Part One of a Two-Part Series How Online Communities Can Help Your Business

Regardless of where you stand, you should be very interested in these models because as they evolve they will not only affect your business in the future.

Regardless of where you stand, you should be very interested in these models because as they evolve they will not only affect your business in the future, if you’re creative, they can greatly help your shop or business today.

This three-part column will discuss the three important benefits that manufacturers can gain from leveraging online communities today: networking and marketing, website visibility and prominence, and strategic development.

Networking and Marketing
Many online communities provide you and all small and medium sized manufacturers with powerful options to promote yourself and your business.

LinkedIn: This site was launched as an employment and networking site for individuals. It can still be used for that, but LinkedIn is expanding to include profiles for companies. And its “Answers” application—that allows anyone to ask or answer a question—has grown to become both an impressive repository of technical knowledge (manufacturing, small business advice, etc.) and a wonderful opportunity for your business to assert its domain expertise by answering questions. Create a profile for your business, have your management team create profiles and answer questions, and you will create a professional presence that executives and buying influencers are likely to find. www.linkedin.com

Facebook: You’re likely familiar with Facebook as a site targeted primarily to students. But what you might not know is that this site has attracted the attention of some of the world’s largest companies. You also may be surprised to learn what the largest corporate groups on Facebook are: Shell Oil, General Electric, Vondafone, Intel and Apple. Each has well in excess of 7,000 members. These companies are using Facebook to promote their brands and expose their companies to the university and college talent that will be entering the workforce. And so can you. By participating in the community—writing blogs, posting information about your services, and creating groups around your technologies and industries—you build a formidable network to build the reputation of your business and influence tomorrow’s workforce. www.facebook.com

MySpace: Like Facebook, MySpace is seen as a site for less-than-serious endeavors—where young people create profiles to communicate with their friends. That’s a bit truer than it is for Facebook, but many companies, artists and professionals also have created profiles here to capitalize on its brand-building strengths. In the same ways and for the same reasons, a MySpace presence for your business makes sense to expand your online presence and to help offset a labor shortage that is likely to get worse before it gets better. www.myspace.com

These OCs are listed in the order of importance for your business. But all three—especially together—still present opportunities strong enough for you to consider. If nothing else, participate in at least one to begin increasing your online marketing message and familiarizing yourself with the value of these models.

Related Content

Part Two of a Two-Part Series How Online Communities Can Help Your Business

Last month, the networking and marketing benefits your shop and business can get from online communities (OCs) were examined. This month, the advantages OCs can provide for your own Web site’s visibility and prominence, which result in more exposure to motivated prospects and more leads, will be discussed. And the easiest way to understand the value of OCs in this regard is if you first understand the term “guanxi.”