The Challenge that is Building a True Online Community

by Marcus Sheridan

It’s about 1am and my eyes are starting to water. Furthermore, my brain is essentially a wasteland of disorder. Yep, it’s time for bed, but before that, a few quick thoughts on this thing we call “building an online community.”

A Simple Offer

You see, about a week ago I decided to send out an email to my TSL newsletter subscribers (read it here). The subject of the newsletter was focused on the continual problem I see with business blogs and their extreme failure to use proper and effective blog titles to get maximum results.

After I discussed this critical strategy with readers, I decided to make an offer—something I only do on occasion but is 1000x better than playing around on Facebook or watching my Twitter stream when it comes to truly understanding the community of readers and businesses that comprise The Sales Lion.

The offer, in short, was this: If any readers had not experienced exceptional growth and results on their company blog, then they could send me the URL(web address) and I would take a look and offer feedback (via email) as to what I could see they were doing wrong…..FREE.

I wasn’t sure how many folks would respond to my request, but I knew it would be worth it—for a variety of reasons—most of which I’ll soon explain.

The Results

Within 30 minutes of hitting “publish” on the post, over 100 responses had come in. Over the next few hours, another 100 or so arrived as well.

Yes, I had bitten off more than I could chew.

Today, 8 days and many hours later, I’m just finishing up on the final 10% or so that I’ve yet to respond to.

Some folks would look at this and call so much time spent giving away “free” advice to my community of readers a stupid thing to do.

But for me, the value of this little offer has been profound, and I’ve listed the benefits here:

1. I have seen a mountain of repetitive mistakes businesses are making with their blogs. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to be writing about each in depth.

2. I’ve had at least 75 back and forth conversations with readers I’d never previously chatted with. Many expressed incredible testimonials of how my eBook or how the content herein has changed their life and business. All these interactions, as you might imagine, have been profoundly rewarding.

3. I now see very clearly the types of businesses that are reading my blog and newsletter, as well as the types that are not—thus showing me some gaps I need to fill.

4. More than ever I have my finger on the pulse of this industry on a global level. Instead of being the guru that talks about this stuff but has literally lost touch with the real world, I’m getting a tremendous feel for the best and worst business blogs have to offer.

5. My tribe of loyal friends and supporters continues to grow– something that is critical if I’m ever going to get where I want to be.

It Ain’t Easy

You may have noticed I didn’t mention anything about attaining new clients from this little adventure. Well, the truth is, I did obtain new clients as a result of this, but that’s not why I spent 20+ hours looking at all these blogs. It was much deeper than cash rewards.

My point in saying all this is that “building a community” online doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s not easy.

It doesn’t come from automation, expensive tools, or new mission statements.

And it certainly doesn’t occur by having a few “like” or “tweet” buttons on the side of a blog post.

Nope, it has much more depth than that, which is also why few businesses and blogs are ever able to achieve it.

Your Turn

In your opinion, what’s the hardest aspect to building an online community if you’re a business? Also, can you think of a company, large or small, that does this well? As always, your thoughts matter, so don’t hesitate to leave them below.


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