3 ways to build community online—and boost interest in your business

Leverage LinkedIn for its community-building potential.In the last decade, we’ve come a long way from networking groups and Chamber of Commerce meetings. As more and more adults follow younger generations onto social platforms, they are increasingly becoming an ideal way to not only find new business but to build community in a certain niche. Just five years ago, it might have been laughable to have a strong industry connection whom you’ve never met in person. Now, it’s a goal. Here’s how to achieve it.

Leverage LinkedIn

About.com’s Job Search expert Alison Doyle say LinkedIn is “the” site for professional networking. Career advisor Allison Cheston calls the social platform “ground zero” for establishing and building your career. But using LinkedIn isn’t limited to slapping up your resume and accepting invitations to connect. Taking advantage of all the functions the site offers, from a descriptive, biographical CV complete with concise headline and photo, to posting periodic career updates, achievements and relevant news articles, helps you create a complete, professional persona. One of the platform’s best features, though, is the thousands of groups you can join based on your profession, interests and location. Be careful when it comes to selecting groups, as it’s essential to become not just a member but a contributor to the community. The more you offer thoughtful input and advice, the more connections you’ll make.

Join a commenting community

Your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Search for blogs and niche online publications that focus, in some way or another, on your industry or your region. Subscribe to them, read them, and comment, congratulating others on their successes, giving advice, and suggesting alternative opinions or practices. It’s acceptable to leave your business or blog URL alongside your name as a sort of signature when you leave a considerate comment. Do it, and you’ll soon have others returning the favor.

Find a forum

Online bulletin boards erupted in the 1990s, cropping up everywhere like mole tunnels and ant hills. Now, they’re a bit more finessed in appearance and capabilities, but they function in much the same way. Spend an hour hunting for one that suits your professional interests. Make an account—one you’re comfortable linking to your business—build out your profile, introduce yourself, and sit back and observe for a week or so. When you have something to contribute to the conversation, dive right in.

Remember, these are all forms of professional communication. While you should be conversational, that doesn’t mean you ought to forget good grammar, throw in poor language, or attack or troll others who don’t share your viewpoints. Everything you say can be traced back to you and your business—always keep that in mind and comport yourself appropriately.

Let’s talk community! Where have you found support online?

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