An online business community is a digital space, like a forum or social network, that connects business leaders and entrepreneurs to share knowledge. LinkedIn is by far the best-known and largest professional community, followed closely to the Stack Overflow network, which has separate networks divided by industry. Other online business communities provide a far more exclusive experience. Some are exclusive to a specific business, while others connect groups of companies in the same industry. But whatever the size and sector of the community, these online venues can yield many new and exciting opportunities to members, as well as to the organisations behind them.

Here are some key benefits of starting your own online business community:

#1. Learn from industry experts

The sheer enormity of networks like LinkedIn make it difficult to build valuable relationships beyond searching for potential employees or clients. The groups on such social networks often offer little value either, since many of them are wide open to the public and have far too many members (including no small number of spammers). By starting your own community, you’re in control. This means you’ll be better placed to develop a more exclusive experience driven by a stronger sense of purpose. Instead of spending hours trying to locate and connect with industry experts, you’ll be able to exchange knowledge and learn from the best in your field.

#2. Share your knowledge

Whether you create your own business community or join an existing one, having an outlet to share your industry knowledge and experience helps build authority. In the B2B space, this is crucial for creating trust among your target audience and establishing yourself as an expert in your niche. The more effort you put in, the more you get back in the form of insightful debate and perhaps even some promising leads too. If, for example, you notice someone needs help with an issue you’ve encountered before, you can assist them and, in doing so, increase your chances of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.

#3. Gain referrals from your online business community

Word of mouth recommendations have been a driving force of good business since the birth of modern commerce. In B2B sectors, referrals are even more important, not least because the transactions tend to be much larger than in B2C, making trust a top priority among potential clients. By creating your own community and getting industry experts and leaders of other businesses involved, you can build an effective referral network among your peers. There may be times, for example, when a member of the community cannot accommodate the needs of a particular client. But, instead of turning them away, they might be able to refer them to another member of the community.

#4. Generate the next great ideas

As a knowledge-sharing resource that brings people with shared interests together, an online business community is the perfect platform for product ideation. After all, not many successful startups and innovative products are conceived by a single loner with a great idea. Most of the time, they’re a product of ideation communities. By talking with other industry experts, people can bring new ideas to the table and brainstorm together. That’s exactly how many of the most successful and innovative modern companies came to be – from networking and relationships born of powerful online communities.

#5. Market your services

People tend to frown on companies marketing their products and services in online business communities, and in many cases it’s against the rules. But with your own business community, it will be your brand at the centre stage. Even without taking any active steps to market your products or services through your community, it will become a valuable service in its own right by helping build trust and awareness in the organisation at large. Also, with your own community, there’s nothing stopping you from monetising your efforts by offering paid subscription plans or even selling your products or services directly through the community platform.

#6. Stay motivated

As we’ve seen, most successful enterprises are a product of great teamwork. It’s the ability to stay inspired and motivated that keeps most entrepreneurs going, particularly when facing the constant threat of burnout. By checking in with an online business community of your own, you’ll start to feel a sense of empowerment and belonging. If your community offers genuine value, then your members will start to feel the same. Also, by getting to see all the exciting new developments in their fields, community leaders and members alike can learn from and be motivated by the success of others.

Disciple social spaces help brands enjoy all the benefits of community with an independent, valuable, and trusted platform in a safe space that they own and control. Start building your brand community by telling us about your community goals.