The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.
Forum Posting - Is it Worth the Effort?
Published on Oct 29, 2012
Read 'Forum Posting - Is it Worth the Effort?' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
By Adam Toren
You’ve found a forum or two that are relevant to your product or service. Postings are frequent and the atmosphere is lively, if sometimes a bit contentious. Popular forums can sometimes seem intimidating but in fact they’re no different than any other social organization. Well, maybe they’re a little different. People are often braver and more opinionated than usual behind the safety of their computer screens. Should you venture forth and register? Should you post regularly and become a part of an online community? Is it really worth the effort from a marketing perspective?
Your Time Is Precious
If time equals money and money equals freedom, are you sacrificing your independence by spending valuable time reading and responding to usually anonymous Internet posts? After all, every minute you spend in an online forum is a minute you could be spending improving your brick-and-mortar business, focusing on traditional marketing techniques, or developing your relationships with current and future customers. The truth is that relevant forums offer a great deal of potential value to your business. Forums are not only a way to attract new customers and network, but also a fantastic source of applicable information and an effective way to forecast market trends.
Online forums are a distilled location for like-minded individuals to gather and discuss shared interests and opportunities. For younger entrepreneurs especially, it’s hard to remember a pre-Internet world where it was difficult for many people to find such a gathering place. Now, minds can unite from all corners of the globe and form a true community. Online forums are truly a way to give power back to the people. By actively engaging with the masses, you can humanize your business and demonstrate that you actually care about consumer needs. You’d be doing your business a disservice if you were to ignore such an opportunity.
Forums are a great place to perform free market research. People are eager to share their opinions, usually bluntly. If you pay attention, you can start to notice common requests, complaints, and trends. Additionally, enthusiastic forum posters are often incredibly well informed and full of valuable information. It may take some time to filter through unhelpful posts and find those diamonds in the rough, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with loads of useful facts and figures that can contribute to your success.
Don’t Come Out Swinging
If you’re planning to sell your product or service in a forum, don’t rush in and try to make sales in your first post. This kind of behavior will be seen as too aggressive and you may even be banned from the forum. Remember, you want to be seen as a helpful member of the community, not a forceful know-it-all out to make a buck. Draw on your sales experience and apply it to your forum posting. You wouldn’t come out selling in person without first building a solid connection with the customer. Don’t do it online either.
Build Your Reputation
Instead, focus on building your reputation by making quality posts. Answer questions with reliable answers and even ask a few questions of your own. Get to know other regular posters and relate to them on a personal level. You can start to position yourself as a friendly, helpful expert. Many forums will allow you to list a link to your website in your member signature. Let interested and curious customers come to you after you’ve proved yourself as a gracious authority figure. You can get targeted traffic without any direct selling.
Don’t Get Dragged Into the Dirt
Don’t make the mistake of getting into petty arguments with other posters. You will encounter mean-spirited people and trivial quarrels. Stay above these flame wars and don’t succumb to any kind of baiting. If you have a point to make, make it firmly and succinctly, but don’t waste time needlessly bickering. The other members of the community are watching, and they will respect posters who don’t buy into the clamor.
Don’t neglect forum posting when considering your marketing options. Not only can it be effective for publicity purposes, if you find a great community, you’ll learn some new tricks and even make some new friends.