Knowing where to turn to for advice and support in your business can really make all the difference between success and failure. I know that may sound a bit strong for those who are looking at this statement from the outside. But as business owners, we see our fair share of ups and downs, questions, set-backs, and high learning curves. It’s the stuff that scares many aspiring entrepreneurs away. The minute they stick their toes in the water and it feels a bit chilly, they’re out in a flash.
Since most of us are spending a significant amount of time online, finding some supportive online communities to join seems like a no-brainer.
The irony is, however, that the Internet, which has the power to bring individuals together across tremendous physical and cultural divides, can sure feel lonely if you don’t know where to put yourself. There are so many conversations going on, yet it may be hard to find them or even know where to jump in once you do.
That said, the following are some great online communities and business groups for micro business owners to check out:
Many business owners may have some vague idea that Linkedin is a place where business connections happen, but they may not realize the full potential of LinkedIn for business knowledge, support, and advice. This is where LinkedIn Groups comes in. While there are many great groups to choose from, the following three provide a consistent flow of quality posts and discussion:
Small Business Accelerator– This is a great networking and information sharing group for entrepreneurs. You have to apply to join.
Small Business Online Community– An engaged online group for small business owners. Like the group above, you have to apply to join this group.
Social Media Marketing Networking Club– This group originally got it’s start on Social Media Examiner and has since moved over to LinkedIn. It’s one of the best LinkedIn groups there is for small business owners and has a very helpful, supportive community.
Google groups are a relatively recent addition to Google’s G+ social network. But, they are all abuzz if you know where to look. Here are my top three picks for small business owners:
Building a Company– Content and discussions around the nitty-gritty of building a business.
Entrepreneurs, Self-Employed, and Small Business– An active community for new and upcoming small business owners
Social Media Strategy– Active discussion on social media for small businesses and non-profits
Compared to the fast-paced flow of information and constant changes that have come to characterize social media, forums may seem like an old school tactic that has past its time. Not so! There are plenty of vibrant forums to turn to for advice and support. Here are my two top picks:
Open Forum– This well-known online community and forum is hosted by American Express. Ask and receive advice and keep up to date on the latest in small business news.
Small Business Brief– This forum has been around for a few years, and it still supports an active community
Business Blogs and Social Bookmarking
We can’t leave out business blogging communities and social bookmarking sites from this list. Many niche sites have an active and helpful following. The two best in my opinion are:
Firepole Marketing– “Marketing that works!” This blog has a very active, loyal, and cohesive following. It definitely pays to spend some time there not only to absorb the insights, but to learn from and connect with the other readers.
BizSugar– This is a social bookmarking site for small business news run by the same people behind Smallbiztrends.com, and it supports a pretty active community.
Last, but not least, one other option that I didn’t mention above is Facebook groups. The reason I’m not including examples here is due to the fact that you’ll be better off finding a smallish group on Facebook that is specifically targeted to your niche or interest. There offer a lot of potential engagement, though, so it pays to search around for something relevant and not spammy.
Now it’s your turn. Where do you hang out online for inspiration, support, and advice?