In the last few years, online communities have been popping up all over the internet. We’ve seen everything from college alumni and sports groups to dog-lover forums to business associations. Impressively, more than 40% of people say they engage with a brand online or in social networks according to a study conducted by Ipsos. But the purpose of online communities is ever expanding, due to their social nature and usefulness on both personal and professional levels.
For a multitude of reasons, businesses have put online communities at the forefront of their marketing plans as a major benefit to their customers as well as their bottom line. Here, we’ll explore ten reasons why people are joining online business communities and why they are no longer just a place to “chat” but, rather, a source for information, camaraderie, support, self promotion and a lot more.
Starting a business changed my life for the better. But I too’ed and fro’ed for a couple years before starting I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to commit to a long term plan. I remember hearing that it takes 10 years to become an expert in anything, and I didn’t want to start something if I wasn’t going to follow through. When the financial crisis hit I figured it was now or never.
Now that I’m years in, there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not thankful for joining. I understand that a lot of you will say that you don’t have a good business idea or don’t have a clue as to how to start. The reality is I had no business idea either. I really was jumping in feet first with no knowledge of the industry at all.
But now, things are so much better than having a day job – 90% less stress and 100% more income. People always work towards starting something new when the time is “perfect” but guess what – if that is the case you are going to be waiting a long long time. Perfect does not exist.The key is to just launch and then figure things out as you go. You can afford to do so nowadays because the cost to launch and maintain is so cheap.
Connection to Other Professionals in a Niche
Let’s face it, entrepreneurship can be lonely! So to counter feelings of isolation and the quiet of a solo office, many entrepreneurs have turned to online communities as a way to meet and connect with others. Our businesses are often complex, and it can be difficult for even our own families and friends to understand their nuances, let alone have a conversation about them. Online communities are a great way to connect with people in your niche that do understand and speak your “language.” They serve as a sounding board where we can gather knowledge, advice and opinions of others that help us succeed in an otherwise lonely work environment.
Continuous Learning Opportunity
For many niche businesses, it’s often difficult to find learning resources. This is where online communities offer a real-time solution for staying current with the most recent technological tools, trends and insights related to your specific business and learning practical ways to apply them day-to-day. In addition, because of the ease of access to online communities, you never miss a thing with regard to updates, new releases and cutting-edge information. With online communities and social networks, information sharing is always real time. Lastly, online communities provide instant access to industry expert perspectives and to a multitude of other resources you may never find elsewhere.
Easy Access to Q & A and Feedback
There’s nothing worse that sitting alone at your desk, stumped with issues related to your business that make your workday come to a screeching halt. For some businesses, there is no help line to call. There is nothing better than being able to quickly access an expert in your industry to ask a question and have it answered right away. Also, it’s always great to get other people’s perspectives on business-related issues and how to improve systems and processes for better work efficiency. This is where an online community begins to become not only a great resource, but a time and money saver as well.
Tips & Tricks
Have you ever read a how-to book, trying to learn a simple skill that’s not necessarily something you can learn in school or from a class? The how-to books are great and all with step-by-step instructions for all kinds of things, but they often lack the shortcuts and tricks that can improve processes and performance. Online business communities give you easy access to peers with great insights for doing things better, faster, easier–the ones that make the idea light bulbs come on. Online communities can be such time-savers in this regard. Simply posting a “I’m looking for a faster/better way to…” post can generate instant response from literally hundreds of community members, depending on the forum.
People really do love to help each other. In fact, in a study conducted by the Society of New Communications Research, it was found that 80% of people who join online communities do so for the sole purpose of helping others. Collaboration is made easy in online communities due to their social nature. Never before have we been able to consider people we’ve never met in person “colleagues.” In the same research study, 40% of people online spend more time engaging in online professional networks that with friends and family. So what does this tell us? Online communities are changing the way we do business.
Let us not forget, we still have a business to market, right? And online networking, while enabling a sense of community, learning and camaraderie, can also provide an opportunity for practically blatant advertising. What better way to advertise a business than by posting a question related to your business in an online community that is virtually visible to people literally around the world? What better way to let your business light shine than to ask your online community’s opinion on something such as your logo design? Online communities offer a platform for endless exposure and opportunity.
Helps Build Credibility
There’s nothing like visibility to make your product or service credible, but getting visibility in traditional media is far from easy. Online marketing gives you the opportunity to develop thought leadership through content marketing, become a published author of an eBook or blog and build a following on social media. All this helps to make you a household name.
Gives You a Strong Online Voice
By building up your online profile you develop a powerful presence in the virtual world. This puts you in a position of influence, enabling you to establish yourself—and your company—as industry experts. You can develop your brand’s personality and humanize your organization by creating buyer personas to target using a one-to-one approach. And if there are industry battles to be fought, having a voice is all-important to enable you to make a difference.
Is More Scalable
Scalability hasn’t always had the strong rep it has nowadays. In the past, when profitability was down often the first thing to go was a “luxury” function like Marketing. Now, however, if you have a few months of a down economy you can simply scale back on your business expenditure for a while, unlike the days when you had to pay upfront for a billboard or advertising campaign.
Levels The Playing Fields
Few small and medium-sized enterprises have the funds to compete with the big guys. Online business levels the playing fields by making it possible for your company to project itself as a professional organization regardless of size. With equal access to social media marketing, email marketing, website and content marketing, there’s nothing to stop you coming across as strongly as your biggest competitor. Except your self-limitations, of course, which we can help you with too.
If you feel like you have imposed Self limitations on yourself, I would be happy to chat to you about your reservations so reach out to me and we can have a brainstorming session together.