If you want to capitalize on search engine marketing and optimization and develop your brand or business as a thought leader, you need to harness the power of online communities. Regular engagement with online communities is a great marketing and sales strategy, leveraging your existing expertise to build your brand reputation and expand your online reach.
Just in case you are not familiar with the terminology, an online community is a group of people with common interests who use the Internet and various community platforms, to communicate, share expertise, work together and pursue their common interests.
Understanding the key benefits of contributing to online communities may spark your interest -- consider this:
- You can build your reputation as an industry expert and thought leader. As you create and share content within your online community, people take notice. If you continuously share rich, relevant content, rooted in education and thought leadership, you will gain a loyal following of advocates (likely potential customers, too) who will like, share and engage with you or your brand.
- Your competition is there, or will be soon. Do a little digging within your industry online and you may notice some familiar faces and brands. Don’t lag behind your competition in this important new arena of direct brand-to-consumer, B2C and B2B engagement.
- Social affects search. Perhaps the most convincing argument to get your team on board with online communities is the simple fact that social affects search. Every new question you answer or comment thread you share online can be indexed by search engines and will improve your search ranking, increasing your online footprint.
Now that you know some of the key benefits of getting involved with online communities, you might wonder how it will affect your bottom line. If you work regularly with a content calendar and plan your marketing and sales strategy, you can easily adapt your existing content to serve a duel purpose fueling your community chatter. Blogs, content and even social posts can be repurposed to answer and post questions within your community and spark engagement.
Start Small: Develop Your Personal Brand
If you are excited to get started with online communities but afraid to jump in too quickly, you can start small with LinkedIn and Facebook. Developing your personal brand, especially if you are in marketing and sales, is a key way to build relationships and bridge the gap between you and your target audience.
Within LinkedIn, there are many existing communities where you can weigh in with your expertise. In fact, there are many tried and true LinkedIn tactics and tools you can use to succeed. Facebook offers similar opportunities. From cooking to sports, and every niche in between, you can likely find a community that would welcome your expertise.
Get started by commenting on existing posts, asking questions and best of all, answering questions other members pose. You can slowly begin to gain a reputation as an industry expert.
Start Big: Online Community Leaders
If you are ready to jump in full force, consider these top online question/answer and community platforms and do some research to see how your brand or business can fit in.
The Stack Exchange Network touts itself as an easy way to get expert answers.
So how does it work? Anybody can ask a question. Anybody can answer. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top.
Whether you are a graphic designer, programmer, professional chef or home improvement professional, stack exchange has a community waiting for your expertise.
Within Stack Exchange, you have the opportunity to answer questions and build your reputation as a thought leader and industry expert. Your reputation is based on your role in your community, how much your community trusts you, your communication skills and the quality and relevancy of your questions and answers.
As your reputation grows, you have the opportunity to earn badges that designate you as an expert within your chosen community.
Using your Google+ page, you can create any number of Google+ communities to increase brand or product engagement and build your own library of brand resources. Not only will your content be available for interested Google+ users, all of the content you post or share will be indexed by Google and will help you increase your online footprint.
If you choose to participate in existing Google+ communities, you are sending information and expertise directly into a busy hub of interested community members. Become an active participant by contributing relevant facts, statistics and insights that are of value to the members of the community. Once you establish a positive presence you can even start to do some brand or business promotions.
Quora believes that it offers the best answer to any question. It focuses on creating online communities, which offer expert answers to questions posed within the platform. There are many benefits of joining the Quora community, including: researching your competition, generating new content ideas and gaining a reputation as a thought leader within your industry. Interested in learning more about how Quora can help your business? Take a look at 10 Tips on Using Quora for Business.
Armed with the benefits of online communities, start exploring your online options and build communities to engage other industry experts and potential customers.
If you are already active in online communities, where do you engage with others regularly? Do you find it beneficial to connect with other experts in your industry?