How Long Does It Take To Build A Community?

My communities

My communities (Photo credit: steven w)

I received an email from a reader who wants to know how long I think it will take to build a successful blog. The simple answer to that question is it depends on how long it takes to build a community.

That is because I see community as being among the core tenets of a great blog. A good community provides you with readers whose comments help to advance the conversation and whose collective wisdom generate additional ideas for future posts.

A good community is warm, inviting and welcoming. It is a place where newcomers are happy to spend time and welcomed with open arms and that is why I responded to their question as I did.

What do you need to do to build a community online?

One of the best ways to do this is to go visit other blogs/boards/online communities and to start leaving thoughtful comments in those places.  If you do that consistently you will find that people will want to learn more about you and they will come visit.

Don’t be the guy leaves three words about the post they are commenting on and fifteen about how you just blogged about the same topic.

Communities don’t spring up overnight. One of the reasons I like the Spin Sucks community is because Gini is honest about what it has taken to build it. She’ll tell you that it didn’t happen overnight.

One of the things that I try to do in conjunction to leaving thoughtful comments is to link to other bloggers. When you do it properly it can be another very effective way to introduce yourself to others and potentially create interest in becoming a part of the community you are building.

And by properly I mean you do it in a way that makes it clear that you aren’t linking to them for the purpose of link juice but because you found their post to be interesting, valuable and worth sharing with your readers.

Do you see how that is tied in with the idea of leaving thoughtful comments? People like to feel valued and appreciated and links are a useful way of showing your appreciation.

 A Roundup of Posts Worth Reading

Each of the posts below are tied into the theme of this post. While I may not agree with all the points that are made in these you are highly encouraged to go read them.

  1. Why I Remain on the Ad Age 150 Blogger Index
  2. In Social Media, No One Cares Unless YOU Care
  3. 10 Reasons Why Your Content Doesn’t Attract Links
  4. The key to online success? YOU
  5. 3 Simple Ways to Expand Your Blog Through Social Media 
  6. 10 Reasons No One Notices Your Blog Comment
  7. Is Your Marketing a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

But How Long Does It Take To Build a Community?

The answer is “I don’t know how long it takes to build a community.” I can talk about what needs to be done and whether it is being properly executed but I can’t give you an exact time frame and that is ok.

This is a marathon and not a sprint. The blogosphere is littered with rotting carcasses of blogs that were once among the bright, shiny objects screaming for cyber love. There is low barrier to entry here and the myth that you can go viral overnight is still being promoted by all sorts of people.

What that means is you need to be prepared to spend some time working on building your blog and building your community. You need to accept that it takes time to build relationships with others and that it is ok.

If you are honest and open with the community you are building you will find many rewards come from it. Members will be forgiving of the posts that aren’t home runs and will do what they can to help you.

Take care of your community and they will take care of you.

Now what are you waiting for? Go out there and start building relationships with others.

Two quotes to send you on your way:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

― John Donne, No Man Is An Island

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  2. Gini Dietrich August 24, 2012 at 7:49 am

    One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is your community changes. A lot of the people who were in the community in the beginning, I still talk to via other social networks, but they’ve moved on to other things (other than Howie – he’s been there forever). So I think it’s important for people not only to be patient when building a community, but to also know why they’re doing it and be okay with the fact that it will change, evolve, and grow.

    • Josh August 24, 2012 at 9:54 am

      @ginidietrich:disqus That is very true and as bloggers we are very much a part of that. As we grow and evolve as writers that impacts our readers and sometimes we shift gears which pushes away some and pulls in others.

      If you look through certain blogs you sometimes see the people that used to be the anchors of the community disappear.

      I think in addition to being aware we need to pay attention to whether we are churning and burning people. If you want to build a community you have to pay some attention to how they respond to what you write/share/do.

  3. Tim Bonner August 19, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Hey Josh

    I like the idea of linking to posts in the way you describe. I must admit I’ve only done it a few times but I can see the advantages for both parties.

    Building a community definitely takes time and there’s no point in trying to run before you can walk otherwise you’ll drive people away. You have to consistently post to your blog though otherwise people look interest but also go and visit other people’s blogs and take the time to make some thoughtful comments.

    I have to say I’m not a big fan of Disqus or any other commenting system where you have to log in to make a comment. I think it puts people off rather than makes them want to comment.

    Thank you for sharing!


    • Josh August 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Hi Tim,

      Welcome to the blog. I am biased but I have found that linking to other blogs is very effective. The most important part of that is to make sure you are adding value.

      If you do that well it yields dividends because the blogger you link to will be more likely to let your link stand on their end. They won’t see you as being some obnoxious spammer and they’ll show some interest in your blog,

      I absolutely agree with you about not running before you can walk. The process takes as long as it takes. Sometimes it is frustrating that it can’t be done faster, but is just how it goes sometimes.

      I understand your concern about commenting systems. Ideally I prefer one that just lets you comment without any sort of restriction.Using the native WP system with CommentLuv is definitely a good way to go.

      What I like about DISQUS is that you can follow others and be followed. I think it is a useful tool that helps to build community which is why I installed it here.

      Thank you again. Hope to see you real soon.

  4. geofflivingston August 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Consistency, consistency, consistency. That’s all I can add to this. Thank you for including me.

    BTW< don't you love the new Disqus system?

    • Josh August 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm


      Consistency is really important. I have seen a lot of bloggers fall apart because they couldn’t publish with any sort of consistency that people could follow.

      Yeah, the new DISQUS is among the best I have seen. Interface is pretty easy to use and it comes with a lot of nice features.

  5. Kaarina Dillabough August 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    My take? It takes as long as it takes. When we build with integrity, consistency, caring and genuine interest, the people who resonate with our messages will not only become a part of “community”, they’ll usually invite others to join the party. And even though it’s an up and down roller coaster ride, and even when it’s the dog days of summer and everyone seems to have disappeared, we need to stay the course. You’re a good reminder to do just that. Cheers! Kaarina

    • Josh August 18, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Hello my fellow Taurus. We share a lot of things in common. I want to be the last guy standing so slow and steady works for me.

      You touch upon something really important and that is the value of having community members speak on behalf of the writer. There is infinite value in those types of referrals, probably nothing more powerful.

      BTW, I haven’t forgotten about the Y word, just haven’t posted it yet.

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