Use forums as Social Media Marketing tools. Many people who run forums generally create them for building a community of people with the same likes and interests or as an addon for their websites with FAQ and Q&A sections. Forums, however, can be used for other purposes and today I want to talk about usage of forums as a social media marketing tool.
Who is going to visit it?
There are two groups of people visiting forums – constant community members and guests. The former ones use forums on regular basis not only for resolution of their issues but also for communication; the latter visit forums occasionally, mainly through search engines. They do not register, but simply find answers to their questions and leave. If they find the forum useful, they may bookmark it and even recommend to friends, but even then there is no guarantee they will become active users.
If you run a narrow-oriented forum (e.g. a special forum under a website), you need to understand that there will be not that many guests. Neither should you expect a big number of community members, even if you have many customers/users, as most of them simply use your services/buy your products without thinking of joining communities, sharing ideas, leaving testimonials, etc. This is the point you need to change in order to make it work for you.
Making a Forum a Social Media Marketing Tool
First of all, let us identify what our social media oriented forum is going to bring us. Traffic, of course! More traffic and more potential customers/users. The way it is going to work is a multi-step strategy you need to follow:
1. Create and strengthen your community
Before attracting new users you need to make sure the current ones are happy with your services and interested in your project. This requires you to make those users active, which in turn requires the content on your forum to be interesting, up-to-date and original.
If you have a blog or a newsfeed, do not make your forum posts duplicate this news. On the contrary, post things, which will be available to the forum visitors only. If you launch a new promo, put this news in a forum thread and let it be discussable, while the newsfeed will only announce the promo launch (but not the details).
2. Make your forum wider
Working with internal information only (company news, services discussion, customer tips and tricks) is not going to make non-customers interested in your forum. Therefore, what you need to do is to widen the horizons – watch the news around the business you do, post interesting and original articles in a separate thread or sub-forum and let them be discussed.
This strategy is going to kill two birds with one stone – your present customers will have more topics to discuss and to follow, which might make them more active; and you are going to get guest-visitors – some may find you on Google and other search engines and some may be invited by your current customers. The latter ones are very important as far as the “Tell a Friend” thing does work wonders with many services.
Even if your customers’ friends are not interested in your project (yet), they may be interested in the things around it. Even if they do not purchase anything from you, they are likely to bring more drive into your forum. This is going to do you good, too.
3. Get more admins
Forum administration takes much time, so once your forum becomes more or less active, try to get more admins. You can sign-up some of your co-workers for it, but it would be better to let your most active users do it.
The latter way is especially desired if those users are your affiliates. This is going to both increase their interest in your project development and bring them more money.
4. Get it linked!
Cross-linking is very important. If your forum just says “My Company’s Forum”, don’t expect people to type your website name in the browser. You need to have the logo linked to your website.
But that’s not all. Whatever you post and however related to your website it is, you need to have the correspondent URLs linked to your main site. This will let you gain more traffic from the users and your site – be better recognized by search engines.
If a forum is an essential part of your website, it is reasonable enough to make it work as a tool for obtaining new contacts and more traffic. Social media marketing is very important nowadays, as whatever the services or goods you offer, you will find many competitors trying to beat you in this competition.
A well-built social media promotion strategy, however, may let you leave them far behind you and bring your company to the top of the market.
Guest author Arkadij “Archie” Shkolnik is PR Manager of SiteValley.com web hosting company, the provider of affordable and reliable Linux hosting for personal and small business web sites. He is also administrator and author of the corporate blog