Building online community

January Wrap-Up: Building Online Community

Building online communityOur January meetup was well-attended with about 15 people at Republic Coffee. Our topic for the evening was building blog community, with Cammy Chapel, owner of Cammy’s blog, which focuses on fitness and weight loss, has about 500 subscribers via RSS, an an additional 100 via email and a community of more than 1000. Thanks so much to her for her great insights and willingness to contribute.

On community:

“It involves weaving together the passions, talents, insights, and experiences of a wide range of people who are committed to a common purpose.”
Building Community Within by Steve Fortier, CommuniTeam Training and Consulting

Of the total blog readership, Cammy’s research estimates that

  • 1 percent will create content
  • 9 percent will comment or engage
  • 90 percent will simply read

Cammy’s Community Tips


The number of comments a blog receives will depend on its subject matter. Contests and giveaways can increase comments at least for a short time. Cammy’s blog receives about 20 comments per 1000 views.

It’s important to set guidelines for language and behavior; it’s ok to disagree, but offensive comments should not be tolerated. Cammy hasn’t had much trouble with rude comments, as her positive, upbeat writing sets the tone for the site.

Always respond to comments, as it shows your audience you are paying attention. Cammy often responds via email to show her appreciation in a more personal way. Otto, a member of the WordPress development team, suggests styling your own comments uniquely (for example, a differently background color) to make them more visible.

Share the Love

Link to other blogs in your sidebar if you have a blogroll and/or use a plugin that displays recent comments. CommentLuv, a popular comment plugin, includes a link to the commenter’s last blog post, which encourages engagement.

Host Events — Virtual or Real-Life (IRL)

According to Cammy, it’s important to step out of your own site on a regular basis, comment on other blogs, visit niche-specific forums, interact on social networking platforms and host online events. She hosted a virtual holiday potluck, in which participants shared recipes online, and plans a virtual summer BBQ in June. She also suggests Twitter chats, contests, polls and quizzes.

Cammy has lots of other great suggestions for creating community, so check out her presentation.

Just for fun, we took an informal poll of the 15 attendees and our commenting habits:

  • 6 regularly comment on blogs
  • 3 are willing to be controversial or disagree
  • 2 have been flamed
  • 1 admitted to flaming

Looks like we all need to engage more!

Other technical notes:

  • According to Otto, you can run as many plugins as you like as long as they are good plugins. He recommends those that have only one function (his site has more than 60).
  • WordPress 3.1 will be available very soon and will include some exciting upgrades, such as post formats and easier internal linking.

Next meetup: Thursday, February 3, 6:00 p.m., Republic Coffee

Topic: Hands-on session with, our group website. We’ll explore themes and designs and begin to customize our site. Email Beth if you’d like to be added as a contributor on the site.

Homework: For the next meetup, bring your laptop and ideas about the site:
Colors, design elements, etc.
Screenshots or links to sites you like
Anything else you’d like to see added

See you then!

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