Guest post from: Patrick O’Keefe
From time to time, everyone struggles to come up with new content for their blog. It’s totally normal. When this happens to you, one of the greatest resources that you can turn to is your community. They help. But, before we dive in – what (or where) is your community?
Your community is your readers and those who enjoy what you do, share it and participate. So, the question then is how do you connect with your community? With blogging, I find this comes in three phases.
The first phase is the community you have by default. This is the people who e-mail you with comments about your posts or people who leave comments on your posts.
The second phase is community on sites that you do not control, but that allow you to maintain a presence where you can promote your site and the posts that you make. A Twitter profile and a Facebook fan page are very good examples of this. But, there are also niche communities and social networks that may allow you to do the same, but be more powerful because they are better targeted at your audience.
The third phase is building out community on your own site. A lot of people do this by adding forums or launching their own social network. These are forums and social networks that you host and that you are responsible for. Not forums run by other people.
Now that we’ve set some general definitions for community, let’s go over some ideas for how you can tap into your community for new blog post content.
Give Great, Long Comments or Forum Posts a Wider Audience
Of the people who read your blog, only a relatively small percentage reads even a majority of the comments made on your website, let alone all of them.
Have you ever read a comment left by a reader or a post made on your forums by a reader and thought “wow, that would make a great blog post!” Well, let’s act on those thoughts.
Send the commenter an e-mail and ask them for permission to publish the comment, which should then be taken and formatted properly as an actual blog post – fitting in with the style that you generally utilize for your posts.
Don’t just copy and paste the comment. Copyedit it, break it into proper paragraphs and do all of the things that you usually do to make the posts that you write so attractive. Treat it like a guest post and make sure to include a byline for the commenter and be totally up front with them about the whole process that the article will go through to be published on the blog.
Look for New Authors or Guest Posts
Speaking of guest posts, your community is a great place to look for new authors or for insightful new guest posts. Identify smart people that are actively contributing to your community and ask them if they’d like to make a guest post on a particular subject.
There is a good chance that they’ll be flattered that you ask, even if they end up declining. So, even if they do not offer you a post – it is usually a win, win because you will have furthered your relationship with them.
Ask a Question and Post the Results
In a blog post, ask your readers a question and provide any extenuating details or further information about the question itself or the answers that could be provided. And then encourage them to answer, whether in the comments or via some sort of poll script. For your purposes, the poll script might make your life a little easier. Set a specific time period that you’ll be accepting answers.
After it has passed, view the results and write a second post, highlighting them and explaining them, if appropriate. You can provide your thoughts on the question and highlight some of the comments that you received in response, as well.
This gives you two quality posts: one to ask the question and lay out the arguments and a second to highlight the results and answers and provide your own.
You can also ask your community a question outside of your blog and then highlight the answers you get in a new post, whether as the whole post or to beef up a post you are working on. An example would be asking a question of your Twitter followers or forum members and then sharing or excerpting their answers on the blog, with a link to their Twitter mention or profile or forum post where they offered the answer.
Highlight Active Contributors
You can highlight active contributors by spotlighting them in a post and even interviewing them. Online communities have had member of the month or similar programs for a very long time and there is no reason that you cannot do that (or similar, like reader of the month) and highlight them in a post on your blog.
Answer Questions People Ask You
Do people ask you questions via the comments, your e-mail, Twitter or some other means? There is a fair chance that other people may be interested in the hearing the answer. If you think this is the case, turn the answer into a new post. This allows you to share the answer with not just one person, but with your readers and people who are using search engines to search for the answer to that question.
If the question is posted in public, it’s fair for you to go ahead and write the answer up as a post, linking to where the question was asked and crediting the person who asked it. You can then reply to them with the link to the post as the answer. Or, if you think the post will take you some time to write or publish, you can answer their question directly so that they can get the info they need.
If the question was asked privately, depending on the sensitive nature of it, you will want to ask if it is OK for you to answer it in a public post and, unless it is clear, you probably want to make sure it is OK to mention who asked it.
If the question asked in private is not of a sensitive or specific nature, you can write a post and you do not need to mention who asked it, for privacy’s sake. You don’t need to mention that you were asked about it or you could say “I was recently asked…” and leave it at that.
The General Idea
As you can see, the general idea here is to share, highlight and help. It’s not to be unethical and take things that aren’t yours. I think that is one temptation that some people have to fight when they find it hard to write something new – the temptation to take from someone else.
All of the ideas I’ve discussed fit into the categories of sharing, highlighting and helping and they are up front, honest, legal and ethical. Always err on that side. Please.
And What About You?
I have provided some examples of how a blogger can utilize their community when they are trying to come up with new, solid blog posts. And now, I’d like to know how you have done so on your own blog. Please share your tips and methods in the comments.
Patrick O’Keefeis the owner of the iFroggy Network. He has been managing online communities for 10 years and is the author of the book “Managing Online Forums” and the blog ManagingCommunities.com. On Twitter, he’s @iFroggy