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Are You Building Online Customer Communities?

The Small Business Answer Man™ Jim Blasingame answers your questions.

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This story appears in the October 2009 issue of Start Up.

Q: What's the difference between and , and how do I apply them in my new ?

A: The terms basically refer to the same thing, which is the practice of connecting with others within a , usually online. But if you think about it, social media is a misnomer in that it's really the that makes online community building possible. And isn't "social networking" redundant?

For these reasons, and because the word "social" doesn't seem appropriate when trying to create a return on investment of time and resources, I think the business application for this activity should really be called "building online customer communities."

You should definitely be building online customer communities, not only on the public sites like Facebook and Twitter, but also on your own platforms, over which you will have more control. In the future, more customers will find and connect with you through these channels than through traditional marketing and advertising.

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