The human species have managed to survive, advance, and build modern civilizations by living in societies and communities. It’s a proof that we can be more successful if we move in group rather than go alone. In the business world, business people also have to join related communities to hang on with other members, seek help, share answers, and find tools and resources from the pack.
An online community for small business owners is a useful place on the Internet to interact with like-minded people, ask advice, share insight, extend business network, gain friends and partners, learn lessons from everyone in the group, and grow your small business.
I have joined a number of communities on the Internet, and I found these 10 online communities very useful for small business owners.
The OPEN forum was established by American Express in 2007 to help small business owners grow their businesses by providing them a place and platform where they can explore articles from experts, watch videos, meet other business owners and entrepreneurs, ask and give advice, and extend their business network. There, you will find articles and actionable advice on marketing, money, leadership, and technology from various experts, such as Guy Kawasaki.
The forum is free and you can instantly join using your LinkedIn account. You are not required to be an American Express cardholder to use the forum – that’s why it’s an OPEN Forum. The platform also has a mobile application that you can download for free at Google Play and Apple’s iTunes to use it using your smart phone.
Dubbed as the “social sharing network for entrepreneurs”, Inspiration Station is a place where entrepreneurs can share and organize inspiring ideas. You can join the site using your social network accounts, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It works like Pinterest but is more specialized on inspiring entrepreneurs. Inside your home feed, you can follow top influencers like Richard Branson of Virgin Group, click “Inspired” on an inspiring clip or “Reclip” it onto your own created topic boards to inspire yourself and your followers.
If you want to rock your small business, Startup Nation wants to make you a business rock star by providing you articles and resources about growing and funding your business and by connecting you with a community of hundreds of thousands of fellow entrepreneurs. As a member of the community, you can create a member profile, read thousands of how-to articles, view forum posts, request and accept connections, listen to StartupNation Radio, and more.
Small business owners should also enjoy the benefits provided by the government. The SBA Community site provides public forums and communication tools for entrepreneurs and small business owners to learn, share, and discuss practical solutions to everyday business problems with each member, industry experts, and experts from government agencies. SBA community members can post to forums, blogs, use tools, get online training, find events, get local assistance, and more. They may also share information about themselves and their business in their user profile.
At Bizsugar, small business owners can browse and read the top small business articles, videos, and other ontents which are ranked daily, weekly and monthly according to the votes by the members of the community. As a member you can share great content to the site on topics, such as marketing, finance, management, technology, and startups. You can also interact with other members by asking and leaving comments at their shared content.
I’d been a regular contributor to the community and it’s one of the most useful sites on the Internet to increase your reputation and reach out small business owners, bloggers, marketers, leaders, and entrepreneurs.
Blogging is one of the most effective and efficient online marketing strategies for small business owners. If you’re blogging for your business and wants to amplify your reach and influence to target audience, Triberr can help you. Triberr is a community of talented bloggers, influencers, marketers, and business owners who come together to read and share great content. Here, you can join tribes according to your interest, share content, and join live conversations with like-minded members of the tribe.
You can also create your own tribe and invite people who shares them same interest with you. I joined Triberr 3 months ago, and I can say that the community has really helped me in many ways, such as driving more relevant traffic to my blog, growing my social media influence, meeting interesting people, and learning from them.
B2C is an independent online community of thousands of bloggers and experts who share their ideas, expertise, and thought leadership on various business and marketing topics, including business strategies, social media, digital marketing, branding, and public relations. The community is also a great place to access free white papers, podcasts, webcasts, and how-to guides for learning how to intensify your marketing campaigns and strategies to grow your business. B2C is an award-winning publisher. Thus, if you want to extend your network, reach more target customers, and learn from the site’s useful resources, B2C is one of the online communities you shouldn’t miss.
LinkedIn is considered the world’s largest professional network, with more than 250 million members worldwide. That is why small business owners should leverage this social networking site to find and join the perfect LinkedIn group, where they can meet and collaborate with other business owners, professionals, and consumers for the growth and success of their business.
Inside LinkedIn, you will find popular groups for small business owners like the LinkedIn group of Harvard Business Review, which currently have more than 600,000 members discussing topics on business, management and leadership. Aside, from joining related groups, you may also create your own group, invite your related connections, and build an engaging group for your business.
Online marketers wish to be loved by Google and drive organic traffic from the search giant to their websites. Google is the largest search engine in the world and Google+ has more than 500 million users who are mostly professionals, marketers, and business-minded people. Thus, if you want to leverage the power of online communities for your business, Google+ communities should be on your top list. Based on your niche or industry, you may join useful communities on Google+ and interact with other members. You may also share and ask questions, start discussion, share answers, and post content in conformity to the rules of the community.
Moreover, you may also create a community for your business and establish yourself as a thought leader and your brand as an influencer in your industry. Take note, that if your community is public, its content and information are indexed and discoverable on Google’s search engine.
10. Facebook Groups
Last but not the least are Facebook’s useful groups. Facebook is the king of social networking, with over a billion active users worldwide. It’s the social network where we can connect to the people who are closest to us, such as our family, peers, and close friends. Although it’s the most diverse social network on the Internet, small business owners can benefit from it though targeting and retargeting their audience. I see a lot of Facebook Groups that are flooded with spammy posts and comments. However, there are also Groups that are proven to be helpful to their members. These are the groups that are actively administered and have members who are dynamically helping each other inside the group.
The most successful groups on Facebook are closed or restricted only to their members. Thus, if you’re looking for a group to join or if you’re creating a group for your business, you have to ensure its relevance and quality of posts, discussions, interaction, and information shared by each member.
You can leverage the power of collaboration and tribal marketing by utilizing the online communities above. However, you must not forget that marketing and other business strategies are not just a matter of extending your network, but it is a commitment of helping, providing solutions, and ensuring that your network or connections are happy with the relationship they are getting from you and your business.
Finally, there are also other communities and groups on the Internet that small business owners should explore aside from the places mentioned above. Hence, you should keep on exploring, reaching out people, make quality conversations with them, and build good relationships that will be mutually beneficial for your business and target customers.
If you know any other online communities that every small business owner should join, feel free to share it with us through the comments below. I’ll also be glad to know what your favorite is among the 10 online places above.