Published: January 13, 2015
Forums have had a longstanding bad rep when it comes to using them for SEO. Typically, most forums incorporate no-follow links and can be hard to leverage as simply a link building strategy — as they have in the past.
Yet, although they feel somewhat antiquated, forums are still widely used and represented for many niche audiences and offer the potential to play a big role in lead generation outside of the typical use for building links.
Begin by choosing ideal forums where you can lend credibility as well as additional insight. Then, identify conversations where you can contribute with insight as an authority, but don’t start posting links to your content from the get-go. Let users (and administrators) see that you are there to add value to the community and not to fulfill some self-serving agenda.
Once you begin to embed yourself in a trusted community, forums have the opportunity to add exponential value in a few different ways:
- Help customers determine product (lends to their need and research phase) and purchase your product
- Help service and support current customers who need assistance (a customer support function)
- Look for themes from a marketing and product research standpoint to share internally with product development teams
Forum marketing is a high ROI strategy because making a good impression in front of this savvy and influential audience can help your marketing message spread far and wide. Before you begin, make sure you are operating on a well thought out strategy. Not all forums are worth your time — begin by identifying those that are right for your business objectives and cover a topic in your niche area.
Then, define your audience. Who are these people, what are their needs, what is their tone of voice? The most important element of knowing your audience is getting in their shoes. People are more likely to talk to and trust you if you identify yourself as a human, not an expansive corporation.
Finally, clearly state your objective. What do you want to accomplish in these forums? Consider whether lead generation, customer support or market research (or all of those) will help you fulfill your core goals.
For Lead Generation
Since most buyers today rely on peer feedback and product reviews, a forum is a high likelihood place for people to head towards in search of product knowledge and education. Thus, they are a great platform for identifying, nurturing and converting leads with highly relevant and personalized interactions and content. Think of your presence in a forum as you would another sales person in the field. Focus on providing genuine, valuable help and you’ll quickly find that you’re developing a qualified pool of potential new customers.
To Measure ROI Ask: How many leads were generated and what was the general theme of those interactions?
For Market Research
Observe the market in its natural form to obtain valuable insights. This is more of a passive form of market research, but forums allow for a great opportunity to listen to and monitor ongoing conversations. It includes listening across the web to what your customers are saying, what your competitors are saying, and what their customers are saying — both on and off your owned channels.
To Measure ROI Ask: What are the top three things we’re doing extremely well on as a brand? What are the things we need to work on?
Need a guide? Let’s chat!