacting with the people who share your posts.
I respond to all of the comments I receive, even on my guest posts for other blogs. I also try to thank each and every person that shares my posts on social media where it alerts me to them doing so, like Twitter. All you need to do is dedicate a little bit of time to engaging with readers and getting to know them better.
The bottomline is this: You can cultivate loyal followers by engaging with them and building a community, or you can have a bunch of face-value fans that may or may not be interested in your work beyond one post they read once where you said something they wanted to hear. The choice is yours!