By Dave Ashe
Forums are a great way of marketing alongside articles, email and blogging – there is no real way to compare all of these, they are just a different way of communicating. The big difference however with forums is that many many more people will see you and get to know you which builds trust as you interact with the community.
Forums have been around in many forms since the dawn of the internet, they provide a means of conversation with like-minded people in a community-driven atmosphere of helping one another with problems. If you don’t know how they work, let me just tell you a bit about them.
First off, you have to find your forum in your niche, the best way to do this is type in subject forums as the keywords (replacing subject with your topic) into a search engine. Once you have found one in the topic you’re interested in, with a nice community going on, registration is the next step.
Registration is pretty simple, its just a case of filling your details in and perhaps entering a captcha (one of those funny sets of digits and numbers that tell the site that you are not an automated spammer!) You may have to click a link in your email to register the fact that you own the email address you registered with.
There usually is many sub-forums, i would reccomend finding one that usually reads something like “introduce yourself” and post a brief overview of what you are about and say hello. I would advise against just registering and posting “buy my product now” or “come to my website” etc. type comments as you’ll end up with a flame war – if you dont know what that is please do a search on it as its not a nice thing to happen to you!
Get involved in the forum, post replies to people’s problems to help with any questions that you can – its a community-type feeling that you will enjoy. Forums which are busy have the advantage of many more people in the nich you are targeting, so you can find out about some really exciting new widget thing in your niche that is very important to you, and also reply and ask more.
Some forums have a specific buy, sell or trade section where you can sell your products, this is the place to be if you want to directly pitch your product. Another way of pitching your product is to enter links to your website in your signature, this is shown directly under each post that you make and is updated automatically – be careful however, some forums dont like this and will ask you to remove them. Some have rules on the size of images or links allowed, please read these before adding it.
Some of the more advanced forums that run vbulletin have private messaging which can be great to directly carry out business to people privately on the forum, i’ve bought many websites and domain names using this – some sites like digital point have itrader which is also a way of showing how trustworthy the user is in terms of buying and selling, similar to the ebay feedback system.
One last thing to remember, forums are a great place to communicate rather than a place to pitch-fest – if you want to advertise on a forum, but you cant find any other method other than the ones i’ve outlined, contact the owners of the site and ask for banner rates, this is a great way of getting in front of these people, then you have the right to freely talk about your product or service which is a huge bonus compared to advertising on a static site!