Business networking groups and online forums can be an effective way to get your marketing message out to other small business owners. In South Africa, there are a number of groups which meet regularly.
All of the groups have some form of online presence. They generally require you to create a user profile so that you can post text and images to the site.
Here are the ones I have personal experience with:
Inner Circle meetings are held regularly in Johannesburg, Midrand and Pretoria. They focus on finding synergies between businesses, and help to set up strategic alliances or joint ventures between business owners. Meetings generally attract 20 to 30 people. There is a R100 charge per meeting. The online presence is a Ning social media site, with around 900 members. Highly recommended.
SA Business Hub/Majestic Coffee Groups
Majestic, in association with SA Business Hub, coordinates regular coffee group meetings throughout the country, where business owners meet to discuss their challenges and work together to become financially sustainable. Attendance is free. There are usually between 6 and 12 people at a meeting. There is a sort of online presence at MajesticInteractive, but all it lets you do is publish “informative and educational” articles, without links.
Networking Johannesburg Meetup Group
This group meets twice a month at Cresta Shopping Mall. It’s free, and the membership is steadily increasing. Sign up on the Meetup.com website, or go to https://www.facebook.com/NetworkingJohannesburg. IdealMedia sponsors this group.
TheForum is a free forum for business owners. Fairly active, with 297 signed-up members. You need to be a member to post, but you can read most of the forums without signing up.
Business Warriors is Peter Carruthers’ paid membership site. The forum is lively and interesting. The paid structure means that people are more willing to speak their minds.
Social Networking sites
A high traffic international social network for small business owners. Plenty of South Africans here. There is a 3-tier membership structure – free, Power Networker and Blackstar.
Another South African Ning-based social networking site. 143 members.
Of course, the ‘traditional’ social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc let you contact people based on their location.
If you are in any kind of B2B enterprise, you should at the very least visit the websites I’ve listed above. The contacts you make can be invaluable.