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June 10, 2009

Five Tips for Contributing to Online Communities Other Than Facebook and Twitter

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Social media doesn't stop at Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Smaller, industry-focused (and often forgotten!) online communities are a fantastic way to consume and share content with like-minded individuals. For example, InboundMarketing.com is a good place for those interested in inbound and Internet marketing to meet and share information.

Here are five ways business and marketing professionals can take advantage of niche online communities:

1) Ask questions and request recommendations through online forums. Forums are an underappreciated resource, so don't be shy! Most likely other people will have the same questions you do. Ask your peers directly through public forums to get a survey of helpful answers and pave the way for others looking for similar information.

2) Be a resource to others and a thought leader.
A great way to develop rapport with a person is by providing them with useful information. Check for new forum questions and give your own best advice. If you know of links to resources you've appreciated, share them!

3) Drive traffic to your website by posting your own content when relevant. Many online communities have a component where you can submit interesting articles for the rest of the community to read. Why not contribute your best or most relevent work? This will drive traffic back to your site so people might learn more about you and your company. But don’t be spammy!

4) Take advantage of free educational programs to learn more about your industry. A lot of communities work together with members and other organizations to produce great content. Take advantage of these free programs as tools for your team, employees, customers, and yourself! Inbound Marketing University is a great example of a free program offered by marketing experts to help you break into the Internet marketing world. Why not register for free?

5) Meet prospective business partners, customers or employers. The more often you actively contribute to a community, the more other members have the opportunity to get to know you. In your profile, include your Facebook and LinkedIn contact information. When you do this, you'll have multiple ways to connect and potentially extend your business relationships.

What do you think? What else do you like about niche, online communities? What are your favorite online communities?

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