An Engaged Community Supports the Bottom Line

How You Can Build Community on the Web and Optimize Toward Success

(Image: Smith)
(Image: Smith)

Ileane Smith, known in social media circles as Ms. Ileane, is founder of Basic Blog Tips (BBT), a site that seeks to inform consumers about how to reach their blogging goals and have fun along the way. Based in Philadelphia, she is talks regularly with many early adopters, innovators and leaders in the field of SEO, blog tips and monetization. Because she functions in a community of game-changing, new media influencers and has built a business centered on engagement, we met up with her to learn about the role of engagement in building her business. How did BBT get started?

Ileane Smith: I actually started blogging in 2009 by accident. My daughter Nikki started a free WordPress blog. I thought I was signing up to follow her blog, but it turned out that I was actually signing up for my own blog.

Once I realized what I’d done, I got excited about being able to put my thoughts out on the web for everyone to read. Even today I’m amazed by how empowering it is to have a blog. In those days my biggest challenge was finding good tutorials and instructions for how to navigate the dashboard and other technical aspects of blogging. I found myself hunting for tutorials on “YouTube University” and its support forums, like Lisa Irby’s Website Babble. I had not begun to think about how an engaged community supports the bottom line.

As I learned new skills, I would write about them and share what I’d learned with my readers. I became well known as being a problem solver or a trouble shooter. Even today, I still get excited when people thank me for helping them figure out how to do stuff online.

Social media strategists spend a lot of time talking about engagement; and bloggers who blog for money seem not to be in agreement about which practices are best for engaging readers. How much of what you do daily can be attributed to a natural interest in figuring out how things work and what part is guided by an intentional monetization strategy?

Most people think of me as a teacher or a coach. But the truth of the matter is – first and foremost – I’m a student. The tagline of my first blog that I mentioned earlier was “I’m here to learn, to teach and to connect.” If I do a good job the results will be an engaged community.

That tagline remains today, is ingrained in my personality and is a big part of what I do each and every day. From the time I wake up in the morning (usually at 3 or 4 am) until I shut down my computer at night, I’m consuming content. During this process of constantly learning and teaching— I make a lot of friends. While I’m interacting with people on my blog, and on social networks, I try to make a stronger connection with them if time permits. I try to capitalize on the moment. Offline events play a big role as well in making these connections and in sustaining engagement. But nothing is more important than an engaged community when it comes to a business’s bottom line.

In other words, it’s not just me who thinks I am your personal online friend but other people as well. What are your tried-and-true strategies for building community and for holding their attention?

The very first blogging community I ever signed up for was Blog Engage. I’m still one of the top members there and quiet as it’s kept, I even worked as part of the team for a few months.

Blog Engage put me in touch with a ton of influential bloggers that I’m still friendly with today even though many great bloggers have come and gone since 2009.

Early on I learned the importance of being part of a blogging community. In addition to Blog Engage and the Website Babble forum I’m also a member of sites like Triberr, Viral Content Buzz and Social Buzz Club.

I think it’s important to belong to a community that has a built in social sharing platform. That’s really key because then you know that everyone in the community is there for the same reason: to make friends, and to read and share each other’s content.

Those new to the business of social media would do well to start with Ms. Ileane’s Basic Blog Tips and Youtube channel.

Patricia Patton crafts culturally relevant messages for startups marketing to the mature market. She hosts edu-treats for older entrepreneurs and can be found at BoomerWizdom, a blog focusing on health, technology, and travel. Her recent e-book, SisterSpeak, an introduction to Black Boomer Bloggers, can be found on Amazon. Follow her on Twitter @BoomerWiz.

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