There are many different reasons why forum participation should be a part of your overall marketing strategy. Some of the benefits are direct benefits. A direct benefit would be someone liking what you posted and following the link in your forum signature to go and buy your product or service on your web site. Some of the benefits are indirect benefits. Indirect benefits would be an extension of building your authority online and when someone needs a particular service someone else knows “just the person for the job.”
There are also many personal benefits, like building friendships and a sense of belonging. The list below is a compilation of examples of these types of benefits, as “reasons” to add forum participation to YOUR strategy.
1. Brand Awareness
One of the key marketing benefits of forum participation is brand awareness. Remember, even if you are an entrepreneur, you still have a brand and that brand is YOU! So, whether it is a company, a client, or you, define the brand that you are promoting and enhance your forum profile to reflect that brand. Include the brand motto in your signature, so that people can start to associate your brand with your expertise (reflected through your forum posts). Hopefully your motto is concise and catchy and reflects what you are “selling.” Remember, you don’t want to include a sales letter in your forum profile. That would be, uh, tacky. Instead, ensure that you maintain the appropriate professionalism that reflects your brand quality.
How-To: When possible, include your logo and brand name in your forum signature.
2. Opportunity to Build Your Authority/Credibility
This is where the real “guts” of the actual forum participation comes into play. This is your time to shine and to share your expertise. Don’t be “cocky” about it. You really want to share your information in an informative manner and it is received better if it is not accompanied by an air of superiority. It may be true that you “know it all” but the idea is for people to naturally perceive that because of the wealth of information you are sharing and not necessarily because you are explicitly saying you know it all. Obviously, there are exceptions. If you are Andrew Dice Clay and your brand is all about having that particular attitude, then that would be an exception where you are true to your brand by continuing that behavior. But, if you are looking to have a positive impact, then share your knowledge and share your experiences and leave the cocky attitude to the Andrew Dice Clays of the world.
How-To: Keep in mind that the objective is for your brand to be the “Kleenex” response when someone asks for a “tissue.” In other words, you want to be the first thing people think of when your particular service or product is mentioned and you are viewed as one of the “go to people” in the industry. You do that by posting consistently and posting helpful information that demonstrates your expertise.
3. Meet New Colleagues (even friends!)
This is a natural by-product or benefit to participating in forums. You are naturally going to be find people that have similar interests and likes and dislikes. You may even find yourself connecting on other social platforms or commenting on each other’s blogs. This is a normal progression in the socialization of humans and can be a pleasant benefit of participating in forums. It also leads to other benefits, like the next benefit.
How-To: Chat, ask questions, be friendly.
4. Find Opportunities (like Joint Ventures)
You may have come up with the greatest and best idea ever known to man, but need some help bringing that idea to the masses. What better than a joint venture, where you combine your skills with that of another company or individual and reap the benefits jointly? Forums are a great place to identify the people that you would like to talk to about joint ventures. In the forum environment, you get an opportunity to see who knows their stuff and who might be a great asset to your next project. Who knows? You may find someone you want to hire. Or, someone may find you and hire you for their next project. It is a great way to get to know people in an open, honest, transparent way and not look like you are stalking them or lurking. I mean, to some extent, lurking is ok in a forum (Stalking is not..)
How-To: Watch and learn and identify like-minded individuals who may be interested in the same types of opportunities as you.
5. Learning and Awareness
The educational value of a forum is actually one of the first benefits. You may know everything there is to know about one topic and can share that information, building your own brand authority, but there might be another topic where you still have a lot to learn. Here is your opportunity to ask questions and to benefit from others’ knowledge. Read the topics, respond with questions or tips on how you applied that knowledge.
How-To: Read, read, and read some more. Sprinkle with a few questions.
6. Altruistic Sharing of Knowledge
For some people, they just get that overall “feel good feeling” when they share. This is not necessarily a benefit for everyone, but for those who really feel like their happiness in life is dependent on how much they help others, forums serve as an opportunity to do just that, to share and help people.
How-To: If altruism floats your boat, you will already be sailing with this one.
7. Content and Social Sharing Ideas
Content re-purposing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when making your list of forum benefits, but it really is a great place to get ideas and share information. You can tweet the topic to your friends, inviting them to join in the conversation. You can also post it to Facebook or LinkedIn. If you are stuck and you don’t know what content to share on your social platforms, go visit a forum. Even if you don’t share the actual topic that is being discussed on the forum, it may generate an idea that sparks a blog post on your web site or another social sharing opportunity. Keep in mind that the idea is to share the forum or generate new ideas. We wouldn’t be suggesting you steal anyone’s idea. That would not be a nice thing to do.
How-To: Identify great content you want to share and tweet. Share on Facebook. Share on LinkedIn. Google Plus it.
Forums We Recommend
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See you there!