There are web communities that are started by industry leaders and organizations that you can join. Some of them have a fee and some don’t. A community site can be hosted on a social network service like Facebook or it can be hosted on an individual website or other platform. It can consist of a forum, blogs, information center and more. When you find an industry-related community site to join, you might want to consider these ten ways to take advantage of them.
1. Become a Full Member of the Community Site – Most community sites require you to sign up. Some require you to pay a fee. Most of the time, you have to use your real name and show how you fit into the industry. If you’ve chosen a good community site to join, a lot of the information you share will only be available to members. Sometimes you have to spend a little money to get the most out of a community site.
2. Fill Out Your Profile Carefully – Since this is an industry-related community, you want people who view your profile to know where you fit in with the industry. A lot of times members will hire other members or recommend other members. The more accurate and clear your profile, the better.
3. Introduce Yourself in a Professional Manner – At some point after joining an industry-related community site you’ll need to introduce yourself to the other members. Some sites have particular areas where they ask you to do that. Some even have surveys they want you to fill out in order to introduce yourself. Try to do it the way they want you to and be as open as possible.
4. Answer Questions of Other Members – Once you’ve introduced yourself, and have participated in a few discussions, it’s fine to start answering questions that other members ask that you have knowledge in. This will help the members get to know you more and allows you to establish expertise.
5. Interact with and Engage Members – Don’t just go on a community site and post your own stuff without entering into discussions. Discussions are what make any type of community work, whether online or off. Don’t treat the online community as anything less than real interaction.
6. Volunteer with the Community Site – Many online community sites need help and they will be very happy to take volunteers to help manage message boards, add blog posts, find resources for members and more. If you want to volunteer just ask.
7. Use Member Benefits – Industry-related community sites often offer benefits to their members. It’s important to take advantage of them. Many times they’ll have things you can get involved in, as well as job boards, special offers or even live events. Try to get involved with the community you choose to join.
8. Promote the Community to Others – When you find a community that you like that offers a lot to your industry, tell other people about it. The more people who join the community, the better for you because that’s more people you can get to know and potentially work with.
9. Ignore Wrongheaded Criticism – In many communities, especially free ones, you will have issues with bullies and “trolls”. The best way to deal with these people is to ignore them. If there is an authority to report them to, do so. Do not engage with them because people are watching you to see how you deal with pressure.
10. Honor Privacy Issues – Many groups are private, and due to that, people will discuss things believing in a code of honor that what they say stays in that group. Be sure to not share anything outside of the group. Being part of a community means you honor their need for privacy.
If you want to be seen as an expert in your industry, it’s important to be seen as much as possible in a professional manner. Joining a community that is related to your industry can help. You can join communities that consist of colleagues or potential customers or both. Once you join and start participating, you’ll find many ways to get known and grow your business.
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