One of the small pleasures in my life is blogging on sports. I grew up in Boston at a time where the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics were premier teams. The Red Sox were religion.
Currently, the Red Sox are still religion and the New England Patriots are a premier team. There is much to write and much to discuss – the highs and lows. I’ve taken up blogging on The Sporting News as a particular hobby. In that community, I’ve built a popular site that encourages audience participation and community building as well as my own brand of sports “homerism.” There isn’t a reader that doesn’t know that “Mo’s Tavern” is very definitely a Boston sports bar. Yet, the readers come: it’s currently the third most viewed blog on the site.If you are also a bein sports fan, you can also start writing and make money with the blog.
In terms of community building, one of the ways to give back to the community is building the opportunity for bloggers who haven’t yet reached a particular level of readership the opportunity to tap into the readers who come to other blogs. One blogger who takes this brand of community building seriously is fragnoli, who promotes a feature called “Paying it Forward” wherein he specifically calls out lesser known blogs.
I’ve taken a slightly different tack. One of the things that piqued my interest in writing and blogging was a competition another blogger had been running called “Gain or Lose” where he recruited other bloggers to compete against each other by writing on a specific topic each week. The writer with the lowest aggregate score at the end of each week was eliminated from the competition.
In the year since that competition, he has posted only sporadically, but he had a great influence in the number of people who read my writing and started me on the way to building a popular blog.
On the one year anniversary of the first “Gain or Lose” competition, I announced the second edition of the competition with the specific mission of recruiting newer bloggers with lower readerships to participate on my blog.
Since, my blog has 235 readers, it was easy to recruit writers who were willing to participate. Within 5 hours of my initial post, I had a full compliment of writers. Within the first day, I had a full compliment of other, more established bloggers, who were interested in reviewing the entries.
The important thing to me was community building, and providing feedback on others’ blogs – particularly negative feedback – can do more to hurt feelings in a community than to build it, so my first imperative was to refer to those who would be critiquing and assigning points to others’ blogs was to call them “reviewers’ not “judges.”
In keeping with that “reviewer” role, with each topic of the week, I set forth a specific rubric of metrics on which each author should focus when writing and on which each reviewer should be focused when assigning points to an entry. If an author is honest with him or herself, he or she could easily assign points to the entry.
Each rubric is posted at the same time the topic of the week is – everyone is on the same page with the expectations of the competition.
Now, it is a competition in which someone will eventually come out on top and everyone else who volunteered to participate will have been eliminated.
One of the features of my blog is a weekly segment, posted on Friday – although sometimes on Thursday/Friday – I call the “Friday Roundtable” where I “hire” other bloggers to fill specific roles in the “tavern” ranging from bouncer, or gift shop attendant, sou chef, or what have you, largely dependent on their posts for the week. We roll out the “wagon wheel table” and discuss 2, 3, sometimes 4 hot topics of the week. I encourage the audience participation and interact throughout the life of the post.
Since community building is a key to the competition, those eliminated are asked to come back the following Friday and contribute a topic for the Roundtable. What I have found is that the topics have a clearly different take than anything I would normally introduce. The result is that person has another advertisement for their blog.
The rules of the competition are clearly articulated and any questions that come up are addressed in the open forum of a subsequent post. You can read my “Gain or Lose” posts by following this link. Through the use of “tags” the entries are collected together, such that they’re all easily found and easy to direct others to read them.
The last important piece of running a community building competition of this type is making sure the topics are interesting and engaging. The week 1 topic was “The defining moment that made you a fan,” the week 2 topic was “Old School,” and the week 3 topic is currently “400 words on…” Increasing difficulty and increasing challenge results in an increasing level of quality. Interestingly enough, I’ve found that others not directly involved in the competition have expressed interest in taking on the topics, so I’ve built in a tag where bloggers can contribute a “supplemental” entry to the competition and reap some readership benefits as well.
I have found that when the rules are specific and consistent, the measurement criteria are specific and clear, and the topics are interesting, the competition has the intended effect of directing traffic to the participating bloggers. The participants appreciate the opportunity, the reviewers have the opportunity to be seen as experts in the field, and the community as a whole has fully participated in their own discovery of talented writers.
What I have found is that the participants and the community as a whole, seem to appreciate the specificity and the way in which the competition is run. The results have been not only increased readership for the participants and reviewers, but for my blog as well – a most unintended consequence.