Using Group Chat to Build your Blog’s Community

What is the best strategy for building a community around your website/blog? Forums have been, for a long time, the primary tool for building a community on a website. The downside here was that you needed considerable traffic (or heavy marketing) to get the forum going – nothing kills a forum more than a lack of participation. Message boards and IRC chat rooms provide a tenuous alternative (as do discussions in the comments section of a blog), and leave something to be desired for, especially on websites that are not popular enough to support their own forums.

Interactivity on most blogs is limited to comment conversations (read Chris’s views on tracking comments). It’s easy to say that this is sufficient, but is there any real need for a better solution? The questions I’m trying to ask here are:

  • What can we do to improve the stickiness of a blog?
  • Which tools are most effective in community building – especially for those blogs that do not (currently) enjoy the sort of attention Performancing or SEOBook does (in other words, 95% of the blogs out there)?

For my part, I’ll talk about group chat solutions. Hopefully other readers can shed light on what I’ve missed and on other techniques as well.

Group chat services such as Campfire and Tangler (read TechCrunch’s review on Tangler) are more suited to project based collaboration, event-specific conversations, Q&A sessions (Andy, do you think you could do one on link-building anytime soon?) and personal chats. Like instant messaging, group chat works best when the connections between people are personal – it would be more natural for the moderators of a forum to communicate via Campfire rather than a bunch of strangers who drop by my blog for the first time.

The real benefit of placing a group chat solution on your blog / website is that it can be equated to your blog having a chat-room, which in turn encourages readers to interact and discuss posts as well present their own comments.

Secondly, without allowing chat transcripts to be indexed, there will be little search engine value for such a solution. For a contrast, consider how useful forums are for building search engine rankings. Forums offer a phenomenal gateway into producing tons of fresh, useful content on your website in a short period of time. In return, forum posters get recognition and a chance to build their reputation (yes, some of us do it for the sake of helping others, but that is a small minority).

In the end, a major part of community building comes from giving your blog readers a chance to ask questions and interact with other readers. Group chat achieves that splendidly.

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Using Group Chat to Build your Blog’s Community

  1. I don’t like to chat (except for a ‘let’s have lunch’ call). You will also not find me on IRC. I prefer asynchronous conversations (mail, forum, Usenet).

    You pointed it out yourself. Chat content is not meant to stay. But I want to publish content which resides on the web.

    Yesterday I read a nice lengthy article about Hoodwink. It’s like a new community layer thrown over the existing web. That sounded interesting and pretty geeky too 🙂

    “Hoodwink brings it another large step towards a great big wiki, where any participant can scribble a comment somewhere for all to see, whether supported by the site host or not. How?”

    Anybody heard about Hoodwink before?

  2. thanks for the heads up, drolight.

    Andy, maybe a trial session limited to 15 people, where you field questions on link building? We would have to have a moderator, or something else to follow what Raj has said, but in either case it should be a good test to see if this can work.

  3. I think that the only way a group chat would not descend into unruliness is if everyone involved was familiar with “Robert’s Rules of Order”, a parliamentary practice which gives each person in possession of some symbolic object the opportunity to speak without being interrupted. When that person finishes, they pass the object on to the next person that has indicated that they want to speak.

    Unfortunately, this works best when participants can see each other. And if you’ve ever seen the goings in any political house, you know that human beings cannot refrain from interrupting each other, especially in this past decade more than I’ve ever seen before. I shudder to think what online group chat must be like without visuals :&

    Now of course I’m referring only to voice-based group chat. But then, I haven’t tried it out yet, so maybe I’m wrong

  4. > Q&A sessions (Andy, do you think you could do one on link-building anytime soon?)

    Hmm is anyone interested in this?

    I may agree with Chris that time-shifted solutions are better…

  5. Interesting stuff, I will have to check those links out. I think we are only at the beginning of this stuff. It’s clear there is a need for discussion and community, but also articles and diary posts, what we have now is bound to evolve in many ways. Personally I prefer the time shifted stuff like forums, but I do remember real time chat being fun. Not sure how well I would do on one of those voice-chat things as conference calls often leave me waiting for a gap to say my piece or talking over someone.

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