What marketing strategy would you recommend for popularizing a local online business that brings together a community (in this the case dog-owner and dog-lover communities)? We want to involve our visitors more but we would like to boost additional channels from our blog. Would you be willing to give us an example of other out-of-the-box approaches like organizing games or contests, etc.?

Rustin Necessary, San Antonio Dog Life,



Developing a community for an online business can be very powerful but also very challenging. A community requires involvement from both you and your visitors. To develop the community, you need to not only share outward — such as a blog — but have your visitors share ideas and experiences that will draw in others with like interests.

To start you need to understand what is important to your visitors. What is the information or content that will draw them into becoming involved? A survey of your visitors and partners can help you understand what is important to them and what would encourage them to participate. Working in collaboration with a local university or an online survey are quick ways to start. Once you have an understanding of your visitors you can prioritize the ideas that you wish to implement.

Ideas to investigate are many, and your survey may provide more. They may include a weekly pet advice column with contributions from your partners and visitors, a photo contest and partner coupons with limited expiration dates. Using Facebook facilitates the quick exchange of this information.

Personal communication and word-of-mouth are key in getting people involved. Being active in community events that encourage pets and having giveaways will highlight your interest in developing a community of dog lovers. If there are not any events, you may think about sponsoring one, such as a doggy meet-and-greet at a dog park. Two-way communications can be encouraged through chat groups and using Twitter to help people locate lost pets.


About the author: Kathy Jenson, Participating Adjunct Faculty Marketing, University of St. Thomas, Opus College of Business