9 min read
I remember the first time I signed up for a forum account.
As I looked up at the clock on a Saturday afternoon, I realized I had just spent three hours reading through the forum on the first day. It felt like three minutes. I had been so lost in the threads that I barely remembered to eat.
Much like social media, forum marketing can be slightly addictive. It gives you instant access to some of the brightest minds in virtually any industry, but like me, you could find yourself wasting time on forums if you don’t have a strategy.
When I first started participating in forums, I was more of a lurker than anything. While it’s good to read other threads and get your feet wet, your business won’t market itself.
Once I began to participate in conversations, offered recommendations, and gave my two cents, I realized the true value of forums. With the right strategy, you could too.
Before you take a deep dive into forum marketing, it’s important to decide if you’ll be able to get a return on your time investment.
Since each forum has a different demographic, it’s good to look into who the forum targets before deciding which forum is a good fit for your blog or business. You wouldn’t want to spend your time on a forum that doesn’t connect you with your ideal customers or readers.
If you are still trying to decide if forum marketing is worth your time and effort, we have a few key benefits to share that may sway you in one direction or another.
Think of forums as large online gathering spaces where industry-specific discussions are held. There are hundreds or sometimes thousands of topics that are being discussed 24/7. It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or a seasoned expert– everyone has an opportunity to ask questions and share their answers.
Forums give you a central place to build your expertise and authority in your field. The better quality your answers are, they more upvotes or likes they will receive. This will be displayed on your profile, showing anyone who interacts with you that you’re highly active and someone they can trust.
Forums are a great way to increase traffic to your website when you place a relevant link in your reply. To make sure it isn’t seen as spam, make sure it supports your answer and directs forum users to a quality post. If it’s seen as spam, you may find yourself banned from the platform.
Before promoting your link, it’s even better to ask the user you are replying to if they’d be interested in seeing an additional resource you’ve created on the subject and get their permission before sharing. This will show forum moderators that you are not just using forums for your own gain but rather to be helpful to their users.
You’ll also have a chance to connect with people who look like your ideal customers and clients. If you see them all asking similar questions, you can use this as market research to create blog posts and other types of content that answer those questions.
Your first step is to search and choose a forum that fits within your unique criteria. We have some forum suggestions listed toward the end of this article, but you can choose any forum that focuses on topics you’re interested in.
As you create your account on the forum, you’ll also want to look at the community guidelines to make sure you are posting within their rules and regulations. You can then complete your profile by adding a personable photo and unique username.
After the basics are set up, it’s time to introduce yourself on introduction threads. Nearly every forum has a thread that’s dedicated to helping newbies connect with others in the forum and learn more about what the forum has to offer.
You can lurk in the forum for a while, but then you’ll want to get in on the action. While it’s great to learn from other people in the threads, the only way you can market yourself is to actively participate. Try to add value to conversations that are already happening, share your insights, and even ask questions yourself.
You know that forums can be used for market research, but how can they actually improve your business? Since your time is money, we want to make sure you are spending it in the right places. Before you begin posting with fervor, let’s cover how to best use these forums for business growth.
Again, you don’t want to to spend your time in a place where conversations aren’t happening in the topics you’re interested in. You also don’t want to spend hours on a forum and then realize all the conversations have been with people who are not like-minded.
You’ve heard the advice to niche down your offerings from countless sources, and the same is true for your forum strategy. If you are a B2B marketer, a forum like Inbound could be a great fit. If you would rather focus on how to build wealth as an entrepreneur, maybe Fast Lane is more your style. With thousands of forums on the web, you are sure to find a good fit.
Once you find a forum that fits your niche and have located which threads are best to interact with, you can start posting answers that share your experiences and expertise.
By freely sharing your insights, you’re able to earn trust from other users. This is usually reflected in the amount of upvotes, likes, and comments you receive. You can use these findings to create an even better experience on your website for your readers and customers.
This not only refers to sharing links to your website, which you can do in your replies when it’s relevant and in your profile signature, but also in the offers you can extend through forums.
You may find yourself talking to a group of people who are really interested in advice you’ve shared and are looking for additional information. This might create an opening for you to offer a few members beta access to your next product, discounts, or free product.
Before doing this, make sure you have read the community guidelines so you aren’t violating any rules that are in place. This is always a good practice to get into before you post a link to anything.
Forums were built to help users facilitate healthy discussions, but there are times when a conversation will turn ugly. In these cases, try to stay away from the drama. Forums are full of users who just want to argue, so your energy is best spent having conversations with people who are there to learn and freely give knowledge.
With so many forums on the internet, it can be hard to figure out which ones are worth your time. You could easily spend hours scrolling through conversations on each forum, trying to determine if it’s the right fit or not.
Instead, we have a curated list to help you choose the right forums to pair you with what you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional blogger, freelance marketer, or a small business owner. There are forums for professionals in any industry. You just have to know where to look.
Warrior Forum: It is known as the original internet marketing forum since it’s been around since 1997 and has over 100,000 active users.
Reddit: Features “subreddit” categories in business, entrepreneurship, and blogging. To learn more about how to use Reddit to drive business results for your blog, read our Tradecraft article on Reddit.
Quora: Much like Reddit, Quora offers subcategories within business and blogging but also has a wide variety of other questions that are asked on its platform.
InBound: Perfect for freelance and in-house marketers who want to share digital marketing knowledge and connect with seasoned professionals in their respective industries.
SEOChat: An active gathering place for all professionals who want to discuss search engine optimization tactics, updates, strategies, and more.
Wicked Fire: Known as one of the best resources for any blogger or small business owners who is interested in learning about affiliate marketing.
Biz Warriors: Small business owners and entrepreneurs will love this forum and its extended conversations about starting, growing, and financing a business.
Startup Nation: This forum was built to be a one-stop shop for startups wanting to learn about how to market themselves in the noisy world of online marketing.
Digital Point: Any topic around search engines and online marketing can be found in this well-organized forum that also features a digital marketplace.
Traffic Planet: An easy-to-use forum for any marketers looking to learn about driving traffic to their website using SEO strategies.
The first step is to browse through conversations that are already happening and find what topics you can contribute to. Search for keywords in your industry and start reading. Not only will you get to interact with other professionals in your industry, but you’re also bound to learn something new.
Choose one of the online forums above and challenge yourself to contribute to at least 5 posts this week. Then you can increase that number as you dig more into your online forum of choice. Not every forum will be a perfect fit, so aim to choose one or two to be highly active on rather than passively participating in more.
Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.