One of the great things about the Internet today is that it is a platform that encourages community building – people with shared interests can be brought together for discussion, problem-solving and offering advice.
For small businesses, it’s an incredible opportunity that enables you to connect with people who are already thinking about your industry or products, and foster deeper relationships with a potentially huge audience.
However, building communities of any kind takes time, effort, and a lot of nous. With this in mind, here are some ideas of how you should go about building a community for your small business, whether you are a network marketer, consultant, or product-selling company.
First and foremost, your community has to be about engaging people’s passions for the industry, lifestyles, or products that your business represents. Of course, building a community isn’t for every company out there, but it especially lends itself to the home business owner.
Few people will be interested in 24/7 discussion about fire door installation, for example, but if your niche is health products, weight loss, travel clubs or any number of other home business opportunities, community building is a great way to grow your business.
That said, you don’t need a huge audience or email list to set one up – if people are actively encouraging you to start community building or are craving for a better way to interact with people, a small number of customers isn’t necessarily restrictive.
Handing over the reins
Before starting community building, there is one important thing to understand: you have to give up control. Your role will be that of a guide or moderator, but ultimately, communities tend to be self-governing, and the reality is that it belongs to the community members.
Sure, this can be scary – allowing customers to discuss your products and services could, undoubtedly, result in some negativity. But sanitizing negative feedback, removing posts, or imposing strict controls on conversations is a sure-fire way of losing your audience.
Finding the right platform
So, where do you get started with forming a community? There are plenty of options available. In days gone by, forums were the best way to build communities, and although there are still a few very popular forums man business have made the leap to platforms like Facebook or Linkedin.
If you want to take things up a level, you can try setting up ecommerce marketplaces. These online marketplaces are communities that allow transactions to take place between businesses and customers – think of places like Etsy or freelancer websites like Fiverr.
The cost and benefits
The cost of starting a community can be minimal – just start a Facebook page, for example. But if you have plans to grow that community then you will need to spend money on advertising and infrastructure. However, the return on that investment can be considerable.
As a community owner, you will be seen as an expert in your chosen subject and could go on to become the go-to place for critical information about your industry. That opens the door to more interest in your products and services, and, ultimately, a lot more profit coming through the door.
So, could setting up a community be a good step forward for your business? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below.