A lot of people join communities and then never participate. No judgement here; I’ve done this myself.
Mostly, you’re too busy working on your business and it’s all too easy to inadvertently waste time in these communities when you do participate.
Here are some tips that might help:
For example, I’ve missed two consecutive weeks of our accountability meetings at Laptop Lifestyle YOUniversity. (Including, ironically, today because I had a doctor’s appointment.)
To make up, I’m going to post on the video recording when it goes up in the members area. It’s not the same as being there during the meeting itself, but it’s still better than being completely AWOL from the group.
In other words, do your best.
What should you post in community forums? That’s the topic of the next lesson.
Can joining an online community help you get more email subscribers and clients? You betcha! Read on to find out how....
Here’s what you can post to maximize your helpfulness:
Answer members’ questions, if you know the answer. Give constructive feedback, but only when someone asks for it. Often, someone will post something like, “Would you please take a look at my landing page and let me know what you think?”
Also, respond to the community owner’s prompts. As I said earlier, it can take a lot of work to get people to engage in a forum. And so, the forum owner may post prompts and other “seeds” of discussion. Help them out by giving thoughtful responses.
When you have a question that’s relevant to the group, especially one that other members may be struggling with, too, then post it in the forum. Remember how I got my first copywriting client by asking in a forum, “How do I get clients?” It was an honest question; I wasn’t fishing for clients. Genuine questions like this can stimulate valuable discussions that benefit you and other members.
If you notice that things are pretty slow in the forum, you may also decide to post a question that’s meant to spark meaningful conversation. For example, in a forum for bloggers, you might post, “Research shows that long-form blog posts (2K words and longer) get more shares and traffic. Have you been writing longer blog posts? Why or why not?”
Sometimes you don’t have the answers. Sometimes, you’re not in a position to give effective feedback. What do you do then? Just let the other person know you sympathize. You could say something like, “Sorry, I don’t know how to [xyz], but I hear your frustration! In fact, I’m following this thread to learn the answer myself.” Or how about, “I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through this. (((hugs)))”
Simple, right? You can do this!
Million-Dollar Question: Should you post links to your products or promotions?
Yes, if the community owner allows it. When they do, they also usually provide a specific thread for it. Only use the appropriate and allowed channels! And use this only sparingly. Don’t hog the promo thread.
If promotions are not allowed, make the most of your forum profile to potentially get members to your site. If you can, link to your website and social media accounts. Many forums also let you append a signature to all your posts. Maximize your signature by adding a compelling tagline and an invitation to one of your free offers (but first make sure you’re allowed to do this).
Should you post promotions for your products in an online forum? Read the answer here....
Before I let you go, I just wanted to make sure you know these additional tips:
Participating like this in the right community will bring you many benefits, guaranteed.
Exciting stuff, right?
In the next lesson, I’ll share my thoughts on how to choose the right community.
I’ve joined and left several online communities through the years. These are the qualities of communities that have helped me get measurable results for my business:
This sounds obvious, but a common mistake is to join communities with people who are just like you. If you’re a freelance writer, then you join a community of freelance writers. If you’re a coach, then you join a community of coaches, and so on.
There’s nothing wrong with that if all you want is to get support from others know what you’re going through. However, for finding clients, that’s not the best way.
Think about who your ideal clients are. Find out where they hang out online (and offline), and hang out there, too.
Choose a community where members actively participate and engage with each other. How do you know?
Check the forums. Members should be posting every day, answering each other questions, and giving each other moral support.
Free communities are fine, but if you’re looking for prospects, paid communities are better, in my opinion. People who join paid communities are already investing in their businesses. They know that the good stuff comes with a price tag. It’s one sure sign that they’re not freebie seekers.
Many online communities are established by business owners… and then left alone for members to fend for themselves. The community owner makes themselves scarce, delegating the running of the community to virtual assistants or community managers.
While I don’t disagree with delegating, I’d still like to see the community in the forum at least once in a while. Even the busiest business owner can make time to answer questions occasionally. It shows that they value and respect your membership in the community.
If at all possible, find a community that does allow self-promotion. This just makes things easier.
On the other hand, if a community is ideal in every other way, then try the workaround I shared with you in Lesson 2. I gave you a workaround in case promotions aren’t allowed in the forum. If the best community you can find doesn’t allow promotions, then this is your best recourse. In other words, this last criterion is not a deal-breaker.
Even if the community you choose does allow self-promotion, remember to always, always follow the community’s rules for doing so.
This completes our series of lessons on community networking. Here are the 3 lessons again:
Lesson 1: Show up
Lesson 2: Post helpful, positive stuff.
Lesson 3: Choose the right community.
If you’re looking for an online community, I invite you to consider the Laptop Lifestyle YOUniversity.
I’ve been a member of LLYOU since December 2018, and it has helped me to:
LLYOU meets all five criteria—for ME.
Is it a community where you’ll find your ideal clients? Sign up for the free, 30-day trial and find out.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means I earn a commission when you buy through the links on this page. While I only recommend products I myself use or have vetted, you should always do your due diligence before making any purchases. (Full Disclosure)
Free online communities aren't the best places to find paying clients. Here's why.
Lexi Rodrigo is a communication and marketing professional for multimillion-dollar businesses, co-author of Blog Post Ideas: 21 Proven Ways to Create Compelling Content and Kiss Writer's Block Goodbye, and host of "Marketing Insights LIVE!." Connect with Lexi on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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