One of the ways to make an online community work is to practice a high level of participation. When you get involved in your online community, it will really pay off in a big way by making you closer to the other members. You and the members can become awesome resources to each other throughout your business’s growth.
1. Introduce Yourself – When you become part of an online community, start out on the right foot by introducing yourself according to the rules of the group. Most online communities have rules that prohibit sharing of URLs or advertising, but most allow you to introduce yourself to get started in the group.
2. Ask Questions – Once you’ve been properly introduced, start asking questions to get the discussions going in the group. This is a good way to get to know each other as well as to get to know your audience. When people answer your question, be sure to comment back and thank them and add to the discussion.
3. Answer Questions – When other people ask questions that you have an answer to, be sure that you answer the questions honestly and openly, without any intent to sell them anything. Give of yourself freely and you will end up with a large return on investment.
4. Comment on Stories – When other people introduce themselves or tell a story, be sure to comment on them. If the community often posts informative articles, be sure to comment on those too and to point them out to others in the group for reading.
5. Create a Good Signature Line – Most groups allow you to have some type of signature line that has a link back to your website. Be sure to provide a specialized link just for that group that offers specials for group members.
6. Fill Out Your Profile Completely – Additionally, most online communities have a profile area. Be sure to upload a nice headshot, and to fill out the entire profile. That way when someone wants to learn more about you they can easily do so.
7. Invite New People – When you know that the group would be a good fit for someone you meet elsewhere, share the group with them. Bringing in new people to the community keeps the community alive and fresh.
8. Be a Resource to Others – Never be afraid to be an open book resource within your area of expertise. If you want to be known as an expert, show that expertise within your answers to others.
9. Start a Subgroup – Once you’ve become well known and people start coming to you more, see if you can start a subgroup inside the group. Ask for permission before doing that, but it might be of help to the group owner if you don’t own the group.
If you make it your goal to do everything on this list over a period of time, you’ll notice something amazing happening. You’ll notice that you’ve built real relationships with the people in the group, and that they are referring you to potential clients and you are potentially referring some of them to clients too. It’s a two-way street when you are part of a community. The fact that it is online doesn’t mean it’s not real.