Social networking via online forums is fast becoming an indispensable part of Internet marketing. For the smaller companies, I recommend starting out by joining two or three online forums and getting familiar with the territory.
You can join a forum dedicated to your particular business where you swap ideas with others in your field. This can help you stay atop changes in your industry and even lead to future collaborations. It can even lead to customers as folks looking for your services or products might be “lurking” on the forum.
Or you might wish to participate in forums where you are likely to find potential customers. For example, someone in the flooring business may wish to join a forum for builders. But when you join this type of forum, you must not join the forum to hawk your business. In fact, using it as an advertisement, will likely get you kicked off!
Rather, think of joining forums like joining Rotary or some other networking group. You join to make friends, build relationships, and increase your knowledge. If you do your best to be helpful to others, people will start thinking of you as a friend who is both knowledgeable and trustworthy. Because people like to do business with friends, you will eventually get referrals.
In the meantime, by joining a forum you might get some benefits for your own website. Most forums allow you to list your name and website URL address. Search engines will see the link on that site and give you Brownie points, known as “link juice.” In addition, visitor traffic that comes to your site via the forum can help your page rank and search engine rankings.
Try to set aside a little time every few days to participate in forums or assign it as a work task to a staffer, then give the staffer the time to do it
To find a forum in a desired field, just do a search in that field and add “forum” or “message board” to the search request.
At first, it might be slow going signing up and reading the rules. If the site is too restrictive and won’t let you enter in any contact information, you might want to skip them and find a friendlier group.
You can also look for forums on the websites of various trade association directories. And don’t forget to check out websites you already visit regularly. They probably have a forum or message board.
Take-away: Online forums help build your Internet brand, provide “link juice” for your website, and are a source of collaborations, knowledge, and customers. Join just one online forum today.