4 Ways to Build an Online Community in an Offline Industry
It’s no secret that people rely on the Internet for almost everything, from paying bills to obtaining a degree. With the Web ingrained in our everyday lives, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t jump on board. The earning potential is vast, even if your industry’s work is mostly conducted offline.
Regardless of what your industry is, there are never-ending possibilities in online communities. Brand loyalty, consumer engagement, and fresh perspectives can all be developed online. If your arena happens to be one in which offline work is the modus operandi, however, you can still build a community by following these four tips:
1) Create an accessible website.
You must create a website that is easy to navigate, especially if you’re looking to obtain users who aren’t familiar with the online space. The first step is to obtain an easy-to-remember URL if possible; then, once you have users on your page, keep them there by utilizing simple design. Make sure the pages are self-explanatory. Ensure that your contact information is accessible, your services are directly stated, and your products are visible. Platforms like WordPress allow entrepreneurs to build websites at a low cost, but if you’re new to the Internet, consider hiring a web designer for the initial setup.
2) Keep the platform fresh.
Once you’ve built your site, don’t just leave it to run itself. Instead, consider new ways to engage users. For example, some sites allow customers to interact with professionals through forums or message boards for added support. Other companies facilitate group discussions.
But every business and customer base is different. What’s most important is that you listen to your community and adapt to their needs. Whether it’s the addition of a FAQ page or an adjustment to a service offered, use the Internet to leverage customer service. Convince the customers you work with offline to utilize these new services online. Chances are that it’ll make both of your lives easier.
3) Stay on top of trends.
Establish yourself as an expert in your field. Keep abreast of major issues and create resources online that address these topics. You must gain a level of trust and credibility within the community you’d like your business to thrive. It’s best to create quality content, ranging from video tutorials showing DIY projects to blog posts about industry news. You know your users best, so think about what they’ll find most useful. But if you don’t know the answer, don’t hesitate to ask! The simple act of asking for feedback will engage users and prove that you’re listening to them.
4) Network online — and off.
It’s important that respected individuals or associations in your industry recognize your brand. Once you’re comfortable with your online presence, ask for testimonials. By showcasing these recommendations and partnerships on your site, you’ll gain credibility within the industry — and you’ll underscore your value to your customers. Ultimately, you want credible sources to share your content and services. You can use this buzz to drive customers who may be reluctant to use the Internet.
Creating a sustainable presence online will expand your business and your company’s reputation. The Internet offers customers more flexibility and can increase your reach, and your clientele will appreciate the access to information and products 24/7. Remember that just because you primarily do work off the Web doesn’t mean that you can’t make money on the Web.
Tom Dedin is the founder and CEO of Constructus International, a group of professional consultants who help contractors improve their profitability through continued education and the implementation of cutting-edge business practices. Connect with Tom on Twitter.