The concept of online communities is as strong today as it ever was. A user can literally find a community focused on just about any topic that interests them. While great for consumers who share like interests, these audiences are also quite valuable to savvy internet marketers. No matter your topic, it is very possible to create relationships that lead to members becoming customers and evangelists for your brand. Of course, making all that happen isn’t as easy as it sounds, so let’s talk about how you can use your e-marketing strategy to effectively target online communities.

Find a Place to Build Your Community

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are ideal for building online communities. After all, social media is immensely popular these days, so any site with a good number of users and lively activity would be perfect. Social media is a great option, but it is not your only option. Before MySpace showed us what a big future there was in the social web, e-marketers where already using blogs to build online communities. With an interesting topic, solid SEO practices and a commitment to posting updates on a regular basis, blogging can be a valuable asset in any e-marketing strategy, even on today’s socially charged World Wide Web.

Encourage User Generated Content

One of the most effective targeting strategies an e-marketer can employ is one that encourages their audience to generate content. Users love to be a part of the brand experience, and allowing them to create content will end up benefitting both sides. The user gets to have their say, whether by providing feedback through a survey or sharing a review, while the marketer can enjoy benefits that range from improving customer service to creating products their audience is more likely to buy. Whether it’s a blog, video site or photo sharing platform, rest assured that there are plenty of outlets you can use to get your communities to generate content.

Focus More on Relationships, and Less on Marketing

Ironically, the key to marketing to online communities with success is actually doing the least marketing as possible, at least in the traditional sense. Instead of overwhelming your audience with pitch after pitch, give them value beyond the unbelievable deals and special promotions. There are plenty of ways to provide a valuable service to your online community members aside from hardcore promotional tactics, starting with engaging them in dialogue. Put the focus on building relationships and all the fruits of marketing will follow.

There are several online communities out there, and lucky for you, all the good ones are established with a flock of people, fine tuned and ready to go. Regardless of how much potential there is, whether or not you make the most of these opportunities is all up to you. Is your e-marketing strategy geared for targeting online communities?


by Denise Keller

Denise Keller is CFO and founding partner of Benchmark Email and a passionate philanthropist who has raised money for fresh water wells in Africa, grief counseling for needy children and a variety of other causes. A former accountant and an accomplished expert on enterprises, Keller showed solid business acumen at just 10 years old, when she started an arts and crafts babysitting service called “Daytime Playtime.” These days, you’ll find her detailing her newfound passion for Lean and the successes and tribulations as we make Benchmark a lean company.