Before social media, what was the best social tool online for promoting a new product or website? Of course it was forums. Before social networks, forums were the only place where you could really have a group discussion about your hobby of choice and get an immediate response. Back then every site pretty much had a forum and it was a goldmine for marketers hoping to spread their message.
Today though, forums are much less common. Most sites rely on their comments sections in order to generate that community spirit, while the real discussion takes place on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Forums are much rarer to come by, and most people you speak to won’t be regular posters on any forums at all. Social media simply fulfils all their needs for online discussion…
But don’t be fooled into thinking that forums have completely lost their value, or that they can’t benefit you and your business in any way. For in fact, forums are actually just as powerful when it comes to spreading word of a new product or website as they ever were. Sure, they tend to be smaller and fewer in number, but that just means that the people who do post there are all the more dedicated. Find a popular forum and you will have found a hive of highly enthusiastic fans who will probably post there on a daily basis and who will gobble up any information they can on that particular niche. These people will probably know each other well, and will probably be highly passionate about the topic they’re discussing. Thus if they see a link they like, they will be far more likely to discuss it in depth, to share it around the web and to give it tons of free promotion – that’s what passion does.
How to Use Forums
In theory then, this is an incredibly powerful tool for promotion, but that’s not necessarily the experience you’ll have had if you’ve ever tried using one. What’s much more likely to happen is that you’ll post your message and link on the forum, wait for a few days, and get 0 responses when you come back to check. Frustrated you’ll ‘bump’ the message back up to the top… and then it will get deleted.
So what are you doing wrong? How do you go about making these incredibly enthusiastic communities work for you?
The answer is to make sure you don’t just try and take from the community, but that you actually also give back as well. As I mentioned, many of these people will know each other almost as well as they know their friends in real life, and when one of them is trying to promote a new project they’ll rally together and provide them with a huge and completely free marketing push.
Your objective then, is to try and reach that status so that they consider you almost a friend and so that they’re happy and eager to help you when you start trying to promote something. This means putting a lot of time in up front to get yourself known and to build yourself a good reputation as someone who provides real value to the community.
What to Do
So for the first month or two, you shouldn’t even think about trying to promote anything. Instead, spend the time just enjoying the forum – even if it’s only for a few minutes each day. Maybe set a few of the forums to load first thing in the morning, then spend a few minutes posting on each one to start building your reputation and making friends. Likewise keep those pages book marked and if ever you come across something interesting (not your own!) share it with them to build the reputation of someone who posts high quality and useful links.
Because that’s essentially what the internet is for – connecting people and facilitating movements. Once you start using it that way it becomes incredibly powerful. Now tell them about your new project and you’ll find that those communities fall head-over-heels to help out and the effort will be more than worth it. This is worth a lot more than just one lousy link!
Dimitri Konchin is an active blogger who enjoys sharing his personal and professional experiences online. He works as a VP of Technology at Wisdek, a company providing video marketing services. Visit Wisdek.ca/ to know more about his work. You can follow his team on Twitter or Google+.