Monday, August 10, 2015

creating community with phlbloggers

hey y'all! i am currently in san francisco on vacation, so i figured i'd use this week to introduce you to some other fabulous bloggers. today's post is brought to you by chrystina of chrystina noel. chrystina and i "met" during the #nectarchat twitter chat and immediately got to talking about our shared experiences running local blogging communities. i wanted her to share her journey running phlbloggers in philidelphia, and discuss what it really means to cultivate a true community. enjoy!

since i was in middle school i’ve been bringing people together. i threw my first party in sixth grade and from there i was hooked. once i got to college i found out there was a name for people like me, resident assistants. i was an ra for three years and got the chance to plan a bunch of events for my little community of residents. i loved being there for them – and having somebody to bake dessert for all the time.

once i graduated from college i started my day job. that was around the same time that i started my blog. i spent all day with people who didn’t understand search engine optimization, lead magnets, or twitter. and for an extrovert like me, someone who gets energy from being around other people, i started to feel pretty lonely. i realized i needed to find a community with people who really understood me that i could bounce ideas off of and who wouldn’t look at me like i had three heads when took a picture of my lunch before i ate it.

i went to a blogging conference in philadelphia in search of my people in 2012, but i didn’t find anybody that i was really able to click with. in 2013 i went to a conference in austin, tx. i had done it, i had found my people. the only problem is they were 1,600 miles too far southwest. i had to find my people closer to home. in september 2014, i figured if i hadn’t found the community i was looking for yet it was about time to create it.

i’ve written a post about this before: how to start a blogger meet-up group in your city. what i haven’t written about yet is what it takes to create a community:

find the right people

there are certain people who are your people. you share the same things in common, you understand where each other are coming from, and because you feel emotionally attached to each other, you watch each other’s backs a little bit harder. how do you do this? create the group that you would want to be a part of. create the group that focuses on things you are already interested in. and this isn’t to say that you should be rejecting people if you don’t think they’re your people. if they’re sticking around for the events and good conversation, they might be more your people than you know.

help people get to know each other

one key to creating community as helping people actually get to know each other. make sure that everyone introduces themselves at the beginning of an event. always reach out to the new person at the event and say hello. ask real questions to get real answers (instead of “how are you” try “what are you working on right now”).

make people feel comfortable from the beginning

send people who are interested in the group the most recent communication you’ve sent out right at the beginning. add them to the group lists and forums. say hello to them when they come into an event and make sure you introduce yourself. talk about what it was like when you started out in the group. make sure to share all of the details of an event before the event so there are no logistical concerns about where to find the group or what to do when you get there. there was a group i applied to be a part of where i had to put down all of my blog stats right from the beginning, which made me feel incredibly intimidated. (of course, after the fact, i realized these are very useful numbers to have because it helps when you want to reach out to brands to work with, but i still don’t think i will ever ask people for these numbers right off the bat.)

create a space for people to ask questions

phlbloggers has a google plus group that is set up to ask questions, post event information, and introduce new members. i know that bham bloggers has a facebook group. i read recently that slack is pretty good as well for this. this has been a great resource for the phlbloggers to share their successes, organize link-ups, share sponsorship opportunities, and ask tech questions to people who have been there before.

i’m so incredibly glad that i started this group. i can honestly say that the people in this group are some of my favorite people to hang out with in the city these days. i have found a new group of friends, a group of people who understands how i spend the majority of my mental energy, and a group of people that i am constantly feeling inspired by.

if you haven’t found a community for yourself to be a part of yet, i absolutely recommend going in search of one – whether that’s in real life or on the interwebs. and if you can’t find one that looks like the group you’re trying to find, start one. it’s been a game changer in my life and hopefully it will inspire you as well.

chrystina blogs at chrystina noel and writes about greeting cards, wine & cheese, hosting parties, and all of life's random thoughts in between. you can find her on twitter, instagram, pinterest or helping people stay in touch on her newest site, notes by chrystina. you can also learn more about phlbloggers and past events here.

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