This week I'm blogging on the results of my 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project. Today I want to talk about how the exercises improved community for me, a key reason for going through the last month of activities.
How Should I Measure Community?
So the big question is, how do you measure an increase in community? Certainly an increase in comments would indicate that people are engaging better with the material here, so I checked that out first. In July, I had about 40 comments. In August I had 163! Clearly that's a huge jump.
Even better, many of the comments were from readers who either came out of lurk mode or who were new to The Bamboo Project, which suggests that it wasn't just that the same people were interacting more, but that more people joined in--clearly a sign of growth.
I also had a big increase in the number of people who emailed me. Some emailed to comment on a post privately, but several emailed on new business or longer questions. Again, further signs of good engagement.
But community isn't just about what happens on my site. It's really about engaging with other people and building a sense of connection to them. I can't measure community based only on how many people come over to my house. I also have to measure it in terms of my visits to them and how we begin to have connections that carry over into other realms.So I also had to look at my own efforts to connect with people beyond my blog. There I saw growth, too.
In the past month, I made more connections via Facebook and Linked In, discovered and began to engage with several new bloggers I hadn't met before, and have generally felt far more connected to the blogosphere than I did prior to this experiment. In many ways this experience has transformed me and my sense of connections online. Before this project, there were many days where I felt like the new kid at school, trying to find people to hang out with. In the last 31 days, though, I've found a number of like-minded people with whom I've formed much stronger bonds and connections. I've also strengthened my connections with those I already knew. Now I don't walk into the cafeteria and wonder who to sit with. I have a group who calls me over.
The Impact of the Building a Better Blog Challenge
Probably the biggest community builder for me in this experiment was my decision to ask others to join me in going through the activities. Within a few days, I had close to 15 other bloggers (more like 40 if you count each of the miniLegends individually) on board and visiting my site to comment, encourage, etc. I spent a lot of time on their sites, too. We also talked frequently via email and some of us even started following each other on Twitter after Sue Waters set up a page for us.
There is no doubt that working with others on this project created a much larger sense of community than if I had done this on my own. It's like trying to lose weight by yourself vs. going to Weight Watchers--having other people share your struggle and pain creates connections pretty quickly. This is why we're continuing to work together at Building a Better Blog.
The Impact of Community-Building Exercises from the Challenge
Many of the Building a Better Blog tasks were specifically designed to encourage community. Tasks like emailing a new reader , finding and joining a forum in your niche, and commenting on a new blog were more direct routes. But I also found that community was built when decluttering my sidebar led to a total site redesign that invited a lot of comments and interaction. I even had Laura Whitehead offering to do a new banner, kind of like having your neighbor offer to help with that addition to your house. The audit and redo of my About page and my work on my mission statement also were community-builders for me. In the end, I found that almost every exercise helped me build community in some way.
The Bottom Line
By virtually every measure I could imagine, the 31 Day challenge was a smashing success in terms of building connections to other bloggers and to readers. Although I'm gratified by what the numbers told me about my growth in the last month, I'm probably the happiest about the impact this project had on my growth as an online citizen. We are, after all, social creatures and blogging is at heart a social medium. So to see how these tasks improved my ability to be a better cyber-neighbor is one of the most important outcomes of this project for me.
Up tomorrow, 31 Lessons I Learned in 31 Days of Building a Better Blog.
More on the Results of my 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project:
Read here about how my stats skyrocketed in 31 Days.
If you're interested in continuing to grow and learn as a blogger, please join us at the Building a Better Blog community where we're using weekly blog challenges and ongoing conversations to continually improve our blogs and the blogging experience.