There is a diverse array of online communities associated with platforms like social networking sites, forums, and blogs, not to mention just about any area of interest or industry you can possibly think of. There are groups that bond over broad subjects like music, sports, and technology, while narrower fields of interest also exist, such as Corvette collectors in southern California or followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarians). The point is that the average business has no shortage of options when it comes to finding online communities to target in order to gain patrons and make sales. The more difficult part of the proposition lies in finding ways to enter such communities as a trusted member in order to market products and services effectively. And there are all kinds of tactics you might employ to this end. Here are a few options that should prove effective.

  1. Online CommunitiesCreate social media profiles. The place to start when it comes to marketing your business via online communities is by creating social media profiles for your company. And there are plenty of options for platforms like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and many, many more. The hard part may be choosing which outlets will best suit the needs of your business. It’s important to keep in mind that spreading yourself too thin will end in disaster, probably with all of your accounts failing to meet your goals. Communication is the name of the game and you need to be present, to some degree, in order to make that happen. So start with one or two profiles and see what you can accomplish before you decide to branch out.
  2. Brand your profiles. You may be tempted to create a variety of anonymous profiles and use them to bombard communities with ads and other calls to action. But this is a mistake. First of all, even if you can gain admittance into groups, this tactic is likely to backfire as soon as savvy users realize what you’re up to. The result could be banishment from the site, making it very difficult to get back in without a different IP address. Even worse, users may take umbrage with your brand, boycotting your business and badmouthing you all over the internet. So take the time to brand your profiles and behave accordingly so that your business gains a positive association in the online arena.
  3. Put a personal face on your efforts. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being solicited by a nameless, faceless corporation. However, most consumers are far more willing to give a real person a chance. So you might want to think about using social media to highlight your employees. They can not only act as the personal face of your company online, but they can use their status to post information about new products, offer video tutorials, and answer questions. The impact of this type of personalized PR cannot be overstated in an atmosphere that is characterized by anonymity.
  4. Encourage feedback. Although you can use analytics programs to track data, your best bet for finding out what consumers think is to go straight to the source and ask them. Any time you put together a marketing campaign you should plan for the inclusion of several means of gathering feedback, encouraging viewers to tell you what they like and dislike. This will help you to tailor future efforts for optimum impact.
  5. Engage customers. Whether you offer online communities rewards club memberships, provide coupons and discounts via social media, give followers the opportunity to get in on exclusive deals and early releases, or create contests as a way to engage with customers, finding creative ways to encourage interaction can only help your marketing and sales efforts. Certainly you can peruse brilliant directories reviews to find an online listing service, you can practice SEO, and you can buy advertising space on associated blogs. But if you want to create relationships through your marketing efforts in online communities, getting consumers involved is a great way to promote your brand.