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Community building

Some website owners try to build up a community of online users through the development of online chat rooms, discussion groups and online events. Such groups encourage users to feel part of the site by posting their own information and responding to other users.

From an e-marketing perspective such communities of users offer two important attractions. The communities:

* Are usually built around a specific topic or interest, so if this matches an area you are seeking to promote then you have access to a highly targeted group
* Feel part of the site and therefore users are likely to return on a frequent basis

Marketing opportunities

There are different ways in which you can seek to utilise online communities for your own marketing purposes.

* If you operate in a specialist field, then you could consider setting up your own user forum or online community for other people with similar interests. Users generally value both the information and the social bonding they receive from such a community. The business that builds the community can present products and messages that are customised to the group's interests, forging relationships with the individual members in the process.

* If there is already a well established user community in your area of business, then you might wish to consider joining it and using it as a means of making other users aware of the products or services that you offer.

While consumer communities are the most visible, you should note that business professionals also subscribe to discussion groups that focus upon their own particular field. Communities can, therefore, be used to enhance relationships with customers and prospects in both the business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketplaces.