Five Tips Every B2B Marketer Should Follow When Joining Niche-Specific Online Communities

Mainstream social media is dominated by a few names so overwhelmingly that many marketers tend to overlook smaller sites that serve a particular niche or sector. However, B2B marketing practitioners who actively participate in industry-specific online communities are discovering that these lesser-known channels are excellent websites to find leads in. Aside from generating fresh leads, B2B marketers are reaping the benefits that come with the quality of feedback and level of information sharing in these communities.

This post gives you a few pointers to help you become highly effective in using niche-specific online communities as part of your B2B marketing toolkit. But first, let’s have a look at some of the advantages you’ll likely get from participating in these online platforms.

While skeptics of industry-specific online communities prefer to operate within the boundaries the major social networking sites, advocates of these smaller platforms are tapping into more targeted audiences. Apart from growing their B2B leads database, the latter group of markets also uses sector-specific communities as a low-cost source of information, brand recognition media, customer service extension, and market research facilities.

To help you experience the full benefit of industry-specific online communities, apply these five tips in your own campaign:

1. Study the community first.
After finding a community to engage in, you have to carefully study and observe that particular network before joining. Determine if the community is very active and is managed properly. Get to know the members and subgroups. Find out what they’re already talking about and look for questions or discussions that you can start from.

2. Be a true expert.
When joining a community, the last thing you want is being labeled a spammer. That’s why you should demonstrate your expertise by addressing issues that your target prospects are tackling and which you can also intelligently talk about. Always think about what value you can bring to the table first before you think about building your B2B leads database or promoting your brand.

3. Focus on fans, not followers.
While the number of followers gives you some kind of yardstick for the amount of fresh leads you can generate or the potential size of your branding audience in that community, those people who truly interact and respond matter even more. For example, the number of followers who are very active in commenting or responding to your blog posts is more important than how many blog followers you have.

4. Show your personality.
Aside from your expertise, the people in the niche-specific community you’re in will likely look for the unique character that is represented in your content. You should find your voice and stick to it. This builds identity which in turn establishes trust.

5. Invest quality time.
You should go beyond the idea that online communities are simply sites for B2B leads to hang out in. Participating in communities take time and effort. Building B2B leads database, brand recognition, and market research/study may take a while to accomplish through online communities. That’s why you have to consider the time element in deciding to use sector-specific online communities in your campaign.

As with any other B2B marketing channel, participating in niche-specific online communities will require you to deliver value and demonstrate expertise before you can expect to generate fresh leads. Value and expertise are the incentives you give your co-members in engaging with you. In your own experience (personal or work-related), which communities are you a member of? As a member of such communities, what benefits encouraged you to actively connect with others there?