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How to build an online community for your small business

Nathan Segal | March 6, 2013
These days attracting customers to your brand means building an online community.

Online forums offer an opportunity to learn from and share your expertise with peers. The Warrior Forum, a popular destination for Internet marketers, gives users a place to discuss topics such as coding and marketing and to share special offers with the community. The idea here is not only to make sales but to entice people to sign up for your list; once they do, you can market more expensive products to them.

A useful technique for communicating with potential customers in an online forum is using signature files, which typically includes text and images about a product or service and a call to action. Here's an example:

If you participate in numerous forums, this is a great way to increase your visibility and generate interest in your brand. A quick online search will point you to the forums that apply to your market-or you can ask your peers to recommend the sites they frequent.

Social Media: You Can't Build an Online Community Without It

Social media sites are an obvious target for any brand--large or small--trying to build a community. Sites are free to join, so membership is huge, but that also makes the sites breeding grounds for social media scams, so small business owners need to keep online security basics in mind as they increase their social networking endeavors.

Helping people on LinkedIn can also help you build a following. By working with freelance writers on several LinkedIn forums, I built a list of 70 new subscribers in a single week. I did this by answering questions and directing users to a squeeze page where, they signed up for my email list in exchange for a free report.

Another good community building strategy is to build a community-that is, to form a LinkedIn Group. Launched in 2009, LinkedIn Groups are communities based on common interests, experiences and affiliations. If you are willing to put the time and effort into cultivating a group related to your professional expertise, a LinkedIn Group, over time, could become a significant source of contacts and revenue.

Facebook is popular among many marketing professionals for promoting their products and services as well as participating in Facebook Groups that pertain to their interests. These groups can have quite a wide reach, too; the Internet Marketing Super Friends, for example, has more than 4,200 members.

As for promoting and building your business on Facebook, services such as Get 10,000 Fans and FB Profit Method may be worth a look. Tread carefully, though, and avoid any service through which you "buy" followers, since those new followers could be fake Facebook accounts, spammers or worse. It's better to have a small, active and loyal group of followers than a large number of followers who aren't real.

 

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