In the old days (which were not too long ago but with the speed everything is changing is sure seems that way) you could find `your crowd’ in certain physical venues – pubs, art galleries, theater halls, sports stadiums, concerts – depending on what your likes and interest were. Generally, they were people who had similar cultural and economic backgrounds.
All that changed with fast, wide-spread internet. First of all, finding the crowd that suits you best no longer requires you to leave your apartment – or put on pants for that matter. The digital revolution has made it possible for individuals from all over the globe to get together in the virtual space and share common ideas, passions and interests.
The power of online communities
Because of the Great Recession of 2008, the New Economy emerged and that lead to a spectacular boom of e-commerce. Even so, sellers still need to provide customer support, provide added value to their products and conduct marketing research to have a relevant feel of the market.
Since online communities are perfectly suited to meet all these commercial needs, all retailers, big and small are seeking to leverage the potential of these digital gatherings of existing and potential customers. Their power to disseminate information and figures, set trends and attract attention on a certain item or service is something to be reckoned with and marketers need to get on board.
If in the old days (and now I really do mean old-old) there were a handful of opinion makers in a geographical community and whoever had better speaking skills and charisma would manage to pretty much shape the way most members of that community regarded an issue, today it’s how well established groups think as a whole that sets the tone.
A quest for authenticity
If you are marketing your own online course, promoting it to the online communities you find it suited for should be fairly easy. First of all because the users in these communities look for a sense of authenticity. Since it’s your material, you clearly believe in it, are passionate about the subject and can carry out conversations about it.
Large retailers of products and services spend big amounts to hire communication experts that can make them sound genuinely friendly and interested in what their customers need and want. You don’t need any small or big investment to sound and act like yourself and you can easily become an accepted and active member of the community holding your target audience.
It’s important that you are honest about your presence and purpose in that community – being an entrepreneur is usually encouraged in these groups so it’s not only safe to present yourself in that way, it’s also highly advisable.
A taste for exclusivity
Being a member of clubs not anyone could get into has always had immense appeal for people — whether it’s about fancy restaurants, country clubs, big ‘secret’ organizations or small private events. The majority of online communities have some admittance rules, mostly one has to read the bylaws and agree to them but there are some that also require you to answer some questions or even write something resembling an application.
The point is that individuals in online communities have a sense of belonging to that group so when you start marketing something to them, your proposal will go a much longer way if you offer something exclusive (and, of course, valuable) to the individuals it that group.
It may be a discount, some additional materials (like a guide or a whitepaper that not everyone else gets) or, if you can reach an agreement with the group administrators, it can be a special digital badge or a spot on a custom leaderboard.
An interest in social responsibility
Individuals who willingly enter online communities are usually motivated by similar things. As a result, whenever a social call appears, people rally rather quickly and in a highly effective manner.
Groups of moms will immediately jump at the opportunity to help other moms who find themselves in need, environmentalists will have no issues getting organized and moving to clean and sanitize some physical location that needs that, pet lovers will find solutions for bringing any furry creature to safety and so on.
If you are looking for a big boost in sales where your course is concerned, put it (and yourself) in the service of the cause that is most relevant to the online community. Donating a small percentage of what you are charging towards what they care about will not only get you a lot of people on board but also establish you as a valuable member and give you the opportunity of long-term collaboration. All my female friends born in March, April and May received handmade soap for their birthdays simply because the manufacturer donated 20% of the earnings to my local dog shelter. Also, she soap was really qualitative and nice looking.
Online communities are all about the sharing of information, supporting and growing together. They represent the ideal location for promoting online learning so if you have a course to sell, start joining them.
Raluca Cristescu has over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.