As an entrepreneur, you know all too well that, even if you’re going at it solo, it truly does take a village to get things off the ground and keep that momentum going. And an important component of this effort is increasing your online presence so you can interact and establish a reputation with people all over the world, thus extending your brand’s reach.
There are quite a few different ways you can go about nurturing the growth of this particular part of your business, but one of the best ways is to take advantage of online communities. These groups are made up of awesome, inspiring and motivated people — rabid fans and enthusiasts! — who are compelled to share their story and end up encouraging others along the way.
We’ve compiled a few of our favorite tips for creating lasting, authentic and rewarding relationships with these groups, many of which have members who are looking for the exact services or products you’re offering.
- Establish yourself. Get your house in order, so to speak. By setting up a dedicated presence online — be it a website or social media outlets — and integrating yourself within local, niche communities, you not only develop a more solid sense of who you are and what you offer, but it’s also a great way to start to ask for feedback and test different forms of content to see what strikes a chord with your audience.
- Get acquainted. Now that you’ve got your main outpost(s), it’s important to create offshoots of that presence in existing communities and start interacting with people in different venues. Try being a guest contributor to a blog, creating a profile on a platform or taking the time to craft thoughtful responses in forums. Not only does it allow your business to reach a wider pool of potential clients, but it’s a great way to get a feel for the lay of the land and learn some best practices based on what others are doing well.
- Provide value. Be it advice, experience, and/or a new technique, you should clearly highlight what your business brings to the table that others don’t. You want to stand out and shine the light on your speciality because it’s what sets you apart from the rest. By focusing first and foremost on what you can do for others, you’ll find that the rest will flow naturally from there.
- Influence influencers. It’s generally accepted that word of mouth and peer recommendation are some of the most effective forms of advertising. This effectiveness is further amplified when the referrals come from individuals who have established their authority and credibility in a certain area of expertise.By leveraging the persuasive power of these influencers, you can effectively generate brand awareness and influence purchase decisions among theirs peer and followers
- Request feedback. You’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. Feedback allows you to understand what you’re doing well — and also what you should improve upon. If you request feedback from your community, you’ll receive comments and suggestions from a wide spectrum of people. Should you take advantage of this golden opportunity to learn from constructive criticism, you can further enhance your business.
- Spend time. Generally speaking, you reap what you sow, so it’s important to know going in that things won’t happen overnight. Take the time to become acquainted with the people within the communities in your outreach, making each touchpoint purposeful and authentic, effectively building the relationships from the ground-up. Personal connections and an active community presence will be increasingly beneficial to your business growth.
Harness the power of the collective group, and the potential for it to positively impact your business can be limitless. But don’t be afraid to jump in, get involved and get to know people in your communities. Remember: It’s not what you know, but who you know and what you can offer them, so aim to delight, inspire and provide value, and they’ll reciprocate.
Jamie Walker is the CEO and co-founder of SweatGuru where she leads business development and marketing for the San Francisco-based start-up that connects people with fitness.