We all need advice from time to time and this is especially true for business owners. There are numerous challenges that need to be tackled on a regular basis, from staff to money to growth. Even if your business is doing well, dealing with these issues is simply the nature of owning a business.

Business owners also regularly need support and advice to keep taking the business to the next level. Feeling supported and able to reach out for help when needed, can be the difference between giving up or pushing forward at times in your business. As a small business owner (or an aspiring one), one of the greatest resources you want to take advantage of are online communities for small businesses.

Communities allow like-minded entrepreneurs to connect, share experiences, advice and tools to succeed in business. There are numerous advantages to being part of a community, here are my top four.

1.  Access to a wealth of information

You have all the information you might need in one place. All the communities provide key information from business planning and marketing to growth strategies and building a website. Almost all business related topics are covered in these communities and you have a free resource center with heaps of information to help you in any area of your business. You can learn the best practices, share, and receive advice from other small business owners who have faced similar challenges as you.

2.  Get the support you didn’t know you needed

It is important to surround yourself with people who will support and help you to get to the next level in your business. If you want good advice, listen to those who are where you want to be, those are the people who you want to take advice from. In the communities, you can reach out for support through the forums, posting questions and by participating in discussions. You might not think you need support, but when you feel supported, you will understand how valuable this is for your growth.

3.  Free marketing tool

Communities are also great marketing tools. When you join the community, take time to create a strong profile. Make sure that your information is clear and captivating to anyone reading it. Always include your website address, who you work with, and what solution you provide. Finding some potential clients would be great, but this shouldn’t be seen as the main objective. It’s just an added benefit.

4.  Build relationships and network

These types of communities are the hub for building relationships and networking for free. You can network with other small business owners and talk about your business and what you do. Networking allows you to generate leads and increase your business. Networking also opens up more opportunities for your business and you can build some great connections.

You will meet amazing people and you could even find the perfect joint venture partners to work with. Building relationships is key to success. No one succeeds completely alone.

Top Online Communities for Small Business

There are many online small business communities or even groups available for you to join. What might be best for you however, might not be the best for someone else. Before joining a community, take a look at a few and get a feel for what the community offers and if you like it.

Here are a few of the top online communities to get you started

Start Up Nation was founded by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. It is a free service so there is no charge to join. It is the top leading community for entrepreneurs and provides you with everything you need to know to grow your business.It has a wealth of forums, groups to join, articles to learn from, blogs, networking for members, and much more.

This amazing community provides you with guides, templates, videos, articles and information in all forms and a blog to share your ideas. They also have a group on LinkedIn where you can participate in discussions, share, and get advice on specific topics and connect.

The Small Business Bonfire is a smaller community, but it is top of my list. It is also a free community and you have access to amazing tools for small business owners which you definitely can’t get anywhere else. It also provides a forum, groups and networking. Other communities definitely worth checking out are:

  1. Partner UP – Social networking for small businesses.
  2. Entrepreneur.com - Everything you ever need to know in one stop, definitely worth checking out.

If none of the 5 communities provide you with what you are really looking for, why not get creative and build your own community? Building a community is definitely time consuming but there are so many benefits to you as a business owner that if you can do it, do it! You will need to be very active and provide high quality content, connect on the forums and keep the community growing. Communities don’t need to encompass everything from the beginning, rather view it is a place for like minded people to connect, share ideas, resources and learn from others. You can do this via a forum, a membership site or even a mastermind group to get you started. So what are you waiting for? If you feel like you could use some more support and guidance in your business, take the first step now and reach out to a community. If you know of other communities that should have been listed here… please share below! To your success!

Think your small business can’t grow in this economy?: How to Grow Your Small Business in Any Economy, Part 1

Featured photo credit: Cutout paper people on wooden table via Shutterstock

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