Forums Are Relevant in Social Media Marketing

Don't Overlook One of the Original Social Networks

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[ Social Media]

I have long considered online forums to be an early form of what we now consider to be social networks. They’ve been around much longer than Facebook, Twitter and the rest, and have allowed users to create profiles and communicate with each other on the web.

They have profile pages, private messages, and public conversation where other users can respond and add to the conversation. They are also indexed by search engines. Do you value forums as social media marketing tools? Tell us what you think.

Posting in a Forum

In a post a few months ago, I referenced a WebmasterWorld thread discussing how Google values forums. WembasterWorld founder Brett Tabke said Google was devaluing forum links, but there is a bigger picture I think that Jaan Kanellis pointed out (which was also referenced in that article).

"It is normal for Google to favor forum threads for certain queries. Naturally websites do not optimize themselves for long-tail queries that forums are automatically optimized for by way of user-generated content."

Forums have marketing benefits. And they’re very much the same as the benefits that come from social media marketing. In fact, I would say that social media marketing plans should include forums in the mix when applicable. When it is about the conversation, that conversation is generally not confined to Twitter or Facebook. That conversation is very possibly being extended into the Blogosphere, and yes…online forums.

Forum participation allows for reputation management strategies, brand awareness tactics, and even link generation, similarly to where social media fits into the SEO equation. Of course, many marketers have known this for ages now, but forums seem to have taken a backseat in the mind’s eye to the newer, trendier networks.

But the forums are still there. And they’re there in niches. And niches mean relevant and related content, audiences, and engagement.

Of course, there are benefits to forum participation beyond just marketing. They often provide destinations for help with specific problems that can be hard to find elsewhere. They are still a fine venue for networking with other professionals, and just being involved in the conversation often simply translates to staying in the loop for current trends within your industry.

With social networks like Facebook and Twitter, do you still have time to participate in forums? Tell us about it.

Forums Are Relevant in Social Media Marketing
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  • http://www.traffic-is-king.com Sam With Traffic Is King

    Hey Chris,

    I think your right about forums becoming overlooked for the new social media sites. I still continue to use forums for research, engaging in conversation, etc. I go in with the mindset of boosting brand recognition. I figure if people in my niche see me everywhere in related social media sites, forums, etc it will give me that brand recognition which should convert to trust and hopefully use of my services and products. Even still their are sites like Sitepoint, Warrior forums that are very active. I think all social media tools that cater to your niche should be used regardless if it is dated. As long as their is an active strong community their it is always of benefit.

  • http://inchoo.net Toni Anicic

    I was surprised to see my picture in the article :) I totally agree with you, new internet marketers tend to underestimate the power of forums in marketing purposes. Niche forums can be great places to get some relevant visitors and build your authority in a field and as you mentioned they are great for sharing knowledge and getting answers to the questions you can’t get anywhere else.

    Most social networks today are not a really good place for discussions and opinion sharing as they are to fast or real time or simply don’t allow you to post more then 140 characters :)

    • Chris Crum

      Haha. Just thought I’d go to our own forum to grab a screenshot. Searched for social media marketing and got your thread. Totally random :)

  • http://tostopsweating.com/ Guest

    Despite all the new ways to promote business, forums are still popular.

  • http://marriageproposalideas.net clnt2009

    yep, I am agree with you on these points!

  • http://asmarketing.wordpress.com Top Keyword Search

    Forum is still one of the social media method of marketing. User Generated and to create new contacts! Works well in the local area.

  • http://jmsassociates.eu Jameson

    Apart from an entry on Linkedin I do not use social media – other than my site’s blog – and instead spend my time on various forums that are related to my profession; much better results!

  • http://3gpmelayu.com laling

    Joining a popular forum either international forum like Digital point or your local forum in your country can develops your credibility for sure.
    The credibility you gain then upgrading to TRUST. I can’t imagine 3 years ago I like to helping people help them in forum consistently and now in return I get trust, glamor, popularity and respect among members in forum community online I active contributing.

    What the wonderful feeling I felt now when selling something thousand people waiting you to buy. What the great thing when you recommended something thousand people following you to subscribe. So my conclusion is forum is the best platform to develops name, aura, credibility, integrity, trust and all this thing compile together is priceless!!

    Great day 😀

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Official Safety and Security

    I’ve had a forum on my Safety and Security website for some time. I chose that instead of a blog because I didn’t want the added expense and work of maintaining another site. It gives my visitors a venue through which to express their thoughts on various safety and security topics and gives my site new content every day. You can vist it at http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com/forum

    Thanks, Chris, for sharing this information.

  • CW sculptor

    I had a forum, for a while, for women artists and crafters. I closed it down because I was getting more links to porn websites and spam than anything else.

  • http://www.aweekinthelifeofaredhead.com A Week In The Life of A Redhead

    I have been thinking of adding a forum to my blog for a place for parents to share information about raising teenagers. I wasn’t sure if my thinking was correct on this issue and this article confirms that it is something I should do as another piece to my parenting blog.
    Chris, you always give such great information – thank you.

  • Yam Foley

    I know Their have many the forum systems in market such as vbullitin, phpbb,invision power board.

    Which is the best for make the social community?

    I really want to know your opnion.

    • Chris Crum

      Not that I deal with any of the building of our forum, but I know we use Vbulletin.

    • http://www.ozeworks.com ozeworks

      The latest version of phpBB is very good. Try it!

  • http://www.ddytalk.com/ Ron Stevens

    I find the use of forums to be very worthwhile, especially for any kind of niche content. I maintain and also visit several forum websites and find them just as valuable as information I receive from other social networking means. The key to a successful use of a forum would be if it fits into your plan of what you wish to achieve with your website.

  • http://www.ontariohighwaytrafficact.com ontario traffic tickets

    This post is long over due. Forums were a social network before the whole concept or phrase of web 2.0 even came out. Forums are great for starting up sites, and can be used very successfuly in the SEO of your website. See this traffic ticket forum!

  • http://billock.net Brent Billock


    Where forum threads center around topics, blogs focus more heavily on the author.

    Both have nearly identical capabilities, where one person begins a discussion and it remains available to anyone to comment and move the conversation forward.

    We’ve gone back and forth at PeopleAndPicks.com about whether we should add forums as another discussion tool. Currently anyone can create a new blog post, but the blog content and comments are much more easily searched by user than by topic.

    So the challenge for us is to make the topics more consistently and easily indexed by content and by tags, so the topic searchability can be brought up to a standard that approaches that of forums.

  • http://www.ukparentslounge.com Steve M

    Nice to see someone posting about the value of forums in a world that seems dominated by Twitter and Facebook. Where Twitter is fantastic as a micro-blogging phenomenon and giving people the ability to reach many strangers with a shared interest, it is rubbish at allowing the “owner” any sense of control or identity. Also, why does it matter how many people follow you or how many people you follow if you don’t know any of them?

    Likewise, Facebook is a great multi-purpose community tool but it is all over the place when it comes to threaded conversation. A forum, however, allows people to discuss a single topic in one place over time without all and sundry randomly chipping in, unless they are members, and spammers and interlopers can be kept out by moderators who know the community.

  • http://www.maplegroveenterprises.com Tracy

    I use forums when I need them, for example, when I’m trying out new open source software. Previous posts can give you the answer immediately, or other users offer great suggestions. Our website has received a good number of hits lately from a forum I was participating in, so I believe it does help our social media marketing.

    There’s also a nostalgia factor…harking back to the old days (in the late 80s) when bulletin boards were all the rage!

  • http://www.wavecrest.co.uk Glen

    I actively participate in a number of forums as a paid member and the additional exposure it has given my web site and business in general has paid back the membership fees several times over just in the space of a few weeks. As per some previous comments, the forums do need to be actively moderated to ensure the quality of posts and members.


    • http://www.chrisgrayson.com Chris Grayson

      I wrote an article on my blog about this in the summer of 2007:

      link: Social Media Overload?
      July 12, 2007

      Yes, forums were the predecessors, the forefathers to social media networks. I own a Vbulletin license that I’m not currently using. I use to run an Ikon Board forum on architecture.

  • http://www.salesandmarketingforums.co.uk Guest

    There is no doubt forums can actually generate more business than things like facebook, twitter etc.

    I own and run uksmf a forum more specifically targetted at sales and marketing and in 12 months we have picked up around 3200 members and are growing very rapidly for not spending any money on marketing the site is free and has fast become my full time job




  • http://www.thomson-caravans.co.uk Graham

    Hi, I am a keen supporter of www.ukcampsite.co.uk forum section. I have found out some really useful information and contributed as much as I can in helping others who are new the the caravan & camping scene.
    I have joined a couple of other forums as well and always find that they are dedicated to the main subject that a website is about, which in turn means that you get the best possible answers to any questions you may have.
    I have been using Facebook for some time as well, mainly for family interaction, and must admit i get fed up of all the add ons and spam that seems to go with the social networking sites.
    Great topic Chris and one that I have been interested in some time.
    I have been thinking of adding a forum to my own website which concentrates on Thomson Caravans, the only caravan manufactured in Scotland. Sadly like so many other quality small UK caravan makers they ceased manufacturing in the early 80’s.

    Some great comments above and looking forward to hearing more about setting up a forum, preferably in simple terms as I am self taught and some of the computer terminology occasionally baffles me! (-;

    Keep up the good work Chris


  • http://www.acewebdesign.com.au Web Design Adelaide

    Forums can be good to get your name out there, and get some inbound links from other domains also.

    I think in general it is a good practice to get your name out there in as many relevent areas as possible such as forums, blogs, and general links, both for exposure and for good search engine visiblity.

  • http://www.storageguardian.com Remote Data backup

    Google’s new “show options” in their SERPS allows you to filter your results to just forums.

    I think that says enough about the fact that google sees them as valuable.

    • http://www.torontocataract.com Cataract Surgeon

      I don’t see any option in the search results to see only forum results?

      Where is that?

  • http://www.dtechweb-blog.com/ Rollins- Dtech Web Blog

    I totally agree. Forums allow for much greater participation. Unlike regular blogs which feature posts from one author or at most a couple of authors, and everyone else would just have to be content with posting comments on the topic(s) raised by the author(s), forums on the other hand offer a stronger platform for more open and varied discussion.

    @ Brent Bilck – blogs are just repackaged forums.
    True, but I dare say they are a “limited” version of the original.

    I’m actually considering abandoning my blog for or forum (psych) or better yet integrating one into it.

    Thanks for the post Chris. You’re my man of the year so far. Keep up the good work.

    • http://www.pcanonib.info Anon101

      You forgot to mention Image Boards… While usually anonymous they tend to have a high rate of repeat visitors who sometimes create enormous communities of people sharing similar interests. Our board for example has had over 9000 unique visitors so far this month (only half-way done), and more than 10GB of traffic. This exceeds last months numbers by nearly 50% and it looks like an upward trend. This media could have enormous potential given the Japanese have the largest following at something like 400,000+ visitors a day and more than 12TB of traffic. HUGE advertising venue to say the least.

      Btw, love the articles, keep up the great work!

      • http://www.movie666.com/ Deke Thornton

        hey, I want your traffic! what’s an image board and how to do you create one (generally speaking)?

  • http://www.twowolvesoutdoor.com Guest

    Participation on the proper forums can boost business greatly. Forum custom accounts for the majority of my sales now.

    • http://www.theinternetglassescompany.co.uk Designer Glasses

      Id say forums are even more valuable than facebook / twitter… they drive qualified traffic from niche interestes… and… the links are “generally” valued by google for placement.

  • http://www.movie666.com/ Deke Thornton

    I’ve found forums pretty useful for all the reasons you mention. A lot of forums allow you to set up profile pages and include signature files, including graphic signatures, which can really drive traffic.

    I think it behooves marketers to actually say something interesting when participating in forums and not just engage in guerrilla marketing, or else you’re just adding to the clutter of the web. If you develop a respectable presence in forums, people will want to support you and look to you and your website as an authority. Else you’re just another dude trying to get a free ride.

  • http://www.hargate-hall.co.uk Hargate Hall

    From what I have seen of forums they are a great tool, both for the owner and the subscriber. I like the fact that the interaction is better, and that as discussions grow and develop threads can be split to reflect this. With the previous comments on this topic there is the opportunity to start new topics. I want to start a forum for guests at Hargate Hall especially wedding couples, but I haven

  • http://inchoo.net Toni Anicic

    Now here are a few of my thoughts on forums and social media marketing:


    I was also referring to this article in the blog post. :)

  • http://www.signature.gb.com seo consultancy uk

    A Google search for (forum social networking) produced around 45,900,000 pages! Try it yourself, remembering to change ‘social networking’ for your own industry.

  • http://www.wingspouse.com Kathi

    Before linkedin and twitter became so big, I relied on forums to interact with others I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Some, I still do. I’ve learned how to repair my home, organize my family, locate unusual cooking tools, and even get references for a new community.

    I do think blogs fall into this to some degree, as well. Many blog posts result in comments that are more substancial than the post itself.

  • http://www.firmalatter.dk/latterkurser-og-workshops/latterkursus.htm Ejvind

    I used to post a lot to the forums and before that the BBS’s, but eventually something new comes along, that is much better and more trendy. Something that makes us laugh more.
    Facebook and other social media has been that for me recently, and I have moved away from forums and blogs.

  • http://sherylloch.com Sheryl Loch

    I have used forums for years and think they are still one of the best places to network. Twitter and Facebook have very limited conversation abilities. A forum allows you to share knowledge by answering questions for any member that ask.

    We own forums and have been Mods and Admin at several and I will continue to use them if they are spam free.

  • http://www.marketing-junkie.com Stacy Karacostas

    Thanks for the thought provoking article Chris!

    I still love and use forums to market my small business, and I regularly recommend my clients do the same. Here’s why:

    1) You can find out exactly what questions and problems are of most interest to your target market.

    2) You can showcase your own expertise by providing helpful responses.

    3) It’s an easy way to get relevant links back to your own site that drive traffic, and ideally search engine rankings (depending on Google’s mood of the month).

    It’s fun to try what’s new and different, and I do a lot of Web 2.0 stuff as well. But that’s no reason to leave behind the tried and true tools like forums.


    Stacy Karacostas
    Practical Marketing Expert

  • http://www.favecrafts.com BB Becker

    We operate niche content sites for women. One of our sites is a general crafting site called favecrafts.com. Our editors go to other forums daily to answer questions and help moderate. We regularly post craft news on other forums. You need to be careful you don’t engage in shameless self promotion. That said, some of our posts on other forums have brought us hundreds of visitors in a day. Of course, most bring just a few, or less:) We also use forums to identify designers who can bring designs and videos to our sites and/or our blog.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://sem-group.net Houston Search Engine Optimization

    The niche is the important aspect of forums. Sites like Twitter and Facebook allow you create community niches with groups and hashtags.

  • http://1st-Quiz.com 1st-Quiz – forum and community

    When it comes to search for specific knowledge on a specific topic; forums are essential! I always use them my self when ever I need to research on a topic.

    IMO social networks are fine, for what they where invented for: social relations. Forums handle the rest:-)

  • http://www.domains.geek-tools.org Alex

    Forums do help in social connectivity as well one can get solutions of many problems by discussing on forums.
    I use forums regularly and take help when needed.

  • http://www.helpwithbaby.com Maria

    Personally, forums give more benefits to users compared to social networking sites. Professional who is in need of help or freelancer who is in need of job usually prefer to join a forum than a social networking site.

  • http://www.seosean.com SEO Services

    Forums area a great source of quick help especially within a specific niche or topic. But I think a lot of people down play the actual value that forums play in link building. They can be a great source of links if done correctly and ethically.

  • http://www.cartyweb.ie Tom Carty

    Personally I dont rate forums as all that imortant, but the owners of http://www.larnatire.com swear by them, gumtree in particular.

    Be careful how you do it though, the owner of http://www.celticsongbook.com got banner more than once from forums for overgoing it…

  • http://www.blogalongwithme.com Valentina

    I agree that forums are a great place to hang out. The crowd is like-minded, i.e., they are on topic with you and the questions and answers are relevant to your interest. I have a handful of forums I belong to and make a practice of visiting them at least once a month and cherry picking the posts/subject to those that I can of value to or which can expand my knowledge on that theme/problem/topic.

  • http://www.wagg.it Helen

    I think spending some time on related forums is a great way to bring targeted traffic to your site (or, you client’s site), but in terms of getting quality backlinks (even if you use your url in forums’ sig) doesn’t have any impact

    • http://www.footknote.com Rey Young

      Forums are relevant to social media marketing campaigns, were most forum users are likely ignite a rolling word-of-mouth effect. where members will be promoting your brand to their friends, increasing quality traffic to your website and resulting in – and this is exactly where you want to be.:)

  • http://www.melbourneonline.com.au/web-design Mark – Web Design

    Social media has to be defined as anywhere people gather online to discuss any topic.
    Anywhere this happens, Google is going to find longtail optimised content, which is very specific to the topic.

    If you own a business you need to be anywhere people gather to discuss your company or industry, be it online or off.

  • http://www.spanishseo.org/ SEO Firm

    There is a big difference between paid/private forums and open/catch-it-all type of forums. The noise to quality ratio is huge, therefore, making it worthy to spend $$$$ in a year membership.

  • http://cavalcade-of-coding.info Adrienne Boswell

    What surprised me in this article is no mention of Usenet. Usenet predates the World Wide Web by many years. The oldest usenet message Google has is May 11, 1981, and Tim Berners-Lee sent a message on Usenet to announcing the WWW on August 6, 1991.

    I find Usenet to be very helpful if I have something I cannot solve. I am a web developer, and I have been a respected member of several authoring groups for over ten years.

    I guess people don’t read, or understand the importance of following conventions. That goes for Usenet, forums, or just playing in the sandbox. Google groupers seem to be the worst of the lot.

  • http://www.opace.co.uk Opace Technology Solutions

    Nowadays, Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc. are in the spotlight when it comes to social media marketing and so they should. They provide an excellent mechanism for information sharing and marketing between friends, associates, businesses…

    Having said this, in my experience it

    • http://review-group.forumotion.com/forum.htm http://review-group.forumotion.com/forum.htm

      I spend a lot of time on forums as well as twitter and other sites.

  • http://www.wedding-dress-dreams.com David

    I agree forums are very valuable not only as potential sources of info but also back links.

  • http://www.houseofdesigners.com/ Affordable Web Design

    Forum is still a worthy way of building links since the months or years the thread is still alive the links also is still alive…


  • http://austinsearchengineoptimization.net Austin SEO

    It’s a proven fact that two minds are better than one. Everyone goes through learning curves on the Internet. Whether that learning curve involves starting out, building websites, search engine optimization, or the millions of other things that you must be prepared to do on the Internet to establish your business, there is someone in your favorite forum that has been there and done that. These people will be more than happy to give you free consultations.

  • http://www.mirnabard.com Kenneth Forrest

    I think that in order to have a successful market in the web, one should consider posting in forums. It does not only generate traffic but it can increase the chances of making you more popular. The popularity depends on how you help in forums and get to be trusted by the fellow members. I do appreciate the way you elaborate things in your post. Thanks for the information. Great post indeed!!

  • http://www.mirnabard.com Mirna Bard

    I have joined a lot of forums before and I see it also a very important thing to do on social media marketing. Your reputation is something at stake when you join in forums so the trust rating is high. You can build your reputation from forums.

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