With all of the talk around social networks these days, I thought we should take a look at some of the other dynamic places where people congregate and communicate. Not Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter, but some online locations that are a bit simpler, and perhaps off the radar screen.
Lest you think these ideas I’m about to share are little, random, obscure places, some very significant players roam these communities and sponsor them. No, they are not social networks, but they provide some of the same experiences. You get to interact with others and share your expertise.
Some might call these spots Community Forums. Chautauqua is another example. Bulletin boards might be another name you’ve heard. These were the early players in the “social networking” phenomena and they built their reputations and participation around engagement.
Some are going to argue with me here that these forums are not social networks at all, but let’s boil down what a social network is – a place where friends and colleagues gather, share ideas, links, updates… And now, photos, video, audio, slideshows. Here are three that I like, in order:
- OPEN Forum by American Express
- Business Exchange by BusinessWeek
- Small Business Online Community by Bank of America
Each of them has experts (you could become one if you wanted). Each of them is building, and has built, a repository of solid articles and commentary and ideas that help the business owner.
OPEN Forum has some well known names: Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Anita Campbell, and John Jantsch, just to name a few. The only one I do not know personally is Seth, but I know the others get a lot of value out of their connection to OPEN.
I’ve gone in and commented, started conversations online and sometimes offline (why don’t we call it the real world anymore? – we say offline…). The big difference I see is that the sponsoring organizations foster, and sometimes pay for (in the old media model) solid content. So you can get really good advice in these forums. You can spend time in one of these forums and walk out with an idea that you can make money with… Sometimes, you walk out with a connection that becomes a prospect and then a sale!
TJ McCue is founder of the Sales Rescue Team and a content guy at Q4 Sales. He writes about online marketing, small business, and entrepreneurship. He welcomes your comments here or by email or with a Twitter Follow.