Using communities to get engaged customers to your site.

Over the last two months, I have been busy building a blogs for others and even one for me: dedicated to one of my passions: food and cooking (

I’d like to tell you a little bit about my blog, because its a good case study for web traffic,driving traffic and community.

I started my blog with zero visitors a month.  Today, I have more and more new readers, increasing at over 50% a week,  40% of my readers are new, which means I also have a very loyal audience, they also stay on  my site for more than 5 minutes on average. In otherwords: they are engaged. If I continue to grow at this pace, I will have at least 5000 visitors a month by the end of the year. I’m OK with that kind of traffic, particularly since I’ve done it 100% targeted and 100% grassroots. But what’s more important to me is the engagement level.

People are always asking me how I did it. I’ll answer this in several blog posts. But, the first answer is time. I began by identifying my target audience. Then I used a variety of source to find them: Twitter, other blogs, community sites, Facebook. I also employ a blog for several reasons, not the least of which is customizable content, with some SEO control. I’ll write about the advantages of a blog in the next installment.

But I didn’t just identify my audience, I engaged them. That in turn, made them want to engage more with me. Its sort of like holding out your hand to be a friend.

About Twitter:

Using Twitter isn’t hard, its just time consuming. It means actively following others, which means finding them. But I can typically grow my Twitter audience by 100 or so with 20 minutes after dinner. So I do that.  Simple enough. In two months my following is over 800 people; those people have an average audience of 400 people, which means my reach is multiplied by their reach. While My following isn’t the 25,000+ of some people, I never set out to have that many followers. I wanted followers who want to read and talk about food. I set out to engage. The people who have 25,000+ followers can’t even keep track of their followers and they almost never, ever, help out other people with their goals. They might be mega-brands on Twitter, but they aren’t mega-brands in terms of success.

But finding people on Twitter isn’t the key to growing traffic. Its the beginning. You must, must, must engage. You must help others with their goals, you must create relationships. I help others out on Twitter. I am on it all day long. I send out information not related to my blog, that I think will be interesting to my followers.  I re-tweet interesting info for others, I thank them when they do the same. I have even created friendships on Twitter. Think of Twitter like any other networking event. If you just strut around the room, jamming your business card in everyone’s face, telling them all about you, without ever asking about their business or why they came, how effective is that? Yet 90% of Twitter people do that exact thing.

About Community Sites:

Also, I engaged communities that are built around my topic of choice. Anytime I can add my website link, I do. I am active on these sites and supportive of their members. I comment and engage.  Which brings me to the other very time consuming part of blogging: reading and responding to other bloggers. You will get traffic this way. Some weeks I get up to 10% of my traffic from two other popular sites I visit. Blog readers are always on the look out for new sites, new information.  One other rule of engagement: when people make a comment or stop by your site: thank them. Make them feel special for visiting and make sure you stop by their site (if they have one) to comment and follow as well.

Small business owners are always shaking their heads and raising their hands when I tell them, in detail about my process. They answer is always the same: I don’t have the time.

But are you going to let this new form of marketing pass you by? Aren’t you interested in driving more traffic to your site? Don’t you want to know more about your customers? The web captures information in a way traditional advertising does not, and its cheaper, but that comes at a cost of your time or someone else’s. Whichever you choose, I wish you the best of luck. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, I will respond!