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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.

The same goes for Twitter, which is also popular for community-building, posting information about products and services and sharing information about your particular industry. Quality followers who will engage with you (and your followers) are better than fake, spam or porn accounts.

There are a couple other ways to use Twitter to for branding and community building. One way is to have conversations, or Tweet Chats, on a regular basis about a particular topic. All you need to do is designate a hashtag-a phrase with a # in front of it-set a time and spread the word. Another way is to schedule an offline event, known as a Tweetup, during which nearby Twitter followers can meet you in real life at a coffee shop, restaurant or other spot where it's easy to have a casual conversation.

Additional social media sites to consider include Pinterest, an "online scrapbook" site that recently unveiled Pinterest Business Pages, and Google Plus, a social networking site tightly integrated with other Google products such as Blogger, Picasa and YouTube.

As you use various online marketing tools to build email lists and communicate with your customers, you'll start to see support for social networking sites. With iContact, for example, you can send a message to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn followers in addition to your list.

As you can see, community building requires legwork both online and off. Depending on your business model, one or more of the strategies listed here-likely, a combination of several-will work best for you. Be sure to research the websites and strategies discussed here before you get started, both to use the tools more effectively and to avoid costly or embarrassing mistakes.


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