Host Your Own Forums
Can you name one of the biggest complaints for almost any product? Bad instructions for using it. It's one of the great mysteries of the ages why user manuals are so terrible. Consider emulating the example of Adafruit Industries.
Adafruit caters to electronics enthusiasts with a large line of products related to the Arduino electronics platform. Arduino is an open hardware platform that is very flexible for multitudes of uses, such as home automation, robots, 3D printing, programmable signs, wearable electronics, and a whole lot more.
Adafruit doesn't just dump this stuff on the market and call it a day; it also publishes extensive tutorials, and the company is very beginner-friendly. Another similar retailer that does this well is Sparkfun Electronics.
The possibilities for your own business are limited only by your imagination. Never assume your customers already know everything they need to know, because they don't. If you sell barbecue grills, then teach recipes and cooking techniques. If you sell sewing machines, then teach specific projects and cool fancy stitches. And so on...enthusiasm, creativity, and a genuine love of what you're doing are powerful and contagious.
The Power of YouTube
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a teaching video is invaluable. YouTube and Vimeo are the two top sites for free video sharing. EverythingAttachments.com sells skid steer, excavator, and tractor attachments, and its video how-to library demonstrates a brilliant use of YouTube to show people how to use their products.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to make great videos. Just make sure
- They are well lit
- They have lots of good close-ups
- The audio is clear
- They have a uniform volume throughout
- that your speaker can talk clearly and to the point
Twitter Pulls it All Together
Twitter is a different kind of social media site. You're limited to 140 characters per message, and while hyperlinks are automatically shortened, they still count towards your total character limit. On Twitter you accumulate a list of followers who receive your tweets, and you should also build your own list of interesting, pertinent people to follow.
As with any forum or social site, you'll shoot yourself down if you're all give and no take, so budget time to participate and build relationships. You can have conversations on Twitter, as Figure 3 shows.
Figure 3: Answering a reader's question about an article I wrote.
You get extra reach on Twitter, beyond collecting your own vast herd of followers (though that is important), with canny use of hashtags. Hashtags are how you reach people interested in a particular topic. For example, a lot of my articles are about Linux, so I use the #linux hashtag because this exposes my Tweets to a whole lot of people who are not my followers. It's easy to search for potential hashtags by clicking the #Discover link at the top of every Twitter page.
Twitter is a great general-purpose announcement medium that ties together everything in this article: you can tweet about new tutorials or videos, product releases, sales and updates on your Facebook page.
Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook,and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She's the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.
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