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Free Marketing: 101 Low and No-Cost Ways to Grow Your Business, Online and Off by Jim Cockrum

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CHAPTER 9

A COMMUNITY SITE BUILDS YOUR AUDIENCE AND INCREASES LOYALTY

One of the most powerful websites you can invest your time and energy into is one that you probably don't even have to build yourself when you are first starting out. Once your audience is more established, though, you'll have to strongly consider having a community page of your own. This could be anything from a Facebook fan page, to a thriving multi-department forum/discussion board, or even a free ning.com community site.

A community page is where your customers can gather and ideally discuss with each other and with you the issues, concerns, and helpful tips regarding products and ideas related to your business. It isn't always possible to have an active, targeted discussion forum if there isn't significant niche interest, but if you can succeed in establishing an active community online you'll enjoy rich benefits.

The start of the process in establishing such a forum is identifying the personas (or multiple personas) of your typical client base. Are they young or old? Are they male or female? What income, education, and hobbies might they have? Identifying these target traits will help you narrow down your search and will help make your marketing efforts as targeted as possible. Once you know who it is you are looking for, you can then go hang out online where they hang out. By using tact, being helpful, and establishing trust (this all can take some time), you'll earn the right to be followed.

I encourage ...

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