I'm pretty sure the fact that I still use forums dates me, but hey they're still a useful tool when it comes to business.
Think of a forum as one of the original social networks. They afford the opportunity to come together with like-minded individuals for some pretty in-depth conversations.
forums plural of fo∙rum (none) 1. A meeting or medium where ideas and view on a particular issue can be exchanged. 2. An internet message board
1. Forums are Niche
Sure there are forums that are wide reaching, but the majority of forums are specific to an industry, topic (photography, motherhood, business), group. Which leads us to:
2. Get backlinks from relevant websites
Getting back links is good for Search Engine Optimization. One advantage to being a forum member is the ability to create a signature that links back to your website. There may also be a minimum requirement of posts before you can add a signature. Each forum is different. Some have a no-follow rule (tells Google not to follow the link), you'll need to check the forums terms of service to see how they handle back-links.
3. Pick a Good Username
Try to avoid names like PinkyStar8047. Especially if it's a business forum. Consider using your business or your real name. And be sure to add an avatar. Other users are more likely to interact with you vs. a logo. That being said, a logo is still fine just make sure you take the time to re-size it and that it identifies with your brand.
4. Introduce Yourself
Most forums have a thread that allows you to introduce yourself to the other members. Take advantage of this as the more active members will generally take the time to welcome you. Let them know what that your goal is to contribute to the community. Don't try to sell anything here. It will get you banned.
5. Observe the Natives
Don't be "that guy", the one who jumps in to a conversation simply to get several posts so you can add your signature. See how the other members interact with one another to better understand the community you joined. It will help you figure out who the influential members are and allow you to fit in faster.
6. Give to get
Don't just be a lurker. The more involved you are the better the community is as a whole. You get to build relationships all while promoting your business. Win/Win.
When you're ready to make the leap look for forums that are active or overrun with spam. Of note: Try to avoid one hosted by a competitor. Even if you decide not to do the whole forum marketing thing, forums are worth considering for market research. You can find a wealth of information ranging from customer satisfaction to areas in the marketplace that need to be filled.
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