Hey guys, in today’s post, I’m sharing “How I Lost Hundreds of Thousands of My Community” for day 2 of 5 of My Top 5 Painful Blogging Mistakes.
So how did I lose so much of my community? Simple. I just let them slip away. Let me explain…
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you make a purchase using one of these links. I personally use and love the services referenced below. But, feel free to reach out with any questions.
How to FAIL at Growing Your Community
A blog must have readers to succeed. If no one is reading, what’s the point? Right?
You could have thousands of site visitors, but what does that mean if they never come back?
What’s the difference between a blog visitor and a community member?
A visitor may read one recipe or travel story on your blog. And never come back. They could almost instantly forget you. Think about all the sites you’ve visited in the past that you don’t remember.
If you have a lot of people visiting your site, but they don’t come back, you have a problem. You will not grow a community this way.
In order to grow, you need visitors to come back (“join” the community) while new visitors also start reading your blog.
My Lost Community (>Thousand Followers)
If I had better ways for visitors to follow my blog, I could have grown my community better.
Even if I only captured 1% of visitors on The Chic Life, I could have had a community of over 22,000 members. What if I had managed 10%? That’s 220,000 potential members.
But I didn’t. Insert cry face emoji.
So what should I have done? And how can you avoid this mistake?
TLDR: Email. But I think you should read the rest of this post.
How to Turn a Visitor into a Community Member?
There are 2 main ways a visitor can follow you (these days*):
- Social (For example: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter)
- Email (newsletter, primarily)
*RIP Google Reader
The Trouble with Social
Your social following can literally disappear overnight. A platform could shut down or change their algorithm.
I know you don’t think Instagram could vanish tomorrow. But it could. And similar things have happened.
Some of you may recall how blog readers used to rely heavily on Google Reader, an RSS feed reader. I know I did. Not quite “social”, but go with it. Almost everyone I knew at the time read blogs by using Google Reader or straight up visiting the site to see if a new post was up yet. When Google Reader was decommissioned in July 2013, my readership took a big hit.
And what about when Facebook changed their page functionality a few years ago? Where I used to have organic Facebook engagement, everything slowed to almost a halt. Facebook suddenly (basically) expected payment for people to see my posts. My likes, comments, and overall engagement went away just like that. *poof*
Most recently, many of my blog friends have mentioned seeing a decline in engagement and community growth on Instagram thanks to their recent algorithm changes.
These weren’t the first times social platform changes hurt blog readership. And they won’t be the last. Keep growing social followings, but don’t rely on them exclusively. There’s a better solution. Email.
The Upside of Email
I could write a very detailed post about the full benefits of email. But let’s save that for another day, kay?
For now, I’ll keep things short:
- Emails are (relatively) stable: people rarely change their email addresses, and email tools have been reliable for many years
- Emails can be transferred: unlike, say, your Facebook followers**
**You can literally export your entire list of email addresses and take them with you to a new email service provider.
The Solution: Growing an Email List
The solution is growing an email list.
This can be as simple as creating a basic form to capture email addresses. That’s it.
I recommend taking it at least one step further and creating a weekly RSS newsletter. You can Google this, but let me know if you want me to write a tutorial. Basically, it’s a pretty standard email newsletter option most email service providers (ESPs) offer. It automatically collects your latest blog posts for (say) a week and sends them to your subscribers. Once you set it up, your email newsletter will automatically run (as long as you’re writing new posts). Pretty sweet, right?
Success Proven: Viral Post -> Increased Community
I always knew building an email list was good. But, the importance of having an email optin was illustrated when I had a post go viral last year.
Over 30,000 visitors appeared all in one day (when the norm was around 1,000). They could have all read my post and disappeared. But I captured almost 300 emails that day and 200 the next, growing my list by approximately 50%! If I hadn’t been collecting emails, I may never have seen those visitors again. (And yes, I will be blogging more about this viral post and how you can do one)
My Recommended Email Service Providers (ESPs)
First of all, an ESP is basically the tool that actually gathers email addresses and sends emails. It’s important to use a legit ESP because there are many legalities and rules that must be followed. Since I’m not a lawyer, I won’t elaborate, but it’s not something I care to mess with.
My ESP recommendations:
I researched both heavily before using them. Many of the influencers I follow as well as my blog friends use and recommend both.
Besides a brief stint on the now defunct Feedburner, I started my email list with MailChimp. MailChimp was easy to use and is free for (currently) up to 2,000 email subscribers.
ConvertKit is what I currently use to build my email list and send my email newsletters. This option does not offer a free option.
I’m planning to write a blog post about why I switched, but I still recommend both tools.
Building an email list is a great way to build your community. I recommend gathering emails as soon as possible. It may seem weird to send newsletters to a handful of people, but you have to start somewhere. Even bloggers with huge followings started with their first follower.
Click here for my Complete Blog Toolkit (for all the other tools and resources I use to run my food blog)
Have you built an email list? Which tool did you use, and did you like it?
Thanks so much for reading! Check back tomorrow for my blogging mistake #3.