I’ve had several people ask me how Nate and I have built our blog community. For those who are not familiar, we also run the SavingAdvice.com website where we have an area where we have a personal finance blog community we call Real People, Real Finances. We recently passed the 100 blog mark for those that are active (a post within the last 30 days) and hope that the number will continue to grow. While I want to say it just kind of happened, there were a few moves that we made that have helped. Here is some of the advice I would pass onto anyone else who wants to attempt something along these lines.
Give A Reason For People To Blog: If you want to build a blog community, you need to give the people that are blogging a reason to do so. In our case, we took something that we recommended people do offline and brought them the means so they could do so online. It is extremely helpful for people to write down what they are doing with their money to fully understand how the use and spend it. This would be a money journal of some type and we invited people to share their money journals in blog form so not only they could learn from what they wrote, but they could also receive feedback and help others learn through their past experiences.
Give Something That Doesn’t Exist While there were (and still are) a lot of individual personal finance blogs in existence, there wasn’t really a personal finance blogging community at the time. When we started it we weren’t sure if anyone wanted it, but knew that it wasn’t being offered anywhere else and felt there might be a want for something like that.
Give Something More Than They Could Receive On Their Own: I’m often asked why people would want to blog in our community rather than on their own. I think a big part of it is that they receive a number of things that they would not receive if they tried to do the same on their own:
1. Instant Feedback: Unlike with a blog you begin by yourself, there is already a community of people reading them from day one. That means that anyone who starts one with us will usually receive multiple comments on their first post.
2. Like Minded People: There are a lot of people going through similar struggles and can instantly relate to a person who begins. There is no need to find these people.
3. Instant Traffic: Much like comments, there is no need to wait for traffic to find you. Most blogs receive several hundred hits at least in the first week.
Since all these things I believe are quite important, it would have been extremely difficult to pull this off if we didn’t already have a site where these people already gathered. SavingAdvice already existed and was well established. Had we tried to build a personal finance blog network without that base, I think it would have been much harder if not impossible.
Listen To What Those Blogging Want: To be perfectly honest, the blog community doesn’t look anything like I envisioned it when we started. Those that started writing did so in the fashion they wanted and have taken it from there. Had we tried to impose our image, I think we would have killed it off and it would certainly not be as big as it is today.
Highlight The Writing: When the blogs first began, we highlighted specific posts in our newsletter. We have to make a number of changes over the months we began them to make sure that those that write new posts have their posts show up on the front page. There are many things that can be done, but make sure to highlight those that are contributing to encourage them to continue.
Give Topics For Them To Write On: While we encourage them to write about anything concerning their finances, we also started a $20 challenge which many have adopted. This is simply a game where they begin with $20 and see how much they can turn it into in a year’s time. While many don’t do this and it is far from mandatory, it is something that has gotten a lot of the bloggers to begin.
Set A Clear Set Of Rules: While the blogs have not turned out how we envisioned them, we have made some rules so they did not turn into something that we didn’t. Being a money related site, we were quite worried that we would end up with a lot of blogs promoting affiliate programs or their own sites. We knew that we didn’t want this and made rules against these. For example, the bloggers can place any links to their site(s) they want to in the sidebar, but not in the body of the posts they make. This keeps the post on target subject and means the community doesn’t get filled with ads and spam that would detract from those that enjoy reading them.
We still have a lot to learn and are learning on a daily basis. We are certainly not experts on how to build a blog community, but that is a good thing to know. It means that anyone that really wants to build a blogger community can. If you have dreams of building upon your site in a new way, building a blog community is something that is well worth the time and effort.