It's been interesting going through the answers to my annual reader survey.
Some of you think I'm too transparent; others think I'm not transparent enough. Some say I should get more personal; others say I need to concentrate on business. Sigh.
Anyway, I'll be revealing the results in a couple weeks (it's still open here!), but for now, I'll tell you the biggest problem that you can ALL agree on...
You're having trouble finding people.
Maybe you want more readers. Maybe you want more clients. Maybe you want more online buddies. But all of these things come down to community.
And the funny part is, the internet is SO big. There are SO many readers and clients and friends to be found! It's exciting, but perhaps a little intimidating. And maybe that's why it seems so hard (even though it's really not).
Bottom line is, community is absolutely crucial to your blog and business. Let me put it this way: Every single one of my paying clients was a friend or reader first. I have never had someone pop up out of nowhere and say, "Hi! I just Googled 'coach' and your site came up so I want to hire you. Here's $500."
That'd be awesome, but it's unrealistic. Perhaps when I'm rich and famous, random peeps will come pounding down my door trying to work with me (ha!) but for now, it takes a little effort on my part. As this smart lady says, you need to get people to trust you first.
Of course, you shouldn't try to con someone into being your friend just so they can buy something from you later -- that would be creepy (and equally unreasonable), but it's important to grow and nurture your community strategically so that potential clients get the chance to know you more.
So, how do you create and grow an organic community?
By connecting! Forming connections is pretty much a less icky-sounding version of marketing. If you think you don't like marketing, maybe you just haven't found a way to do it that's fun for you. (And once it starts working, trust me -- you will like it more.)
Here are 7 unique ways to cultivate community so that you can make money, have fun, and help people all at the same time. (Who doesn't want those things?)
1. STOP BEING AFRAID OF REJECTION
Like, seriously... this isn't a middle school dance. This one's at the top of the list because it's SO crucial in business (and in life). If you dig someone's stuff, shoot them a compliment. They're not going to reject you and call you your 6th grade nickname (not that mine was Stephanie Stinky or anything). We're all adults here. We all like when people are nice to us. So reach out, be kind and genuine, and start a conversation. If they ignore you, maybe they're busy or they're bad at responding or they're just not that into you. Whatever. Their loss. You literally have millions of other people to move on to.
2. CREATE A 30-DAY CHALLENGE
Or a 10-day challenge. Or a 2-day challenge. Hell, just challenge your readers to do something. Make sure it's informative, inspirational, and relevant. Create a unique hashtag to go along with it. This is especially fun on platforms like Instagram. Back in June, we did 30 Days to Bolder Blogging, and right now we're finishing up #30DaysofToDos. Your existing followers will have a chance to get to know one another, and new people will wanna jump in once they see how much fun you're having.
3. JOIN A PRIVATE COMMUNITY (OR START YOUR OWN)
Girl, listen. If you're not networking in Facebook groups and Google+ communities yet, jump on it. You can even start your own, if you're so inclined, but you might wanna get some experience in others before you make that move. Some of my favorites: Babes Making Things by Kara Haupt, Freelance To Freedom Project by Leah Kalamakis, Blog + Biz BFFs by Melyssa Griffin, For Love + Money by Caitlin Bacher, You Can Brand by Jenna Soard, Daring Creative by Kyla Roma, Internet Domination Club by Halley Gray, and of course, Loud Ladies by yours truly. Okay, that was more than a few. Keepin' you busy this weekend.
4. JOIN A TWITTER CHAT (OR START YOUR OWN)
Twitter chats are like private communities except they're not-so-private. You can jump in or out at anytime during the conversation. If you've never participated in a chat before, it consists of a series of questions that the host asks under a specific hashtag so that everyone else participating can see your answers. Discussions and friendships form from there. It's super fun. Some of my favorites: #fireworkpeople by Ashley Beaudin, #daringcreative by Kyla Roma, #createlounge by Kayla Hollatz, #nectarchat by Melyssa Griffin, and our own, #liveloudly (every other Wednesday at 4pm PST!).
5. MAKE YOURSELF ACCESSIBLE
Do you have a contact or connect page on your blog with your email address? Are your social media icons clearly placed on your site? Are you active on social media, in groups and communities? You can't be seen or heard online if you're invisible! Put yourself out there and make yourself easy to reach for your readers and potential clients. When people come to your blog, they want it to be simple to get in touch of you. If it's too hard, they'll just leave and find someone else. Online business is not the place to play hard-to-get.
6. ASK + ANSWER QUESTIONS
Ask your audience engaging questions in newsletters and on social platforms to get them talking and connecting. Also, make sure you're responding to questions as well. You don't want to be known as the blogger who never answers her readers' emails. Even if it's a quick one to say "I'll have to think about that, let me get back to you" and then actually get back to them. Same with social notifications and comments.
7. COLLABORATE IN A NEW-TO-YOU WAY
About a third of you found my blog through another blogger. This is why it is SO important to not only grow your community, but to collaborate with others and tap into their communities as well. If you feel like the collaborations you've done in the past weren't super successful, try something new!
This month, I decided to do a series of webinars (even though I'd never done any before). It's been an incredible experience. Tomorrow is our third and last one, with Jackie of Your Words Electric, and you can sign up here. Come learn about standing out online so that you can connect with even more people.