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How Online Communities Can Boost Your Business

Use the power of the internet to bring people closer together!

We live in a digital age. Almost everything we do in our everyday lives is via the internet. Online banking and shopping, watching TV, chatting with friends on social media. The world is now more connected than it has ever been in history, yet more people are feeling alone, isolated and anxious.

Being part of an online community has many benefits both personally and professionally. In this blog post we will look at how you too can harness the power of online communities.

I wrote a post previously for MissingLettr about maximising social engagement and a lot of that post could be replicated here, so I will build on what I wrote in that article. I also wrote on my own blog about celebrating the creative community and how it has helped boost my confidence and business.

Being part of a creative community is beneficial. You get a genuine boost from other crafters appreciating and supporting your work, which is immeasurable! Of course, the creative community is not just online, but can be found across all areas of life from knit and natter groups, arts for wellbeing, WI to in person craft events, fairs and markets. Being part of a creative community is also beneficial to your work/life balance.

So how can you find online groups? You can start with a good old Google search, but I bet you are already a member of some, without even realising. Facebook is the biggest and probably most well-known social media platform with over 2 billion registered users. If you have a Facebook account with friends and family contacts, then you are already part of an online community. Yes, you will see many of these people also in real life, but when you are sharing your latest holiday snaps or pictures of you pets or dinner, then you are part of a wider online community. Did you know though that Facebook has hundreds of thousands of groups, some are public, some are closed and even some that are secret?

What are Facebook Groups and how can I join one? Use the search bar on Facebook and enter a keyword of a topic you are interested in. You could type in ‘Blogging’ for example and then search the groups filter to find groups about blogging support. Or if you are interested in knitting you can join groups where you can share pictures of items you have made, ask questions if you are stuck on a pattern, and some even allow you to list your items for sale. You get the idea. Perhaps you are interested in camping or hiking and want to join a local walking group. There will be a group on Facebook that you can join to get tips, information and ideas for your adventures.

  • When you have found a group that you like the look of you can request to join. If the group is public then you will automatically be added, and you will be able to see posts by other group members as well as be able to post yourself to the discussion.

  • If the group is a closed group, then the admin of the group will get a notification that you wish to join and will accept you to the group. In some groups you are required to answer a couple of simple questions, do not be put off by this, it is simply to weed out spam.

  • If the group is secret, you will not find it from a search on Facebook the only way you will join these groups is if a group member invites you to join the group.

  • If you are a business owner, you may wish to consider creating a group yourself to be able to interact with your target audience. Build a group around your brand and build a following who are interested in that brand/area of interest. For example, if you are a blogger that wants to help other bloggers you can build a community group to do just that by offering sharing discussion to allow other bloggers to promote themselves.

  • Or perhaps you sell handmade crafts you can create a group where members can post their items for sale.

Read and follow the group rules. Most groups will have a set of rules that members need to read and follow to be a part of the online community. Each group will have different dos and don’ts about what you can and cannot post, so make sure you read the pinned post or announcement before you jump in on a discussion or start your own thread.

Creating your own group can be an excellent way of interacting with your customer base. Groups tend to get more exposure and notifications to members than regular business pages do. The group can, however take up time to monitor, admin and moderate so bear that in mind and you may want to consider asking other group members to help with these tasks. Having a team of moderators can help the group to run more smoothly for everyone involved.

Other ways you can harness online communities: Create a VIP club/Members only area on your website. You could either interact with this target focus group through email marketing or you can create a private resource library for your site members. Better still use a combination of both using targeted emails directing subscribers to your resource library. Here you will share exclusive content with your members.

Take part in Twitter Chats. Twitter chats are popular community groups and easy to take part in. A Twitter user/account will host a chat discussion, usually lasting an hour, but some are 2 hours. They may ask questions for you to answer or there may be a theme for you to discuss or it could be a promo hour where you share links to promote your business and you are required to like, share and visit other links.

Each chat will have a hashtag which you include in your tweets so that everyone following that hashtag can see and respond to your tweets.

Real life connections. We all need a strong network around us, whether family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances. Think about the people you interact with in everyday life, not just online. If you are a shop owner, there is likely to be a shop owners guild or group for the village or town that you are physically based in. There is likely to also be a group for you shop niche. Create links and networks with other business owners, especially in your niche, don’t see each other as competition, but rather, you are help and support. You can share stock, expertise, clients, resources. If you recommend each other and utilise each other’s strengths, you will build a stronger reputation and loyal customer base. Attend networking events to build these connections and boost your business organically.

What do online communities mean to you? Join in the discussion and let us know how you get involved with online communities and how they have helped to boost your online presence. If you have tips for harnessing the power of communities, we would love to hear from you.

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