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12 Keys To Building Your Online Community

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by David Garland in David's Blog

This question comes up all the time in my email, Facebook, Twitter, real life, etc.: “How do I build an audience?” or “How do I get people to read my blog?” or “How do I create a community?” or “David, how do you get your hair like that?” (Answer: gel)

Anyway…back to the important questions.

Content (blogging, videos, text, photos) is an absolute marketing weapon for entrepreneurs when done correctly. The cost to create, publish and promote is low with the benefits being huge. The opportunity and tools are there. But this isn’t a case of build it and they will come.

How can you the hustling entrepreneur build up your community?

First, of all there is a really big difference between audience and community. An audience is one-way. Not interactive. Not social. An audience passively watches or reads. An audience doesn’t participate. Or share with others.

On the other hand, a community is a two-way conversation. A living, breathing thing. Extremely interactive. Social. Sure, some people just watch or read, but many also participate and share with their friends.

Here the keys that I’ve learned from building up our RISE Community. The community now includes over 100,000 entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers, forward-thinkers, etc. plus a healthy blend of partners.

1. Consistency/Content

It all starts with great content. Content that isn’t about you, but about the community. Whether it be bunny lovers, football fans or 16-year-old band geeks. Content that is educational, inspirational and/or entertaining. Your unique spin.

There is a lot of content out there. You have to find a way to stick out and be different. Perhaps nobody in your niche does video. That sounds like an opportunity. Perhaps nobody in your niche interviews people. Sounds like an opportunity. Perhaps everyone does really long text posts. What if you did a tip of the day? Fitting in was never popular, right?

Consistently is also huge. How often are you posting? Do you disappear for weeks on end with no updates and then create the ole “sorry I haven’t posted!” post? Sure, it is OK to go on vacation or something like that (send me a postcard), but why not give a quick heads up?

Think about the traditional media consistency model. TV, radio, print. There are seasons and schedules. We new media types play by our own rules, but consistency never goes out of style.

The really cool thing about new media (blogging, video blogging, online magazine, content creating, whatever you want to call it) is you can use different mediums on your channel. For example, it would be really hard for a TV show to suddenly focus on text the next day…awkward and not really possible.

Starting the first week of January, I went to an everyday posting model. First, I started by doing all tips. Then all interviews. Now it is a mix and numerous mediums as well (like this shiny text post!). The consistency factor is (unless there is notice), I post five days a week. It might be a video. It might be an article. It might a who-knows-what. But, something to help entrepreneurs like you build your business smarter, faster, cheaper will be posted.

A final note on consistency is narrowing your topic to something replicable. Meaning there is plenty of content that can be created and not a finite amount. You don’t want to run out!

2. Designed To Share

The content that gets shared the most online is like peanut butter…easily spreadable. Good content is spread by your community. On Facebook, Twitter, etc. Perhaps posted to their blog or sent to a social bookmarking site.

How do you make it sharable?

For one thing, and I wish it didn’t matter, but headlines matter. Is it complicated? Trying to be too clever? Too boring? There isn’t an exact formula here; however, the shorter and more relevant gets shared. Think of it like one of those tabloid-terrible magazines. “Zombie Baby Eats Britney Spears!” If gets your attention.

The other HUGE component, is adding the right plugins to your blog to enable one (or two maximum) click sharing. If you have to put on a safari coat and go hunt for the button to send it to Facebook, people won’t do it.

Make it easy to send to at the very least the most popular sites.

3. Schmoozing On Social Media

If you are creating online content and looking to build a community, you have to get active on social media in your niche. Sharing the content of others. Sharing your content. Answering questions. Asking questions. Connecting with relevant people. Listening.

It isn’t rocket science, it is human. Your community is made up humans and not Google Robots. The more one-on-one connections you make and offer value to, the better off you will be.

And this doesn’t mean you have to be active on every site. For example, I spend most of my social media time on Twitter and Facebook. Some people spend more time on LinkedIn. Or wherever. The bottom line is you get to choose based on your comfort level, what works and of course where your niche hangs out online.

4. Engaging/Caring

When someone leaves a comment on your site, you have two choices. Respond or not. It is up to you. Some people never respond. Some people respond to every comment no matter what.

Of course, over time, it will be difficult to respond to everything as your community grows. However, I’ve noticed success when you make it a priority. Give every comment a hug. Someone took a bit out of their busy schedule to leave it.

Same goes for social media. Are you a robot or a person? If someone asks you a question do you respond? Now, of course, there are limitations to this. You can’t sit there all day and answer questions or say hi to everyone; however, I bet we can all block out a little time to do so, can’t we? Small talk and caring goes a long way.

And you can’t fake it or outsource it.

5. Enabling Others To Promote Your Work:

You can’t go out this alone. If all you do is talk about yourself and how neat your business is, it will be impossible to gain long term traction (unless you are some sort of magical wizard or something).

The best way to enable others is to give credit. People like a little love especially if it is genuine and useful.

For example: 35 Unique Entrepreneurs That Are Changing The Business World

Notice, on that post, it was shared MANY times. Reason? It was about others and not just me.

6. Interviews

After conducting 100+ interviews in three years, I can conclusively say that it is an incredible way to build your brand. It is sort of the perfect storm. You are creating valuable content for your community, promoting someone else and making a new connection (the person you interview). As long as the content of the interview is useful and amazing, you can create your own interview machine.

7. Promoting Others & Telling Them About It

When you mention someone or something in a post, freaking tell them about it! This doesn’t mean stalk them with multiple emails and Twitter direct messages. It means, send a quick note to them to let them know.

The Nametag Guy Scott Ginsberg taught me this one. A quick note with the link and thanking them for the inspiration.

Don’t ask them to Tweet it.
Don’t ask them to put it on Facebook.
Don’t ask for anything.

Just thank and be genuine.

And guess what? Good things will happen. Karma is a good thing. It will end up getting shared one way or another.

8. Guest Posts/Videos/Articles

Finding sites in your niche that allow guest posting is an incredible way to build community and bring in new folks.

Being a good writer or creator of any medium can qualify you to do guest posts. The key here is to be specific and take your same philosophy to other people’s sites. Meaning being a trusted resource and not a product pusher.

I contribute about six weeks to Small Biz Trends plus have done guest videos for Hubspot and Personal Branding Blog to name a few of many.

9. PR:

Making yourself an available expert for other new media sources (and traditional) is a huge key to bringing new people to your site. The more good content you create and share, the more leverage you will have when reaching out to someone.

Media loves experts. What are you an expert in? And I’m not talking about a guru on top of a mountain. I’m talking about what knowledge or unique perspective do you bring to the table?

For example, I love functional technology. Stuff that is easy to use and doesn’t take Einstein to figure out. So, I offered up to a local morning program to be their business and technology expert. For a time,  I appeared on the show every six weeks to talk about unique topics. It was really fun and marketed me and The Rise To The Top.

Now, imagine if I went to them from the non-expert perspective and said “Hi guys, can I come on your show and promote my resource for forward-thinkers called The Rise To The Top? It is really great and amazing. You will love it!” Nope. Wouldn’t work. Fail.

10. Live Events/Speaking

Much of building a community online involves offline connections. While a virtual handshake is amazing, nothing quite replaces a real life one.

How can you bring people together in your niche? It can be something really simple like a Tweet Up. Or maybe some kind of unique book club (who knows). But, if you can get people away from their computers, it will only do good things. This was the idea behind our event series. I wanted to bring together amazing people. Entrepreneurs, innovators, forward-thinkers, etc. to munch on some food, mingle, and learn. How can you bring people together in your niche?

Plus in this social web era, photos, videos, etc. from the event can be positioned online and continue to build the community. You now have more people to connect with.

Another benefit of becoming a trusted resource and community builder, is your content can be turned into speeches, discussions, round tables, whatever. If you position yourself as a speaker, not only will you be educating and inspiring the audience, but you will be introducing people to a slice of you. If they want another slice, they can check out your website later.

You might want to speak for free (content resulting in sales). Or eventually become a paid speaker. The world is hungry for more passionate, interesting speakers. I bet you could be one of them.

11. Create An Unfair Advantage:

I’m sure you have some kind of major advantage you can jump on. Don’t be embarrassed by it, USE it. Go with it.

Something (ANYTHING) that separates you from the pack.

Perhaps you are really ridiculously good looking like Derek Zoolander.
Or super smart and others ogle over your brain.
Or you are really outgoing.
Or you have a lot of connections.

Whatever it is, use it your advantage. My unfair advantage (besides hair gel), was TV. I created something unique on television which kickstarted RISE. We started as a local TV show in St. Louis. First on “My Network TV” and then on ABC on Sunday mornings after George Stephanopoulos and late night after Jimmy Kimmel Live (fun fact: We are doing another season on ABC this fall).

TV was a massive credibility builder and separated from the pack. How can you leave the pack in your dust?

12. Time

You can now build by being smarter, faster, cheaper (as opposed to dumber, slower, expensive). But don’t confuse “faster” with “instantaneous.” At the end of the day, it takes time. Nobody watched Wine Library TV for 8 months when Gary Vaynerchuk launched it. My first blogs posts got about 9 views. Jason Cohen, from A Smart Bear, told me in this interview that he started blogging, and blogging, and blogging…a lot of time passed…and then it became popular.

But, if you follow 1-11 in your unique way and stick with it, good things will happen. Who knows? You might be the next rising start we talk about on RISE.

Wrapping it up:

We are currently in the midst of an incredible era of entrepreneurship and online content. People are building brands that are going to be the examples we use ten years from now. While some folks are focusing on products, others are building communities (or as Seth Godin says) Tribes. Leadership and vision is one thing and I hope these keys will help get the eyeballs onto your content…and keep them there.

What did I forget? I’m sure there are more keys. What would you add?

  1. bolcsotolbolcsoig says:

    I just found your site and this post via
    Couldn’t be more thankful to her! I’m blogging from Budapest, Hungary and wise advise is always welcome. Thank you!

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

       VERY cool!

  2. Payton_vege says:

    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

  3. Joe says:

    You can do all this with

  4. Varela Melissa says:

    This was some great content being someone who has just started blogging less than a year ago.
    Much thanks from

  5. Volunteer St. John's says:

    Your emphasis on the importance of social media really drives the message that one has no choice but to dive in and use these tools.

  6. Faraz Masood Khan says:

    Nice advices, I have launch a new community for web feeds, this post thus give me some good advice


  7. Jamie says:

    If i knew this 3 years ago I would probably be commenting on this in the future or maybe int he past but what ever it take someone can do it with the right mind set and the willingness to progress in anything you do…

  8. Marisa says:

    This piece was super helpful! Thank you so much. We’re currently trying to build our blog community in fashion and find it a constant challenge.

  9. Paige says:

    Hi thanks for the info were currently trying to improve our Aspie and Autism community.

  10. Nathan Merry says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, it was very informative. I particularly liked how you mentioned the importance of keeping a consistent schedule. I think that people focus so much on the content or services they provide they forget they have to keep their community engaged. This of course means allowing two-community which you explained perfectly.

  11. Tom Mullins says:

    That’s a really good list, very comprehensive. It really paints the picture that your online community needs to be a two way street to be successful. You can’t rely on people to just worship what ever you put out, but really work to please them and keep them engaged. I also think it helps a lot when there is a shared interest or similar attitudes involved.

  12. Addie says:

    Thanks for the tips… Now on to execution.. this is where I struggle. Trying to build a community for my clothing line D’IYANU

  13. Gibbereo says:

    I don’t have any community, but I ve joined in many. I think the best would be , Science on Google+, NGC explorer, Scientist online

  14. Hi David – phew ! – what a blast of information.
    That’s what a real cornerstone post looks like.

    It’s really about being original and valuable, having genuine interaction with your community and networks and a burning focus that keeps you going…and going.

    Thanks for sharing

  15. Moriarty says:

    Hello, thank you for this nice article,
    My experience concerns
    rather discussion forums than blogs (I have been administrating several
    forums for several years now, forums created on,
    a powerful free forum hosting to which I am particularly thankful). (By the way, I think it’s really annoying that forums (or “discussion boards” if you prefer) are rarely mentioned when speaking about creating online communities! )
    According to my experience I would add
    – Asking thought-provoking questions
    – Using personal experiences with the subject matter (= something close to storytelling)
    – Commenting on current events

    Accept US spelling

    Accept UK spelling

  16. Tom Jones says:

    very useful information onmyminddailycom

  17. Jason Connley says:

    3 Website check list for 2016

    We won’t go into this too much as we’ve posted about it a few times already. Basically, folks are designing a website to automatically size down to fit multiple devices like tablets and smart phones. The scalable layouts are always well designed for a great user experience. Additionally, Google has said they will stop ranking sites that are not mobile responsive. This means the upgrade to a responsive site is no longer voluntary, its mandatory.

    2. LONGER PAGES, BUT FEWER PAGES (a.k.a Infinity Scrolling) or “One Page Sites”
    With the proliferation of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, website users are getting used to scrolling down long pages of information. This use to be a big “no no” but hey times are changing. It seems like the scrolling long site has started to take the lead in modern look and functionality. The UX trend is to start crafting longer pages, but fewer pages. Yup, and even Google has shifted its search options to show endless amounts of information on just one page for its images and loads them as you scroll down the page.

    3. Webmasters VS Website coders/builders
    With the advancement of technology, it has become very easy to build and maintain a website. This is both awesome and deceiving at the same time. In this world of tech, it’s not if you can, its if you “know”. While the ability to free hand code is still vital, it is no longer the front runner to a functioning and successful website. However, a Webmaster with some coding skills, but more so the experience of running a website is the key to success now. You can pretty much find any solution you want already coded, all you need is a hall monitor so to speak. Keeping your website up to date on new codes and standards, as well as even helping with content. This is where a webmaster comes into play. Usually a webmaster will know how to keep your website up to date, help with content, and even handle your web marketing all for fractions of the price compared to a stick web coder. Don’t get us wrong, as you grow a web coder will be a necessity, however for small to midsize and local business, truthfully a skilled webmaster is all you need and will save you thousands of dollars.

    Moirai Marketing, providing unique advancements in web design, SEO, SEM, graphic
    and web management services. We at can start helping you get a better return on your social media marketing activities. If you want more likes or need a more professional looking cover page, we can help. More followers and people who will respond to your post.

  18. It truly works! Thank you.

  19. Daria says:


    I also have blogs on different platforms: Medium, Tumblr, and Ning. And I need to get profit from them.

    Yesterday Ning has launched the new feature for monetization personal blog and networking. They are testing a Paid Access: Paid Access to content, Paid membership, Donation

    And they are working on member ranking system. Ranking system allows motivating your network members or followers to be more active online. Members can get points for their activity and time spent on the network and, therefore, get achievement badge.

    So you can add Donation Button to your blog or network and raise money for charity projects or for your own needs (for development your community).

  20. atif says:

    Thanking for sharing the tips. I am a senior community manager at TaskQue, a task management tool. I have been practicing these tips. What left is the part of offline channel.

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8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

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