Trendsetters, forward-thinkers, believers of the unbelievable that have erected and supported digital families in the social media world — I applaud you. But, I feel there is a true threat on the horizon. Not one of malicious intent, but one compounded on ignorance and newbie-ism.
As advertising campaigns attack social media in recent years, forums have experienced a boom in exposure and subsequently a sharp rise in new registrations. The increase is partially due to good marketing on the forums’ part, but also due to blinded ‘SEO professionals’ and anti-social ‘Social Media Professionals’ attempting to join forums for self-serving purposes, not to help the communities as a whole. Grounds for a swift kick in the tookus.
My research has indicated, time and time again, that the quality of content on forums is being diminished as an increased number of users sign-up and covertly market products/services behind a facade, which is unfortunate. Being an old school forum dude from the 90’s, someone with 50,000+ posts on a variety of forums, a person that has invested over $100,000 in forum advertisements for businesses over the years, and most importantly a marketing professional that has converted $1,000,000+ in sales from forum marketing, I hope that you will trust the tips I am about to list below.
Building a repertoire
Social media marketing via forums should never mention sales in any way. You should be on a forum to provide a fresh perspective on topics and nothing more. Once you have built a repertoire, business will follow. Nowadays forum marketers have the concept totally backwards and approach forums to make money; that’s it. Seasoned board members see a newbie from a mile away, and the person dropping their company name after only 2 posts on a forum is a red flag. Does this happen often? You bet. How effective is it? Epic failure.
Respectful, accurate forum interactions
When participating in forum discussions one must follow a slight variation of what your parents told you as a kid: If you can’t say anything helpful or positive, don’t say anything at all. There will always be space cadets that respond to threads with inaccurate information or sarcastic elementary comments and it irks me to the fullest. Over the years I have flame broiled a variety of board members for spreading misinformation or for simply acting like a royal $%#&*#@ on the board. To effectively market with forums you — as a social media marketer — must be familiar with the forum topics at hand.
The absolute best way to makes sales on a forum is to, ironically, not make sales at all. People are on forums to communicate and learn, not to have products pushed in their face. Remember that and you will survive the rocky social terrain.
Forum sponsorships + banner advertisements
If you feel compelled to advertise your business on a forum, the proper way is to become a sponsor (aka advertiser). This allows for a banner ad and special posting privileges. Additionally, most forums allow sponsors to post banners in their signature, which is attached to every post (or the first post in a thread), as well as links to products on one’s own site. Forum sponsorships range anywhere from $75 to $1,000 per month and I can assure you they pay off if done properly.
In conclusion, I feel that forum marketing is an important part of social media marketing but is not the end all be all. An effective social media campaign requires a blend of forum marketing, blog marketing, social networking, social bookmarking and a variety of other efforts. Understanding forum politics is a stepping stone to success but by no means a road map.
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