Follow these 10 tips to get the most out of the business.com community.
During the last several years, the business.com community has evolved into an immersive virtual space connecting more than 198,000 small business (or SMB) professionals. Our community is all too familiar with the fact that business professionals must dig for answers to their specific questions. The helpful and unique information they need isn't available just anywhere.
The business.com community provides relevant and trustworthy information to small business owners. That's because we went directly to the source for that information: successful small business professionals. Requesting advice from seasoned SMB professionals, who have themselves been in the shoes of many of our members, is the most efficient way to get to the truth.
The business.com community is made up of real people with a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, interests and stories to share. We like to believe that we can help you find an answer to any question you may have. There are steps you can take to maximize your time within that community. Follow these 10 tips to get the most out of our community.
1. Familiarize yourself with features.
Explore. Clicking around the various portals within the business.com community will unveil things that interest you and possibly features you've never seen before. So, once you sign up, take a minute to check out a few things before you drop a question in the forums.
- Search the Expert Advice archives. Poke around our Expert Advice Q&A boards and you may find questions asked and answered by the business.com community that overlap with your own question.
- Use the direct messaging tool. If you find a post that answers your question, you can reach out to the community member who provided the best advice by clicking on their profile and sending them a direct message.
- Search our collection of articles. By browsing the collection of business.com exclusive content, you may find an entire article about your question. Our articles come from SMB expert community members or from our in-house editorial team.
- Become an expert contributor. Our contributor program is free to community members and reserved for experts in the small and midsize business environment.
2. Complete your community profile.
Members who take the time to complete their community profile tend to receive higher engagement on their posts. The single most important thing you can do is upload a profile picture. Users are more likely to respond to a welcoming and friendly face. You should also include information about your professional background, your business or company, your geographic location and other key details so that others can take context clues to answer your question appropriately.
3. Learn by example.
Check out the most answered questions on our Q&A boards. This will give you a good idea of what types of posts see success and what you might want to avoid. After browsing various threads, you will notice that the most popular question posts have these things in common:
- They are posted in the appropriate categories. Choosing the correct category and subcategory for your question will help ensure that the right people see and respond to it. It's important to think about what category your question should appear in, not just what industry your company belongs to. For example, you might be a technology-based company asking a question about invoicing software. To get the most informed answers, you'll want to post your question in the Finance and Money category rather than in the Technology and Multimedia category. Other categories you can post in are Management and Operations, Marketing, and General.
- They are clear and concise yet informative. Provide enough detail to allow our experts to appropriately answer your question. Keep in mind that other members have no insight into your company's background or history. By providing key details about your situation, you increase your chances of receiving a helpful response. For example, if you are asking how to best market your company, you will want to include what your company does, information about your current client base, what you have already tried, who your target audience is, etc.
- They use appropriate formatting and grammar. Posts that receive traction are easy to understand, include a description of at least 120 characters and use appropriate paragraph breaks every 2-5 sentences. The submission is split into two sections: question and description. The question portion should be phrased as a query and end with a question mark. It should be specific and succinct. The description lets you provide experts with enough detail to answer completely. Before you post, proofread your question and description for appropriate grammar and spelling. Grammatically correct questions also show the business.com team that you took the time to contribute thoughtful content, and we will be more likely to promote your question.
- They use strategic wording. By using search-friendly keywords in your post, you increase its visibility. That's because other users will search the Q&As by keyword. For the same reason, leave out words or abbreviations that are specific to your company. Can't decide between two words or phrases? Check out Google Trends. There you can search a phrase like "quarterly report" and compare the search density on Google with "financial results." If it does well on Google, it's likely to also rank well on business.com.
4. Understand and follow the guidelines.
The business.com community is specifically designed for small business professionals and service providers. We are not the destination to talk about religion, politics or the latest fashion. If you post a question that falls outside the realm of business, it is likely to be left unanswered or even removed by community moderators.
The community guidelines are in place to keep our Q&A boards focused, clean and valuable to our users. Following the guidelines will help your question gain more engagement and solicit legitimate advice. A good question meets the following requirements:
- Do ask a question with a significant detail.
- Do ask a business-related question.
- Do ask an open-ended question.
- Don't post a hiring inquiry.
- Don't ask the same question twice.
- Don't be overly self-promotional.
5. Know the best time to post.
There is no golden answer to "when is the best time to post this question?" But there are certain times of day and days of the week that result in more engagement from followers. These are some trends we've noticed:
- Activity is at its highest at the very beginning and very end of every month.
- Activity is at its highest during typical North American work hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
- Most questions are posted on Tuesdays.
- Most questions are answered on Thursdays.
- Saturdays, Sundays and holidays have the lowest engagement.
A good way to ensure your post is receiving the highest possible visibility is to share it on your social feeds. To make that easier for you, we've included buttons on almost every community-based feature that allow you to share content to your connected LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter feeds with just one click.
6. Engage with other posts besides your own.
To increase your overall visibility, it is important to actively participate in discussion threads other than your own. Each answer or comment that you leave on the discussion boards links back to and is tracked within your community profile. You might even earn a badge or two along the way.
If another user explores your profile and clicks on your Activity tab, you'll want it to reflect your level or participation and loyalty to the community. The more your name and avatar appear on the Q&A boards, the more familiar you become to other members, which ultimately entices others to join in on your discussions.
Plus, if you are signed up with an Expert account, higher levels of engagement will boost your ranking in our Expert Search directory.
7. Respond to any and all advice you receive.
Respond to all feedback and advice that community members leave on your posts, even if it is not the exact answer you wanted. That little profile icon next to each answer is a real person who took time out of their day to share their expertise. By responding, you are showing your appreciation for their insight, increasing your chances of hearing from them again and making them feel heard. It will help you build a relationship with that member should you ever need to reach out for additional support.
By acknowledging members on your thread, you create a welcoming environment and encourage other members to join in on the discussion. The business.com community features upvoting (and downvoting) for any responses. When you click the thumbs-up, you've quickly and easily acknowledged someone's feedback. When you upvote an answer or a comment, it will move higher up on the thread, which is a great way to show your support for those who helped you.
8. Always be respectful.
If the internet has taught us anything, it's that people disagree. Differing opinions can lead to a flare of emotions. The great thing about the Q&A boards on business.com is that there are no right or wrong answers. Every user responds with their personal experiences and insights, which helps show a wide variety of perspectives. But that doesn't mean just anything goes.
As in all things, treat others as you wish to be treated. Be polite and respect others' opinions, even if you disagree. Community members post questions to seek advice from people all over the world, from various backgrounds and different experiences, because their issues are unique and deserve original thought to find the right answer.
Our community manager does moderate the discussions, but that doesn't mean they are in all threads at the same time. If you notice anything that is clearly inappropriate, please flag it for the community manager using the Report button, which is on the lower right side of any post.
It is very common for a member to seek the support of the community when they are experiencing a frustrating, troublesome or upsetting experience professionally. While the business.com community is a great resource for seeking advice, we ask that you leave out any bashing, negativity and trash talk regarding any third parties that might be involved.
9. Understand who to contact for help.
While we strive to be as user-friendly as humanly possible, sometimes technology breaks. Should you run into any technical issues or have any questions about our program, you can rely on our community manager. It's as easy as clicking on that person's profile and using the direct messaging tool to contact them. We also encourage you to message them if you're simply looking for tips and tricks on how to best use the community.
Alternatively, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the appropriate route to take if you are experiencing a technical issue that might require sharing screenshots. The direct messaging tool does not support image sharing.
10. Think of the business.com community like your own online professional neighborhood.
There's something for everyone, from mom-and-pop shops on Main Street to large corporations with headquarters in every major city, in our community. Take it from our CEO, Doug Llewellyn:
"Our mission is to help the owners of small and medium-sized businesses grow and thrive, but we think 'small' is a misnomer. Entrepreneurs today need to think big, and yet often they just don't have the big budgets or extensive personal networks to get it done. That's why so many people rely on our vibrant community of business owners, marketers, and sales specialists to connect them to the right experts, the right resources, and the right opportunities. By serving as a small business decision engine, we can empower these businesses to succeed and help rebuild Main Street."