In today’s digital climate, social media feeds are saturated, running ads can get expensive, and it’s hard to get people’s attention. That’s why you need to take a different avenue. Case in point: Online groups and communities are one of the most effective ways to engage with others. It’s where you can personally connect and foster significant relationships with other businesses, fellow entrepreneurs, or potential customers – all geared toward providing value and scaling your business.
These groups and communities are most common on LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also find them on platforms like Reddit. There’s something for everyone: freelancers, people who love gardening, bookworms, people who love to fish, you name it. By becoming a member of these groups, you join a community of like-minded people.
For example, if you own (or do the marketing for) a yoga brand, there are countless yoga groups and communities across Facebook and LinkedIn (and Meetup, too!). Or if you’re with a library or bookstore, find a group for people who love reading. It’s the easiest way to reach a large group of people with at least one thing in common — and for free, no less.
If you’re not yet a member of this type of group or you’re still deciding if joining one on LinkedIn or Facebook is the right move, here are five reasons why you should definitely take part in online groups and communities.
Why Online Groups and Communities Are GOLD
1. They bring your target audience into one unified place.
Online groups and communities help grow your client base by giving you access to a common space where your target market is already active and present. Instead of needing to track down your target audience, you join a group and — bam! — there it is.
Once you’ve networked with them, you can introduce your offerings and hand out referrals to increase your clientele. Alternatively, they can recommend you to potential customers who’re looking for the products or services you deliver.
Similarly, many members are also running their own businesses and have clients who consult them for advice or introductions. Once you’ve connected with them and they know about your business, they can refer you to these people. Read: warm leads – meaning the people who are already highly interested in what you have to offer.
Essentially, groups and communities easily bring together relevant contacts that can be essential to your business’s growth.
2. Groups are a wealth of information!
Many consumers don’t make the move to join conversations about brands in public. But if it’s in a more private setting, they become honest and personal about their comments and reviews.
That’s why groups and communities are where you find people’s real sentiments and feedback. They fuel conversations around the brands’ products and services or the customers’ needs and preferences. They also allow you to learn so much by seeing what people are posting about or the comments they leave.
For example, if you sell yoga mats and you see a lot of people in your yoga group complaining that all the mats they try are too difficult to clean, you can use this to improve your own product. You can also consider creating polls to receive insights on topics or questions you might have.
Likewise, groups often have relevant events like networking gigs or talks from experts that help you learn and stay ahead (or on track) of the trends and developments in your industry – all of which are essential in scaling your business.
Remember that more than sharing your opinions, it’s important to listen and pay attention to what people have to say. Knowledge is power, so be sure to ask questions, read comments, and actively engage with the members.
3. You can provide free value and with the permission of the admin, sell your products/services.
Being active in a group gives you an opportunity to provide free value to the audience. This can be done by openly sharing first-hand experiences, answering questions, or showcasing what you can do to help people meet their needs and solve their pain points.
Doing this establishes you as an industry expert and raises your credibility and authority. It also becomes a powerful way of generating connections, leads, and engagement.
Once you’re positioned as a leader, you can slowly venture into selling your offerings to the members of the group. Again, since this is already a highly-targeted audience, they’re more likely to be the ones who’re really interested in what you can offer.
Keep in mind that the goal here is to establish trust by providing something relevant and valuable. This means that your focus shouldn’t be on hard-selling, but rather on dedicating your time and expertise to the members. Always give more than you ask for! You might be thinking, “Well, that won’t make me money.” We promise that it will. When you provide value and solve problems first, the sales follow. This is how smart brands ace their marketing.
Importantly, be sure to check the group rules before trying to sell anything. It never hurts to message the admin of the group and get permission. Many groups and communities have strict rules about selling and self-promotion. Breaking these rules can get you banned from the group. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re adhering to the guidelines.
4. They help you build relationships and create new opportunities.
Whether you want to consult with others to understand your niche, stay updated about customers, or even hire people for your team, online groups and communities are great venues to meet new people from your industry.
Once you’ve forged relationships, you can slowly open your business to a whole lot of exciting opportunities like brand partnerships, media exposure, or introduction to a new market.
Likewise, being in groups and communities allows you to learn how you can improve your business and better represent your brand. This could mean anything from taking your skills up a notch to improving your customers’ experience or offering better products and services.
Remember, though, that this isn’t going to magically happen. You have to really leverage the power of these groups and take action. It won’t fall into your lap! Initiate conversations. Reach out and respond to people. Take an active role in conversations. Don’t make assumptions that people will come to you. You need to go to them. Take action and start the relationship!
5. You get to connect with individuals who’re in the same boat.
Let’s admit it – being a business owner isn’t always a walk in the park. Sometimes, you’ll need to surround yourself with people who are committed, motivated, and persevering in their individual craft for you to be inspired to do the same.
If you’re in a group with like-minded individuals from your industry, you can receive support and encouragement from them. They may even share the confidence, optimism, and positivity you need to keep going. From giving advice on making decisions to helping you solve a problem or creating new opportunities, these business friendships can help get your company to new heights.
An Important Note on Groups and Communities
We’ve hinted at this already but it’s so important that we want to highlight it in particular.
Providing value should always come first. If you join any group or community with the top goal of selling, selling, selling, you’re going to fail. That’s because these groups aren’t inherently designed for you to sell to its members. Furthermore, some groups outright ban it. Think of them like influencers. They’re trying to build a community of people who can trust and look up to them. People who can rely on the group for value, information, and entertainment. Members are already being sold to on a regular basis in their news feeds. It’s overwhelming, and they don’t typically trust ads — at least, not immediately.
Groups and communities have a completely different source of motivation.
Does that mean that you can’t sell? Absolutely not! But it does mean that this shouldn’t be your immediate priority. Focus on helping before selling. That’s where your success lies.
Also, transparency is of the utmost importance. Your desire to communicate with, engage with, and help your fellow group members is crucial. If you use this as merely a facade, a cover, people will catch onto you, without a doubt. If you want people to trust you, honesty is the best policy.
The Key Takeaway
This feature on LinkedIn and Facebook often goes overlooked, but online groups and communities are a powerful platform that business owners need to maximize. This is where you can bounce ideas back and forth, share experiences, and ask questions to learn more about your niche. You can connect directly with your target audience, gather information about your industry, showcase your brand, and build relationships.
Aside from LinkedIn and Facebook, also be sure to check out Meetup and Reddit. Meetup in particular is amazing because it can help you connect with like-minded, relevant people on a more local level.
You should always go into these environments with an open mind. Do you think you know everything there is to know about your target audience? We can promise you: You don’t! Nobody does. Listening is key. We guarantee you’ll pick up on at least one detail you hadn’t known before.
When you join the right group and actively participate in it, you’re creating opportunities to grow your business – get leads, learn from customers, and establish connections that can be useful down the road.
Always keep in mind that the most important thing about being in groups is that you provide something relevant and valuable to the members. Don’t make the mistake of promoting and talking only about your brand. People don’t join these groups to be sold and promoted to. They join to meet like-minded people and learn new things about the topic they love.
Why else do you think business owners need to utilize online groups and communities? Let us know in the comments below!
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