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 six 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.
- 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 short-cuts 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 lightbulbs 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.
Whatever your business needs are, the benefits of online communities are endless. Consider joining an online community in your industry, and discover how you can help others, learn something new, and maybe even get more work done in a lot less time.
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