You don't need me to tell you online communities and social networks are powerful interactive marketing tools. What you may need to know is why you shouldn't wait any longer before you get involved. I'll get to that but first let's consider just a few of your options:

  • blogs,
  • chat rooms,
  • forums,
  • business networks,
  • product review sites,
  • email discussion groups,
  • photo sites,
  • video sites and the list goes on and on.

It all comes down to this, hundreds of millions of people now participate in online social networks. Some just hang around reading the content while others actively participate in lengthly discussions. They build strong relationships with others in their communities. Your target market? They make recommendations and provide referrals day in and day out. And yes, many small businesses are no longer "small" as a result.

This is not just my opinion, large corporations such as Sony, Chrysler and Dell are in tune to this marketing channel in a big way because of one main reason – it works and they are benefiting.  What about you? How do you "reach out" and capture new business online?

Do you have a website? OK silly question, of course you do. Ten to one it talks to your target market. It tells your visitor all about your company, your services and your strengths. It looks great – nice bullet format with a benefit statement after each feature listed. But can your prospects and clients talk back? Just as important, can they talk to each other about your business? If not you're missing a huge opportunity.

First and foremost, reaching online communities requires active participation and feedback mechanisms. That's not all – providing fresh and quality content is the key ingredient for your success. So, where do you start?

You start by developing a content management system that automatically delivers new information to your target market in a manner that encourages comments and distribution of the information you provide. It is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to get started. You are experiencing one now – our blog. 

Blogs are hands down more effective marketing tools than static websites. They are excellent at communicating and spreading your message for several reasons but like I said, content is key. Before you dive head first into the blogosphere, take a step back and develop both short and long-term plans, a comprehensive online marketing strategy for 2008 and a rock-solid budget for implementation. I'll post more about that later so please check back with us. Right now I must go and help a client with her 2008 online marketing plan – she gets it. And who knows, it might be a share of your market that she gets.