Working with a blogger community can provide valuable support that will help to grow your online business. But getting involved with the wrong blogger network can be a source of big problems. Here are a few things to consider before you decide to connect with a blogging community.
I've been fortunate to be a part of an extremely smart and supportive network of online business owners from day one. I've been with them since 2006, and I still go to them frequently to ask for advice or to share my own best advice when I feel I can be helpful.
My own go-to blogging community is online. I haven't actually met anyone in person, but I feel a strong connection to people I've worked with over the years as we have grown our individual businesses together.
My business wouldn't be where it is today without the support of my blogger community. They have helped me push through challenges with intelligent answers and encouragement. They have also helped me steer clear of blogging pitfalls and mistakes.
That intelligence and integrity is essential in a blogger community.
If you're going to connect with other bloggers, you need to associate with a group of people who actually know (or are learning correctly) how to grow an online business and who genuinely want to see everyone in the group succeed. There are plenty of communities out there, but not all of them provide good advice and support.
Some groups sound great, but they unwittingly pass along bad advice that could hurt your online business, others just want to sell you stuff, or they simply waste your time. As a beginner blogger, it can be tough to separate out the good advice from the bad, so you need to choose any blogger community you join with care.
A blogger community can be online, like mine, or it can be a group of like-minded business owners who meet in person to support each other. In fact, this article began as an answer to a reader's question about working together with a group of artists to support each other with Pinterest marketing.
Before we dive in, I'd like to clarify my own experience:
The blogger community I've always worked with is a large online group who only know each other because we are each working to grow our own individual online businesses. We are using the same tools and strategies to promote our sites, so we can "speak the same language" when someone in the group has a question.
I don't know the people in my own blogging community personally, so my experience and the dynamic I'm used to is a bit different from the one described in the original question. There are elements of growing a business together with the support of a face to face group that may be different from my own experience.
With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the advantages (and possible disadvantages) of working with a group to grow an online business.
Working with a group can be extremely motivating. If you're the kind of person who works well in that environment, connecting with a group can go a long way to help keep you accountable.
Building an online business takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline - it's so easy to just not work or to get distracted by busy work that's not the real nitty-gritty work that actually needs to be done. Being part of a community that supports its members goals can help keep you on track.
Anything that helps build motivation and discipline when you're growing an online business is smart.
I happen to be a fairly extroverted person working at a very solitary job. I like having colleagues to connect with, and often, I need to "talk" things through to make a decision. My community provides those outlets for me, so my solitary work remains a good fit in spite of my extroverted nature.
Working with a group can open you up to different ideas and ways of doing things. Questioning your assumptions about how certain tasks should be done can help you find smart new ways to grow your business.
Working alone, I do things a certain way. I'm not exposed a lot to other people's ways of doing things. But when I ask someone in my own blogger community how they approach certain tasks, I'm always pleasantly surprised to discover new and better ways to do things.
When you're part of a group, you can leverage different people's strengths.
As a solopreneur, you're responsible for everything about your business whether you're good at it or not. If you work with a close group, you might able to support each other based on each person's strengths.
Perhaps one member of your group is a whiz at organizing work and can share the spreadsheet she uses to track her work.
Another member may be brilliant at creating eye-catching social media images and can create some templates for other group members to use.
You can share what you're good at and benefit from the strengths of others in your group.
Some online business building tools can cost $100 or more per month. Those prices can be completely out of reach for beginning bloggers.
Some bloggers do say they share the use and cost of pricier online business building tools and resources. I've never shared business-building tools myself - I've also never used what I'd consider the more expensive blogging tools - so I don't have a good feel for how people manage sharing those tools.
Some tools would be easier to share than others. Any tool that is dependent on being connected to your blog or social media accounts for its functionality would not be easily shared.
For example, if you were thinking about sharing Tailwind as a group, where each member of the group had his or her own separate Pinterest business account to promote, that arrangement would not work.
Tailwind connects to your Pinterest account. It will only pin to the one Pinterest account that it's connected to, so a single Tailwind subscription can't be used to promote several separate Pinterest accounts.
On the other hand, sharing tools that are not dependent on a connection to your own business account may be more manageable.
Maker Labs and Co-Working Spaces
Many communities have maker labs for artists and makers, and co-working spaces for entrepreneurs. These organizations provide access to tools and work spaces that you might not be able to access as an independent artist and entrepreneur on your own.
There is usually a membership fee to access these spaces, but if they provide access to essential but pricey tools or work space you require, the fee may be worthwhile.
If you have either or both of these resources in your community, they may provide another opportunity to share resources and network with other local artists and entrepreneurs.
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One major issue you need to be wary of when working with a group is you need to keep your business assets separate, or at least be very clear about who ultimately owns what.
By business assets, I'm thinking of things like a Pinterest account, a customer mailing list, or a blog.
If you're working together with a blogger community to grow your online business, I'm assuming each person in the group is growing his or her own individual businesses, You're simply working together to support each other in your individual business goals.
If that's that case, I would not recommend creating a joint resource - like a joint Pinterest account, blog, mailing list, or other social media account - that is shared by the group.
In the beginning, it might be tempting to pool all of your efforts into a single, joint Pinterest account, or blog, or customer email list. You might figure a group working together can grow a single Pinterest account or blog faster than each person in the group could grow his or her own separate, individual accounts.
That might be true, but if you are building separate businesses, you need separate business assets, or you risk big issues down the road.
In the beginning, a Pinterest account or email list might not seem like much. But if you grow those assets into something that can reach large numbers of potential customers, they become incredibly valuable assets.
If it's not clear who ultimately owns those assets because you shared them as a group and didn't think about their potential future value, you could be opening the door to all kinds of problems.
Instead, I would suggest each business owner creates his or her own Pinterest account, blog, and other business assets, so there's no question about who owns each account.
There are plenty of ways you can support and help to grow each other's separate business assets, such as:
I've been working with a company called SiteSell to grow my online business since 2006 - before "blogging" was a thing. SiteSell provides me with the tools and information I use to grow my online business, and it has an active customer forum of smart and helpful online business owners.
Beyond the SiteSell forum, I do belong to a few other private Facebook groups for bloggers. However, the SiteSell forum is my primary go-to blogging community.
I've never had to go out to search for a community because SiteSell's forum has been my blogging community from the beginning. We are all working in different niches, but people there are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and generous in sharing ideas and information.
That willingness to work together in the spirit of "help and be helped" is essential if you're going to work in a group or connect with other online business owners.
In certain other places where bloggers are meant to work together, I've found people want the benefits of the group without putting in any time to reciprocate and be helpful to the group when they can. If you can find a group of people who are well-informed and embrace the spirit of "help and be helped" they can be an incredibly valuable resource for growing your online business.