Social media marketing is largely about engaging with your audience, and a big part of that is knowing where your audience is. A lot of brands may find that their audience is easiest to reach through forums, which are kind of the old school social networks.
Do you use forums to engage with your audience? Tell us about it.
There's no question that there is a lot of value to the big networks like Facebook and Twitter, but forums have always been and still are a way to jump into a topical conversation within a specific niche and engage with an audience that is heavily invested in that niche. As Li Evans of Serengeti Communications talked about with WebProNews at Search Engine Strategies last week, forums can sometimes provide more value than the big social networks, depending on your audience.
"A lot of people think forums and message boards are dead, but they're not," she says. "They're very powerful because they have a lot of influencers, it can reach a lot of people, and these forums rank in the search results as well."
The very nature of forums makes them good for search, because users will continue to update them with fresh posts in many cases, and add information and value, and often answer the questions users are seeking with their search queries.
Last fall Google introduced a new feature to search results, making it easier to find forum posts related to topics users search for. When forum sites have more than one relevant discussion going, Google will link to them under the main result.
As Evans pointed out, it's a great idea to listen before you talk in a forum. Communities often have certain ways members will talk to one another, and just have things established that may not be so apparent to the "newb." She likens it to petting a shark. "It can bite you," she says. Just pay attention and get a sense of the atmosphere in a community before jumping in and embarrassing yourself. If there's one thing most active forum participants have in common, it is that they're vocal, and you don't want any negative reputation issues to arise.
While forum participation may be like petting a shark, that doesn't mean you should be afraid of it. Just get to know the shark, and become its friend. The forum sharks just may potentially be some of your best and most loyal customers.
Do you find forums to be of significant value to your brand? Discuss here.