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Advice About Forums for Promotion and Marketing

Small Business marketing avenues have evolved greatly with the development of on-line social forums and blogs. Small business promotional campaigns are no longer restricted to distributing printed business cards, brochures, flyers, mailshot and maybe even the odd classifieds advert. Now even the smallest business can rub shoulders with their industry giants on a global scale through intelligent use of their websites, blogs and forums.

This article offers advice about forums as marketing tools for those who have little or no experience of using forums.

What Is A Web / Internet Forum?
Internet Forums – also know as Web Forums – enable forum members to discuss news and topics of mutual interest with each other. The action of a member generated information being added to a ‘thread’ is called posting. Forum membership is usually free. Applicants are prompted to provide a username and password on the register page. They will use these details in future to login to the forum, enabling them to start new topics, make posts and update their membership profile.

Social Aspects Of Internet Forums
Internet Forums can be great sources of information and advice on any subject you care to imagine. Forums offer informal social outlets for people. As a sole trader I found web forums particularly useful when suffering from midweek ‘cabin fever’ due to my self enforced isolation.

Web Forums For Business Marketing And Promotion
Forums can also be used to promote and market your business. It’s usually best to take a subtle approach when marketing your business through forums as other members will quickly identify and weed out blatant self-promoters who show little interest in really participating in the discussions. Rather than listing off your latest special offer every chance you get it’s best to just signature your posts with a link to your URL (website address). There’s a good possibility that forum visitors will click your link if they found your contribution useful and genuine.

Share your knowledge freely on the forum and offer genuinely helpful advice when you can. This has several benefits:

  • You’ll get great satisfaction from helping someone out of a pickle.

  • You’ll find other members willing to assist you when you request advice or information.

  • You may eventually be identified as an expert in your field. This can generate leads or referrals for your business and can prove to be a powerful marketing tool.

  • You may even strike up some friendships!

Some Advice About Forums
Find a forum you like and visit if for a few days or weeks before joining. This will give you a feel for the way the members prefer to handle themselves. Remember, some forums are more formal than others.

Bullies – Forums offer great hangouts for bullies. If you’re a ‘Newbie’ to a forum you’ll soon come across one of these spineless wonders. Do not rise to their bait, rise above it.

Closely related to bullies but potentially far more damaging to your profile or business efforts is the resident expert! You may decide to join a forum that is not directly related to your industry or has a membership from a broad range of disciplines. This is the forum that is likely to generate the most leads for you, but beware of the resident expert in your discipline. There’s a good chance that every letter of the advice you offer will be scrutinized and questioned by your opponent on the forum. Such attempts by the resident expert to hold his status as expert could turn out to be quite an unpleasant experience for both parties (while the rest of the forum read on, enjoying the fireworks!:)).

Be prepared to hold your ground, backup your advice and remain polite even when your opponent gets personal.

People new to using forums (Newbies), in their eagerness to participate, sometimes post a reply to an old thread that is long out of date and the discussion well and truly over. This is not a crime punishable by death (yet) but probably best to stick with the current threads (last few days or so, depends on the forum). Check the date of the last post in a thread to judge if it’s still active or not.

Whatever happens, don’t get too serious, don’t take it too personal and be as helpful as you can. Before long you may begin to enjoy the benefits of marketing and promoting your business through Web Forums.

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