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Home > Marketing - 6,290 views

08-04-2012

How to use a forum for promotion

Internet promotion can be fast, easy and cheap but requires some knowledge of common rules and practices. Let's look together into the forum strategies for promotion.

JulienRio.com: How to use a forum for promotion

Each business, association, website, blog needs promotion. Rare are those which can rely only on Words of Mouth and natural refering.

Except if you are a big corporation with sufficient funds to advertise on TV, you will certainly search for cheap but efficient ways to promote your actions.

When you search the internet for ways to promote your website, you’ll be advised by almost everybody to use a forum. However, before you start, you’ll first need to know how to use this powerful tool.

 

Step 1. Choose the right forum

To get the most efficiency out of a forum requires you to show lots of perseverance. If you were to visit a forum once, leave a message, and never come back after the initial visit, you are just wasting your time. Your message and your account will be deleted after few minutes. This is the traditional SPAMMER strategy: you do not want to be categorized as such.

You need to be extremely careful when choosing a forum. You will be spending a lot of time on your forum, so you cannot choose one at random. The forum you choose needs to correspond to the theme of your business: if you sell cars, it would be better to promote it on a website talking about cars rather than on one talking about classical dance!

However, the nature of the website is not the only element to consider. The forum also has to be popular: if you spend hours and hours advertising on a forum which has only 10 members, you’re probably wasting your time!

Finally, try to find a forum you like. This step is really important. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time talking to people through this tool, your efforts will be wasted if you don’t like the theme of the discussion, or the style, or the people on the forum. If you don’t like the forum, you won’t go on the forum, and if you don’t go on the forum, your promotion won’t be efficient! You need to find a forum where you look forward to joining the discussion every day.

Therefore, do not hesitate to spend a long time searching for the right forum. Do not rush this step in order to launch your promotion sooner. It is better to have a high quality promotion than an early one.

Step 2. Don’t be obvious

On a forum, people who usually participate are part of a real community. These communities usually enjoy recruiting new members. However, they do not like being bothered by spam and/or advertisements. Therefore, you will need to be discrete with your purpose in the beginning if you don’t want to be ignored.

The first thing to do is to become part of this community - present yourself to the members of the forum. Every forum is the same; people expect you to introduce yourself, much like real life. If you don’t, they may automatically assume that your only goal is to leave some messages and then disappear. Try to give details about who you are, but do not make any advertisements. If you do, people will immediately label you as a spammer.

Once you have introduced yourself, take a look at the different topics. Choose one you like and participate. Do not make advertisements. Do not create a new topic to present your company. You need to be accepted by the community before you can do so. Before you will be accepted, you need to participate, make friends, and add some value to the topic by giving your opinion.

“Then, when do I promote my company?”

Be patient. Promoting on a forum is a long process, but the positive impact it will have on your business in the long run will be worth the time and wait.

Keep in mind that those people who accept you in their community expect you to be real: don't create yourself a fake identity to then promote your product as would do a happy customer. This kind of strategy is rarely efficient and you usually get caught, losing all credibility. Sticke to who you really are, hide nothing, as people usually prefer honesty rather than lies.

JulienRio.com: How to use a forum for promotion

Step 3. Promote your products

On a forum, advertisements are forbidden. Therefore, how do you use it to promote your products? Nobody likes to see you creating a topic to promote your company. However, everyone will like a helpful answer to a question!

For example, somebody is asking, “What should I buy my brother for his birthday?” You sell toys; therefore, this is an excellent time for you to advise this person to consider your toys as a gift! But once again, don’t advertise! You need to advise somebody, not sell them something. Suggest toys as “a product”, not as “your product”. Try to present your suggestion as you would present something you don’t own - don’t give a professional description. People expect a friend’s advice, not a seller’s suggestion.

Always remember: you are part of the community, you are not a seller. If you exhibit good behavior, people will like and trust you. Each of your advice would be perceived as a good one.  Basically, your “promotion” messages should represent less than 5% of your total messages.

Once you reached the time when the community fully accepted you as a member, you can bring your promotion to the next step. Contact the forum admin and explain him that you are the representative of your brand and that you would like, with his permission, to open a single topic on his forum to talk with members and answer their questions. The approval here will depend on many criteria. First of all, you must have participated enough on the forum for the admin to trust you. Then, your product must be related to the theme of the forum and present a real interest to most members. Last, you must have respected rules since the very begining: if you got caught spamming in the past, the admin will surely not allow you to use his forum as a promotion platform. Worse: he might look carefully at all your posts from now on! Be very careful when jumping to this step.

JulienRio.com: How to use a forum for promotion

Step 4. Increase your chances

A forum has many tools you can use. One example is your signature. If you include a promotion with your signature, each time you write something on the forum, this promotion would also appear! Therefore, no message will be useless: even if you talk about something that has no link to your company, you are still promoting it!

However, you need to be careful: most forums do not accept direct links to commercial websites in signatures. Try to find a way to promote your company without being too obvious. Moreover, if your signature is too evident, people will consider you as a seller, and not as a member of the community.

Surveys are also a good way to promote your business and to know more about your market. You could, for example, include photographs of your products and ask people which one they prefer. The results of the survey will give you a better understanding to which product will be the most successful. However, don’t include any links; don’t say you’re selling something. If you act like you’re trying to sell something, people will not be interested. Nevertheless, if anybody is interested in your product, they will ask you where to buy it. At that point, you will have gained a new customer!

Finally, every forum enables you to create a profile. As with your signature, use it to promote your company, but try not be too obvious. A profile is a great medium of promotion because only people who are interested will visit it.

 

In conclusion, promoting on a forum is a long and arduous process. You need to be part of a community, to participate every day, and to create relationships. However, the people you meet on a forum will be your best customers. They will know and trust you, recommend your products to others, and listen to you. Therefore, you cannot use several forums at the same time. Choose the best one, and work with it.

If you wish to continue developing your site and your global strategy, I strongly recommand that you read "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" from David Meerman Scott. It inspired several of my articles and really brings a new approach to what marketing should be about.

5 reasons to use a forum for your promotion

  1. All your messages and links are saved and indexed in search engines (prefer using forums using 'DoFollow' links as those would be indexed in Google)
  2. You can observe your market and see what people talk about, want, like, dislike
  3. You create a direct link with your market and enable your customers to exchange with you
  4. You create trust relations that will help you marketing strategies
  5. You can immediately react if a rumor starts spreading

 

5 things to check before starting

  1. Prefer forums using DoFollow links so that those are easily detected by Search Engines
  2. Check the number of members, active members and weekly posted messages to make sure the forum is "alive"
  3. Make sure the rankings (Google PageRank & Alexa Rank) are positive
  4. Choose a forum where you "feel comfortable", where you want to participate
  5. Check that the forum allows links and signatures

 

To go even further, I invite you to read my article "Which Social Media is the most adapted to my business?".

 

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