How can you build a community, online and offline? According to Miriam Webster a community is “the people with common interests living in a particular area”. In the past your community was limited by proximity and by who you could meet face-to-face. If you wanted to meet someone new you had to ask a friend for an invitation or hope for a chance meeting.
The internet has changed the definition of community! With social networking, blogs and email we are able to have a MUCH bigger community that is not limited by proximity. That having been said, meeting humans face to face is still a great way to build community and your online influence!
Ways to build an in-person community
- Your family and friends - when you are thinking of community you sometimes forget your closest connections. During the days when I was a (successful) realtor, my husband generated many of my leads through his work friends. I asked him to find out who would let me send them info about the real estate market in Clearwater and then contacted them through email, direct mail and popbys (fun treats I sent into work).
- Networking with humans - I recently moved to the Denver and Boulder area and had zero friends or contacts. I checked on meetup.com for local networking events that were related to business and have been able to add close to one hundred new contacts to my database and found a few really great contacts that may turn into friends. In the past this process would have taken YEARS instead of about 8 weeks. One note – don’t jump on new networking friends with your message…meet them, show them you will continue to come back and then ease into your message. No one likes to be SOLD HARD when they are networking!
- Teach classes - I teach social networking classes to anyone who will listen. I am setting up an internet mastermind group that will teach all kinds of online money making skills. I teach realtors how to service their listings. Basically if I can get 5 people to hold still I will start up a class…:) So how does that help? I add them to my database, I am an authority in whatever I am teaching, AND I stay in contact with them through my bi-monthly newsletters.
Ways to build an online community
- Join social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter! These allow you to add people from your real-life networking AND will let you connect with new people that are not geographically desirable but who are interesting and a potential client or referral source for your business.
- Start a blog – A blog pushes information about your business to potential clients. NO ONE will read repetitive sales ads but LOTS of people may be interested in learning more about your specialty. You are reading this post (I assume) because you are a small business owner who is interested in growing their business. If you are looking for cooking tips sign up to read updates from a cooking site, if you are selling mortgages, health care products or lawn furniture start an informative blog and find people who are interested in that!
- Start an email list. These are people who expect regular communication from you. Again, I cannot stress this enough, they expect information that is helpful to them or interesting NOT sales ads! It doesn’t matter how often you communicate with them, some do once a day, some do twice a month like I do. Make sure you send them relevant info AND include a call to action – sell something, grow your facebook page fans, ask for an appointment, whatever as long as you have a REASON for communicating with them in addition to the info!
Well that is it! Do that and you WILL succeed. People will be in your corner and will want to help you grow your business AND you can help grow theirs!!!