With the rise of Social Media, the focus is moving to building online communities around your business, by bringing together people who are fans of your business. There are a couple of approaches that you can use to build an online community around your business.
The first is leveraging existing communities like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Your potential customers may be already on these networks and thus making it easier to connect with them.
This can work in a number of different ways depending upon the demographics of your customers.
There are a great deal of retail businesses that have created very effective online communities around Facebook where the nature of the customer transaction is anonymous. The Facebook page brings together these anonymous customers and also creates social proof for the business. The conversations can become mini testimonials for your products.
A business to business community will probably not work with Facebook, where business people do not want their personal life via Facebook to be combined with their personal lives.
LinkedIn Groups, which can be set to private thereby restricting access only to invited members is another alternative.
But one of the major problems with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is that your data, content and contacts is held and in effect controlled by another party. The ability to create the content for your community is limited by the functionality of that site.
An option is setting up your own online community, which may be the solution if you already have established client base and that client base would benefit through the sharing of information, ideas and knowledge not only between you and your customers but between the customers themselves.
Setting up your own private online community doesn’t have to cost a fortune a simple free solution is Buddypress which is an extension (plugin) of WordPress. Buddypress enables you to extend your WordPress with forums, groups and wall pages like Facebook.