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Stroke People’s Egos [Day 17 – 28 Days to BFL]


This is Day 17 of 28 Days of Building Fierce Loyalty. Yesterday, Reese Spykerman taught us all about how design influences where and how we feel loyalty. The discussion was awesome! Today, it’s my friend Gini Dietrich‘s turn to spark our thoughts. She’s sharing her personal (and successful) strategies for building a fiercely loyal community, so sit up and pay attention. 🙂

Stroke People’s Egos

By: Gini Dietrich| @GiniDietrich

I knew I should have gotten this blog post in on time. If I had, it would have run before Danny Brown, Shelly Kramer, and Britt Michaelian.

But noooo. I missed my deadline and Sarah had to push me back a week (special thanks to Liz Marshall for stepping up and taking my original spot) and now it’s going to look like I copied the three of them.

You see, building a fiercely loyal community means you must be fiercely loyal, you must be human, and you must be selfless.

Britt said it best: It’s not about you.

The secret to a fiercely loyal community?

Stroke people’s egos.

That’s all there is to it.

Starting from Scratch

Some people disagree with me. Mitch Joel, for instance, thinks blog comments are nice, but the real juice is in the content.

I agree. But I also think if you aren’t giving people a reason to comment, they’re not going to. If you don’t stroke their egos by visiting the places where they participate online, they’re not going to come to you. And this is very important, especially when you’re starting out.

But how do you go about doing such a thing?

Four years ago I began blogging for the sheer purpose of figuring it out so we could counsel clients on the pros, cons, and how to make a blog effective.

And something interesting happened along the way. I built a community.

It actually wasn’t on purpose. You see, I had 128 visitors the first month of blogging. No one commented; not even my mom.

But I began reading other blogs, and commenting on them. Soon, those bloggers came to my blog and commented on my content.

Well, let’s be real. It took me 10 months to figure that out. But when I figured that out, our traffic jumped, oh, nearly four thousand percent. Yes, four thousand percent.

All I was doing? Stroking other people’s egos by commenting on their blogs and being smart (and sometimes silly) about what I said.

The funny thing is that, when you comment consistently, the blogger wants to know who you are. So they check you out. And, if they like what they see, they comment, subscribe, and share.

Building Community

But, of course, for this double type A personality, that wasn’t enough. I really wanted more than traffic and comments.

I wanted community.

Back to Mitch Joel…I read a blog post he wrote about community. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that you don’t have a community until people begin talking to one another without your participation. Until then, it’s just comments.

And he’s right. You know you’ve hit community mecca when people come to your site to talk to one another, with your content as the conversation starter.

One of the things we did to really help build community was install Livefyre as our commenting platform. You see, it invites people to come back over and over and over again.

But it’s not the end all, be all. It’s only a tool. It’s in how you use it that makes community building successful.

The consistent content has to drive conversation. Create a polarizing opinion and watch people talk to one another (professionally, of course) about the topic.

Additional Things to Consider

So we’ve talked about stroking people’s egos, having good and consistent content, creating a conversation, installing Livefyre, and providing some banter.

A few additional things you should consider:

  1. Know what your vision is for the blog. It’s easy to forget when you read other blogs and you’re moved so much by what the bloggers have written that you want to write something similar. Unless it matches your vision, don’t do it.
  2. Have goals, just like you do for everything else you do in business. We started out with silly goals, such as “beat Danny Brown in the AdAge rankings,” which keeps me, particularly, motivated, but doesn’t do much for the business. Know what you’re trying to achieve and don’t take your eye off the ball.
  3. Your content should always have a call-to-action to it. This was a really hard lesson for me to learn. When I figured that out, this last year, our traffic grew 281 percent. Our community grew. And you know what else? Our sales increased because we gave people a reason to buy from us.

Four years of blogging. Nearly a 50,000 percent increase in traffic since the beginning. Ten blog posts per week (four from guests). A highly engaged community. And increased sales.

All because I believe if you stroke other people’s egos, your benefits far outweigh the cons.

Gini Dietrich
is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, the author of Spin Sucks, the founder of the soon-to-be-launched Spin Sucks Pro, and co-author of the forthcoming Marketing In the Round.


P.S. If you aren’t already signed up and don’t want to miss out on  28 Days to Building Fierce Loyalty, please sign up here.

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  • Great post Gini, thanks for sharing! Everyone loves to feel important and it is so true that if you go interact with them where they are, they’ll be attracted to head your way. I think goals is the thing I struggle with the most, but I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t have some point of reference to target (even if I end up changing courses later) I will never get anywhere worthwhile.

    • sarahrobinson

      Haha Sherrie ! You’ve been first everyday. Well…except yesterday when Mark Silver beat you here. 🙂 LOVE that commitment!

      • lol, yeah you posted that one as I was on my way out the door! 🙂

    • The goals thing is really hard. I started a PR firm without really knowing why. It took five years (and a terrible economy) to figure it out. Your goals will change. That’s OK. Just start somewhere.

      • sherrickmark

        That’s the fun part about those pesky goals….they’re flexible. Of course you want to shoot for the moon, but often you have to get off the ground, and then into orbit first.

        • I love the way you put that! Awesome word pictures!

      • So true, action has been a huge focus for me … it’s easy to get caught up in strategizing and not actually take the first step. Sometimes I feel like I have no general outline either, tho. 

  • Gini

    I like that competitive spirit in your very first paragraph but I think your post is perfectly timed in this series.

    The 3 additional things you mentioned are so important because without them a person might just spin their wheels for eternity, never being happy or content with their life. (in my humble opinion of course)

    Thanks so much for a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, post.

    • Dang. That competitiveness just won’t temper itself. 🙂 I think your humble opinion is spot on!

  • rmsorg

    What an inspiration you are @GiniDietrich:twitter  and I’ve read your blogs before and found them very informative & entertaining.. I’m in the process of building a community over at my site  and you have given me so much to think about and to-do’s to build that community! 

    Thanks again for your generous contribution to this series!


    • Definitely check out the tools, like Livefyre, that make it easier for you. Being present will be the most important thing you do.

      • rmsorg

         Thanks @ginidietrich:disqus

  • I wonder if you could say more about the “Call to Action”. I get that with paid content or things you want people to do – sign up for email list, etc. 

    But how does that work for a usual, regular blog post? What’s the call to action to get people to comment? Thanks! 🙂

    • Sure! Sometimes it’s just as simple as subscribing to the blog or buying content or a product. I do A LOT of testing where I’ll embed paid content into a blog post. We average a 2-3% buy rate from those…which is higher than when they’re in the sidebar of the blog.

  • This is something I’ve learned from Gini, and she does a great job at it, and it’s not just something she does to get attention, she is genuine about it. Thanks, Gini! and Thanks, Sarah!

    • Whoa. I don’t really know what to do when you say nice things about me. Where is Ken??

  • sherrickmark

    Everyone likes to feel that they are THE ONE. Nobody likes to be another number. A little ego boost makes people feel like you’ve done that just for them. Even if that email goes out to a million other people, mine has MY name in it. That means something to me.

    Building a community definitely involves being within several on your own, traffic doesn’t magically appear just because your content is there. I can’t even tell you how much my traffic changes depending on where I’m posting at any given time. Something as simple as a forum signature link can generate traffic if the other forum members like what you have to say on topic.

    • So very very true. It’s amazing to me how much traffic I’ve generated off of forum signatures, and to be honest it was never even my goal. It was just a natural cause of my interactions.

    • Really great point about the forum signature link. It does that AND provides the all-important backlink. 

      • …and my ego has been stroked. Thank you, Gini 🙂 

  • “and now it’s going to look like I copied the three of them.”

    I expected a lot of this. It really is just about stroking people’s egos. Find out what they expect to get from you, and give it to them.

    I’ve been participating in online communities for almost twenty years. Part of the reason I participate is to share my ideas, part is to prove to people how smart I am. There have been some who dislike me and ignore me for that. The best of them – like Sarah – play along and make me feel important. 

    • sherrickmark

      I respectful disagree that the good ones play along. The good ones genuinely care.

      • In the context of my previous comments, I thought it was obvious that I implying lack of sincerity when I wrote “play along.” They play along because they care. 

    • I’m with Mark – the good one genuinely care. Sarah is that kind of person. The ones who play along end up posting rants about how much people suck for asking for their time or expecting something from them with no return. They can only play along for so long.

      • Perhaps play along was a poor way to word it. I just tried to explain what I meant. Let me try again. 

        Sometimes people have something to say and it’s obvious that they just want to be heard (or sell their product, or whatever). Instead of ignoring people like that or putting them in their place, the “good ones” understand that those people need something, and they care about that need, and they meet it. 

        All my previous comments have said essentially the same thing – find out what people are “in it for” and give it to them, but you must really care. You can only fake it for so long. 

        • In that case, I agree. 🙂 It’s the same thing with a really good customer service program at a business. When you really listen to your customers, you create evangelists who will tell the world how great you are.

          • I thought you’d agree if I properly explained it.

            BUT, I’m an analytical, so all I really care about is that you understand. You could disagree all you want, but it’s really important to me that people understand what I mean – as you could probably tell. 🙂 

          • Love knowing that distinction!

        • sherrickmark

          Ahh, I see, said the blind man. I think I had an idea from the beginning, but I’m just not a fan of “play along” as a positive term.

          I do agree 100% that you can only fake it for so long, and it definitely is obvious when its not for real.

  • This post is so clear and full of humanity.  As a woman who is just getting to what it really takes to form her tribe through a blog, I love the information about stroking and traveling to others blogs.  Will begin to do this more…thank you…

    • It definitely takes some time. I used to devote my very first hour to it every morning. Now I travel to different blogs throughout the day.

  • I think I’m still at the infant stage of blogging – kind of trying to figure the whole thing out. I love what you say about vision and goals. Just when I think I’ve narrowed in on my vision and clarified my goals, I read or find something that touches my heart or stirs me in some way and I find myself writing a blog post about that.  Thanks for your words of wisdom. I think I need to do more work on the clarity of vision and goals as I seem to be getting more passionate, or easily stirred to passion as I age 🙂

    • That’s so funny! I do the same thing. I had to post the vision on the wall in front of me. That way, if I go to write something that I’m passionate about and it doesn’t match what’s in front of me, I don’t write it. Or I offer it to a blog (like Sarah’s) where I know it will fit.

  • Carla K.

    Stoking an ego goes along with the adage “The customer is always right.”  And to take it one step further, ask their opinions of what they want to see/ hear from you. Take that one step further and do it and mention their name in the offering. And take that one step further, offer them something for free if you can but discounted if not. Take that one step further, wrap it up as a gift with a thank your card for their loyalty and the utltimate loyal from them… ask them for refferals and and they give them.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Love all these extra steps! One of the things we do is Facebook question of the week. Anyone can ask me anything on our Facebook wall. And I answer it via video. It’s pretty popular because they really feel like they’re a part of what we’re doing over here.

  • Gini, I think you’re wonderful and shiny and special. Will you read my blog now? (Did I do that right?) 🙂

    I think you’re right and you’re wrong. Stroking someone’s ego (at least to me) feels like something that isn’t done with the right intent. It’s like cozying up to someone to inevitably ask a favor. It’s the extended version of the bad joke I’m making above.  

    It’s not stroking egos nearly as much as finding the people who have mutual or complimentary goals and taking a genuine interest. Because lets face it, it isn’t too hard to tell when someone is just taking an interest to get something from you at a later date… speaking of, expect an email from me later 🙂

    • But you know I don’t mean do it in an artificial way. I mean do it in a way that truly is genuine. Do you feel like I’m friends with you just because I think you can do something for me? Wait. Don’t answer that.

      • I’ll avoid answering that last bit, but as for the first, I know that because I know you. I do worry that there are many people who will see that far more as tit for tat vs. growing real relationships based on the mutual giving a crap of each others success.

        I know when you say “stroking their ego” you mean “taking a genuine interest”, but which of the two do we really see more of in the blogosphere?

        • We see the former. I get it. But hopefully people can become more genuine and actually take an interest in one another.

  • Okay… this is some pretty rich stuff. Gini, I’m stricken with your brilliance in such a way that it’s tough for me to take in everything you’re saying here. It feels similar to the reaction I had to reading Liz Marshall’s post. I cognitively understand what you’re advising here, yet it’s all so far outside my scope of experience that it’s just outside my grasp. My take-away, I think, is to explore more about the points that pique my curiosity the most. I’m thinking about learning more about your product, Livefyre, and even asking my friends who are at the innovation end of social media what they think about it, and asking them to educate me a bit about taking conversations further in this way. I’m wondering how to include hyperlinks in my comments here and in my comments on other people’s blogs so I can start playing with that piece of the ego stroking from the commenting side. I’m encouraged by the newness of the energy I’m feeling behind these curiosities and I’m grateful for the part you’ve played in evoking it!

    • The awesome thing about commenting on other blogs is the content you’re writing or creating is automatically linked through your name and URL information. So you don’t even have to be so bold as to insert links in your comments. If you visit often enough and have some interesting things to say, people will want to know who you are. And they’ll follow the path from your comment to find you.

      •  yes, I get that and I can’t wait to see more of that happening on my blog. Most of my followers don’t have much of a web presence, if any, so don’t really fit the model the same way, but some of the bloggers I read and admire do come over and read and comment on my blog. So far, though, it hasn’t come without my inviting them directly to do so. I’m looking forward to piquing other bloggers’ curiosity enough that they’ll actually come over on their own. Sounds like I’ll have to get pretty provocative to get that kind of response. I was actually meaning that I’d like to know how to put links within my comments when I mention others or their creations, as I would liked to have done with Liz name and Livefyre and the friends I referred to in my comments above.

        • Ahhh. Yes. Some commenting platforms will let you do that – Livefyre and Disqus both do. In fact, I think you can do it here: @sarahrobinson:disqus testing, testing. Yes, you just type the @ sign and then their Twitter handle or name.

  • Thank you, Gini! It seems like this one could have been several different posts- you covered a lot of territory! For example, talking about how to figure out a vision and goals for a blog, and how to evaluate how you’re doing on those goals, could be a very meaty post on its own. Thanks for including so much.

    • Really great point! Perhaps I shall write that post…

  • Sarah Trevor

     Writing  friend P.J.Reece has encouraged me for the last month to do just this – can I continue to resist?  Thanks for this motivation Gini

    • What do they say? You have to have it told to you three times before you do it. So one more!

  • Thesnowlegacy

    This is amazing, Gini! Thank you for sharing your experiences and the lessons learned. I like your phrase “stroke their egos”. It reminds me of something Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People: We are interested in people when they are interested in us.
    I also am glad you mentioned consistency. I “consistently” need reminders about consistency. 🙂

    • You know, I’d completely forgotten about that book. But you are absolutely correct.

  • annettenack

    Thank you so much for your post Gini!  I have to agree with some of the other commenters, your post was timely & not late or repeating what we’ve already read!  

    As far as the ego is concerned, I agree that it does come into play when we think about others & how we relate to them.  Not in a slimy “I want you to do such & such for me” kind of way, but in a way where you are genuinely concerned about them.  But I won’t be beating a dead horse, I understand how integrity comes into the conversation.

    I love how you talk about blog commenting.  I have to say that it really is an art to both write comments & receive them.  You want to get your opinion out there but at the same time you want to invite a conversation.  In this sometimes overly busy world of ours, how do we engage our readers to stop what they’re doing & actually say something back to us?  This is the magic, this is exactly what I’m looking for!  Your points about having a vision for your blog, having & evolving your goals for your blog & always leaving the readers with a call to action is so on target for me.  When I first started blogging, I felt weird about leaving a call to action, like I was imposing on my readers or something.  It’s a funny thing- experience- you learn exactly what doesn’t work.  Ever.  The better part is that you eventually learn what does work!  Thanks for taking some of that learning curve & shortening it up.  You’ve given me some wonderful ideas on how I can engage more with my own readers & how it’s time for me to step up & perhaps comment more on other people’s blogs!

  • Mistake comment!

  • If you have any interest in gaining attention from journalists – either mainstream or trades – the same idea works brilliantly. When you comment on their articles, they begin to feel like they know you. And, when a story idea appears, you’re on the top of the list of sources they call.