chapter 42

Participate on Forums

Participating in online forums can be an amazing way to get your business in front of the right audience. Frankly it can be one of the best forms of online marketing there is. The only problem is that it’s incredibly easy for forum marketing to backfire and cause more harm than good.

The Temptation

As soon as an entrepreneur has a new product to sell to the world, most of them want to blast, spam and annoy every one they can, and as fast as they can. Because it’s a “numbers game” right? Wrong. 

The first thing you have to do is get that age-old saying out of your head. We have a strong suspicion that phrase or way of thinking is the cause for more failed online businesses than anything I can think of. In fact, businesses that thrive in today's connected world tend to have a customer-centric or "you-centric" approach rather than a "me-centric" approach, that is out to provide value and genially help customers with their problems. If you haven't already, be sure to read Jay Baer's new book "Youtility".

The temptation with forums is that since they contain some of the most rich and targeted environments to market your products, you’re going to want to come screaming in, telling everyone what you have for sale. This will generally get you banned from the forum faster than you can say spam.

Never Spam Anyone, Anything or Any Website

The first rule of online marketing is to not spam. You must treat these carefully built communities with the highest respect. You’re in their house. You wouldn’t go into a coffee shop and plaster their walls with flyers without permission would you? The same thing goes for the online world.

But it’s easy to fall into the mindset of a spammer. You don’t have to face your victims in the flesh. You may not even understand the annoying consequences of what you’re doing. You might even start to get away with it for a while. The important question that you should always ask yourself is: “Is this good for the brand?”

When you start to think of your business as a brand, then you’ll begin to understand why spam hurts your ability to grow your business.

How to Find Forums

Finding forums is very easy thanks to good old Google. Simply conduct Google searches like:

“[your industry] + forum”

“[your industry] + message board”

Or pick a few popular product types you sell and use those words in your forum search. Hopefully, Google will spit out dozens of popular forums related to your industry or niche. Before you spend time setting up profiles in these forums, be sure to see if they are active. Google will keep results in their search engine of forums that may have been dormant for years. Quickly weed out those forums and keep note of them.

How to Become a Cherished Member of a Forum

Once you find forums that consist of your target audience, be prepared to go through a long initiation of becoming a part of the tribe. Leave all your business and salesperson thoughts behind and let the community transform you. Be prepared to give in to their culture and their way of doing things,  this will be a transformational journey that will prepare you to be the best business leader you can be in their world.

Let’s get into the process of carefully going about this: 

  1. Sign Up  –  This is the easy part. Sign up for accounts at the forums of your desire. Fill out your bio and “about me” sections. Upload a real photo of yourself. But refrain from putting up links to your ecommerce website. Just let the community know that you are a real person first.
  2. Read and Listen  – Spend a couple hours a day reading the discussions that are happening on these forums. Get used to the community and take notes on what they like and what they don’t. Not only are you getting introduced to the local tribe, you’re doing market research too. Find out what kind of spam they don’t like. Find out what pisses them off. Some forums will be more particular than others. The main point is to learn as much as you can from your audience. Remember, these are your future customers. 
  3. Help  –  After you feel comfortable with your new community and you know your way around your new hangout, feel free to help people. Helping people by responding to their questions and providing information to them will make you highly respected in any forum. So long as you’re not pushing your own content or links to your website. Be as unbiased as possible and help them as genuinely as you can.
  4. Promote the Right Way  –  Once you feel that you have developed real relationships with members of the community and you are truly one of them – then slowly let your business be known. Start by going back to your bio and link to your website. When you feel really comfortable and if the forum allows it, create a signature that either links back to your website or provides a way to solve problems for the community.

By tapping into a already passionate community that's the perfect target market for your product, not only is all the time and effort worth it when it comes to forums, it's almost equivalent to a goldmine when it comes to finding your early customers when starting out. So make sure to keep at it.

Next chapter

43. Create a Listing on Craigslist

3 min

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