How to Build an Online Community for Your Small Business

Reaching out to a new or wider customer base is one of the biggest challenges for many small businesses. These days, there are plenty of ways to harness the power of the Internet to promote your brand, share your expertise and attract customers. Here are a few tips from CIO.com for doing just that:

Create a membership site Some businesses choose to charge a membership fee in exchange for exclusive resources, such as tutorials and software programs. As long as the products you’re offering are unique, have high value and are unavailable anywhere else, your customers will be happy.

As for pricing, consider offering a monthly rate instead of a yearly rate. This will reduce instances of sticker shock and make customers less likely to cancel their membership when they see a high yearly fee.

Use online forums
Many forums serve as online gathering points for people with expertise in their fields. From Internet marketing to fitness to finance, you can find forums for just about any topic – which offers you a variety of ways to promote your business.

Of course, you don’t want to start simply posting ads for your business on forum threads. Instead, contribute useful posts and build online relationships with other users. Then update your signature file (the area at the bottom of each of your posts) with a link to your site and a short description about your service.

Tap into social media
Whether you choose to participate in LinkedIn forums, Facebook groups or Twitter discussions, there are a multitude of opportunities on social media sites to promote your small business. Your goal with these sites is to build a group of active and loyal followers and engage them in real interactions. Talk about what’s new with your business or offer to share your expertise, and you’ll show people what you can do – even before they actually become customers.

With the right type of online interactions and just a few hours per week, you can strengthen your small business and reach an entirely new group of customers.

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