Building Your Community: Mindful Connections in the World of Blogging
Writing and running a blog often feels like a very isolating activity. The majority of the time, you work in solitude with minimal interactions with other people: drafting, writing, photography, recipe development, and other types of content creation that doesn’t often require a large team of people (especially if you’re like many up-and-coming bloggers who are running a one-man or one-woman show). In a largely independent project like this, how do you incorporate aspects of community-building that will expand your reach and connect you to your audience in new and lasting ways? Furthermore, how do you accomplish this without spreading yourself too thin, diluting your brand, or sacrificing the quality of your content?
Collaboration with other bloggers- through guest posts, interviews, or content contribution - is a great way to build a network of likeminded individuals, build connections, and open opportunities for advertising and ambassadorship. The key to this kind of successful collaboration is taking the time to make mindful connections that will be long-lasting and worthwhile in the greater picture of your blog and the mission behind it.
1. Start by tackling the big question: What are your core values?
If you haven’t taken the time to identify the big intention behind your work, you’re depriving yourself of a powerful resource to help navigate the big decisions that will inevitably arise as you grow your blog. Sit down and list the phrases or words that describe why you do the things you do. The intention behind my blog, where I write about things like mental health, vulnerability, and empowerment, has always been to inspire others to harness their weaknesses and turn them into strengths by leading through example. As such, every time I publish a piece on my blog, especially if it is a guest post from a contributor, I remind myself of this intention. If it strays too far from the message that I want my blog to send, I know that I might be “posting just to post,” and risk weakening the greater message of my blog.
Question for reflection: Am I consistently generating quality content that I’m proud of, or am I sacrificing quality for the sake of quantity?
2. Weigh your pros and cons.
As with any decision-making, it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits involved. A mindful connection will be of equal benefit to both parties: neither end of the connection should gain a significantly greater benefit than the other. Writing a guest post for a blog where they link to your work and related social media is a great example of a fair connection. They get content (that is, ideally, related to the intention of their own work), and you get your message heard by people who may not have come across it otherwise. On the flipside of the coin, asking fellow bloggers to donate large contributions to a book or e-book that you’re seeking to profit off of may be crossing the line into exploiting other people’s talents without fair compensation or equal benefit.
Also consider of the risks of affiliating yourself with another person’s work. Do they produce quality content that you would feel comfortable putting your name on? Do they spread messages that you stand behind? Your name and your brand is critical to protect: don’t risk tainting it forever for the sake of a one-off collaboration.
Question for reflection: Is it possible that either party isn’t being fairly compensated in this collaboration? Are both parties aware of the potential risks and benefits of working together?
3. Don’t be afraid to say no.
Last year, I was a part of an online conference that I was proud to be in. The other speakers and the host were well-respected in the health and wellness community, and the overarching theme of the conference was one that I felt passionate about. However, since then I’ve received multiple requests to take part in other summits centered around topics I didn’t feel passionate about and didn’t have enough credible knowledge on, or weren’t hosted by people or companies that have earned my respect.
Although we may sometimes feel that “networking” or “building connections” is the quickest route to success, it’s okay to ignore these pressures and say no, thank you. Don’t be afraid to hold out for connections that feel meaningful and intuitive to your blog and your brand. Always come back to this rule of thumb when it comes to advertising and collaboration: quality over quantity. One or two mindful connections will be of far greater benefit to you in the long run than countless, flimsy connections that divert from the core values of your blog.
Question for reflection: What does this connection say about me and my message? Am I excited about saying “yes”?
4. Always come back to your unique content.
At the end of the day, your blog is your blog. Unless your blog is a content aggregate or anthology, the original content you produce should be the foundation of your online presence. If you find that guest posts and contributed content are drowning out the work you’ve founded your blog upon, it’s time to take a step back. Dedicated, reliable, consistent readership is only going to be found once you have something truly unique and special to offer. Don’t be afraid to involve other voices in spreading your message, but make sure yours is heard above the rest when you’re “in your own home.” Ideally, readers are coming to your blog for you, so don’t (intentionally or unintentionally) hide from them behind the work of others.
Remind yourself: what you have to offer is special. Connections should support the work you do, not overpower it. Don’t be afraid to make your content the focal point of your blog.
Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence.
I'm the Oxford comma's biggest fan.