Tweak Your Biz » Marketing » Using Internet Forums To Market Your Business

Using Internet Forums To Market Your Business



If you’ve learnt anything about marketing your business, you’ll know that you’ve got to take a multi-pronged approach. And if you’re reading this entry, you’ve seen the value of social media as part of that marketing approach. But within social media, there’s a weapon you can use to give yourself an edge – Internet forums.

Why Use a Forum?

You may ask yourself, aren’t forums just talking shops? Yes, but your customers are there. Registering on a forum will help you tap into what they’re thinking. You can reply to their posts, give advice and solve their problems. Forums will help you grow your business, because you’ll be able to get advice from fellow entrepreneurs who are at the coalface. As an added bonus, forums help you improve your SEO rankings, because you can include trackbacks to your website in your signature, which will appear on every post.

Here’s an example, from one of my posts on www.irishbusinesswomen.com (IBW).



How to Pick the Right Forum

It depends on what you want. If you want to:

Grow your business: Go to a platform for entrepreneurs like IBW or Small Business Can, where you’ll get advice from fellow entrepreneurs who are at the coal face. LinkedIn Groups offers you the chance to connect with professionals in your own field.

Connect with Customers: There is a forum covering every topic under the sun, so search for forums that deal with a topic relevant to your industry. For example, if you’re in hte hospitality sector, TripAdvisor is a good place to go. Customers will review your services and you’ll find out what they’re thinking.

Dos and Don’ts of Marketing on Forums

Do

  • Make Yourself Known. Introduce yourself on the new member’s thread, then just get stuck in. The bigger presence you have, the easier it will be for potential customers to find you.
  • Be Generous. Forums run on expertise, so don’t be afraid to share yours. Answer posters’ questions and give them the inside track on the latest trends. They’ll value that information, especially since they’re getting it for free. You’ll be building trust with them, which ultimately builds into sales.
  • Use Your Time Well: It’s easy to get lost in forums, so decide how often you will use them. An hour a week is a good yard stick. You could split it into 5-10 minutes a day, or set aside an hour and blast them all in one go.

Don’t

  • Sell. Like other social media platforms, it’s not considered good manners to tout for business You build your credibility and selling power through your expertise.
  • Start a slanging match. Badmouthing other people will just make you look cheap and it’s tedious to have to wade through private arguments. Stick to your message and you won’t go far wrong.

By following this strategy on Irish Business Women and LinkedIn Groups, I get a steady stream of new clients. And you can do the same.

Posting on forums is a slow burn but it helps people to build trust in you and to create a dialogue with you. You get a chance to show them your smarts and to answer their dilemmas. And this ultimately persuades them to buy from you.

Do you use forums? Which ones have worked for you?



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Add Your Comment

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Hi Derbhile, Great to hear that you are getting a steady stream of new clients as a result of your online activities. I’m also a big fan of Linkedin groups, they are a great place to make new connections and customers, and I absolutely agree that answering and asking questions is best way to get to know people on there. Thanks for sharing, Niall

  • http://profiles.google.com/101.mccarthy Karen McCarthy

    Great Advice Derbhile!

  • Anonymous

    Great post Derbhile. I suggest you also look at the search engine rankings of the forum as some do really well in searches and may provide valuable links back to your site for search engine optimization as well as bringing traffic. Just remember posting links to your own site may be prohibited by the forum or may be ‘no follow’ (most links in signatures are) and not provide as much seo value. You will have to be creative to include links to your site without appearing spammy. Build your relationships first and only post if relevant to the topic.

  • Nidhi

    Nice article Derbhile. I second your thoughts on building trust and relationship with others based on the value and help you can provide.Participation on forums is like Giver’s gain. The more you help others with your expertise the more you will gain. Thanks for sharing your views,Nidhi

  • http://www.cgonlinemarketing.com/ Christina Giliberti

    Hi Derbhile,nnOnline forums are excellent, because you are speaking to potential clients directly, when they have a concern. Even better – you can see and respond to their concern in real-time. I do find however, that you have to be super quick! Responses build up by the second and yours can easily become lost. nnAlso, if you are adding your email address, be careful – others take these and spam you (v.annoying). Responders can and do challenge you and may use negative comments – be strong and confident. Don’t lower yourself to their standards.nnThe signatures for trackbacks – also a good idea. Do check website policies though, as many sites approve comments and remove signatures. Some limit personal advertising until you have reached a certain number of responses.nnA note on time – forums are not a quick buck – they take time and require a sales technique which is not too pushy. But, they are worth investing time into (as you have mentioned – you’ve made money).

  • Derbhile

    Thanks everyone – hadn’t realised that some forums blocked websites as signatures – Irish Business Women doesn’t!

  • Ann Johnson

    Derbhile, thanks for the article. Kindest Regards, Ann

  • Bonzie

    Terrific Article Derbhile, very informative. nnThanks for sharing! nkind regardsnBonzie

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    The forums are great, just got to get the right one for the right fit. IBW is a great resource and to meet other business owners also. I have met many off line since. It’s funny though how we seem to be glued to a forum for a while, and then become disinterested, and come back later again. Like every thing in life :)nnGreat tips there Derbhile, I have seen too many slagging matches on the bigger more public forums, and avoid them like the plague. I don’t need to see them, and certainly don’t need to read them.

  • http://www.cgonlinemarketing.com/ Christina Giliberti

    I meant to add that I used Cork.ning network for a while and met a fab company down the road from me called Little Giggles – The girls and I have become great friends.nI also set up a mini section on website support and gained one client. nSo – it does work. You gotta give a lot, but you get a lot in return! : 0 )

  • http://twitter.com/ZulyGonz Zuly Gonzalez

    Forums are great. One thing I would add under the “Do Use Your Time Well” category, is not to spread yourself too thin. As you mentioned, there are a gazillion forums out there, and it can be tempting to try and participate on as many as possible. But that may lead to lower quality on your part.nnOne forum that I participate quite a bit on, and would highly recommend, is http://answers.onstartups.com. It’s a forum dedicated to startups and small businesses.

  • http://www.encouragingexcellence.ie/ Mairu00e9ad Kelly

    Great post Derbhile. There are many forums for many sectors and it is important to pick the ones that suit your message and have your target market there. However when you are starting out with zero budget is can and often is a great way to build up contacts, which then convert to offline meetings and hopefully if not direct business, then referrals.

  • Fionan

    u00a0Thanks for the mention of smallbusinesscan Derbhile!

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Thanks Roisin, glad it provides a little insight! Keeping people and what drives them as the focus of what you do online will make a whole lot of difference in my book :)

  • http://www.garrendennylane.ie Lorna

    I agree, social media is about creating relationships and it is an effective means to reach out to customers and have them contact you too. Great work on the panel the other night too Niall, never got to say that to you, brilliant answers and discussions.nLorna

  • Agove

    Great read, Niall! You are definitely a thought leader in social media.u00a0

  • http://twitter.com/WiseMona WiseMona

    Too true. I find that people are still very intimidated and think your contribution to the meeting last Wednesday was great. Looking forward to ‘following’ your Tweets.

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Thanks for the kind comment and glad you enjoyed the event :)

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Thank you, We’re all just learning and I’m just a little further down the road :)

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Thanks Lorna, you had the hardest job by far! Ryan Tubridy needs to watch out, well done :)

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Just discovered you’re the cookie lady! How’s about this for some tasty marketing folks?u00a0http://yfrog.com/h4yyndtj

  • http://www.encouragingexcellence.ie/ Mairu00e9ad Kelly

    Nice post Niall, I think the important thing is to make the connections online, but then to take them offline to cement them and where offline isn’t an option there is skype.

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Great point Mairead, Skype is definitely one of the best tools for saying hello when you can’t meet up in person.u00a0

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Absolutelyu00a0Elli, For me it’s relationships and not money that makes the world go round! :)

  • http://www.surefiresocial.com/local-internet-marketing-services Staci Burruel

    Indeed! Forums are another great avenue where you can market your business in the internet. Using that and social media can really help you build a good presence online.

  • http://shanegarrison.com internet marketing blog

    I use forums all the time and they do work.

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Hi Neil, Great post and explanation of what crowd-funding is all about. I love the the concept of crowd funding but wonder if it lends itself more to certain types of businesses/ideas. But as I think about it again, this may be down to the fact that it hasn’t really reached more main stream businesses just yet. 

  • http://neilsisson.com/ Neil Sisson

    Hey Niall, adoption seems to have been primarily in the creative space to date, however there is some huge money changing hands in some market niches. I’m involved with a mobile application development funding crowdfunder called AppsFunder.com and they are funding the development of paid and fremium mobile apps.

    Here in Ireland there’s a company called Fundit.ie that seem to be funding everything and anything. There are also a number of debt/equity funding platforms out there which are more traditional in approach, where each member of your funding crowd actually own a piece of your company. Not sure I like that model as much.

  • http://neilsisson.com/ Neil Sisson

    Thanks Anton – yeah I agree completely and that’s backed up by feedback from a number of VC funds and angel investors that I’ve spoken to. Getting funded definitely skews the risk calculation in favour of the entrepreneur and while it in itself isn’t the holy grail, its a massive achievement and step in the right direction.

  • http://www.encouragingexcellence.ie/ Mairéad Kelly

    Brilliant post Neil, you explain it so well.  It is a lot like the likes of the charity funding for small businesses in third world countries for example http://www.kiva.org/

    One question; does that funding ever have to be repayed or is it basically an advance payment on a product/service that is being developed?

  • http://twitter.com/#!/antonmccarthy Anton McCarthy

    That’s great to hear. I love the concept all round and it’s so encouraging to see it flourishing – especially in the current economy – as so many people have great ideas but just don’t have the funds to see if they are winning ones. Have been checking out AppsFunder too after your last post – one to watch.

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    Love this post Neil, it’s nice and practical and comes from the real world :) It’s one thing to have a great idea, but quite another to develop it, fund it and get paying customers. I particularly like the added benefits you list at the end, start-ups need advocates and having the drive an imagination to find your own funding sources says a lot about an entrepreneur. If a start-up could target a “crowd” that would be a form of product endorsement as well, so much the better.
    ~ Helen

  • http://neilsisson.com/ Neil Sisson

    Thanks Helen.

  • http://neilsisson.com/ Neil Sisson

    Hi Mairéad, thanks for your comments. To answer your question, there has been an explosion of crowd funding platforms in the last couple of years. There are a lot of them out there now and there are a number of different business models they operate under.

    I’ve seen platforms that require you give your Funders a chunk of the equity of your business. Others just work on an almost voluntary donation system where the Funders don’t receive reciprocal value for their investment (some of the arty ones work like that). 

    The best ones in my view are the type that operate on the model I outlined in my example – i.e. the business owner retains 100% equity but gives his/her Funders a Return on their Investment. It doesn’t have to always be cash either, it could be cool stuff or kudos or membership to an exclusive “club” of supporters.

  • http://www.appointmentsetting.com/ simonswills

    Excellent post and description of what crowd-funding is all about. I really like the the idea of crowd funding but wonder if it gives itself more to certain kinds of businesses/ideas. But as I think about it again, this may be down to the truth that it hasn’t really achieved more major river companies just yet. 

  • http://charter-tv.spruz.com/pt/Charter-TV-for-cheap-deals.6-25-2012/blog.htm Patrick Hudson

     The concept is good but i doubt its success. How many are ready to put their money into others business and that too without any major profit for them. But the idea of doing this kind of funding is interesting.

  • http://www.twelveskip.com/ Pauline

    Great advice Derbhile!

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com/ Sian Phillips

    A call center can sometimes be a huge turn off to me if I realise I have got through to one. However your suggestions make sense from a business point of view. Thanks for sharing this with us and I look forward to your next post.

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    Outsourcing call center services can streamline business processes in many areas.From lean-and-hungry start-ups to mid-sized businesses at the precipice of expansion, the outsourced call center can help with the reallocation of scarce resources to catalyze growth and drive profit.

  • Heather Morgan

    A great tip especially for us as a person working everyday to find lead prospects. I’ll do apply this Nikhil. This will help a lot.

  • http://www.pgi.com/ Lorna Love

    I agree. It’s very hard for me to keep track of the cash I spend. It’s so much easier to see any deductions from my online banking when I’m using my debit card.

  • Sandra Crowe

    I can’t really say that cash is ‘not cool’ anymore nowadays but it’s just that it’s more easier to steal and to lose rather than a credit card. In starting your business you should be prepared for anything because you will never know if that customer will pay you cash or through credit card, it’s better to have both for the comfort of the customer.

  • http://www.sunovisfinancial.com Terry Robinson

    Hi Sian,
    Thanks, and yes, alternative lending is like a mine field, but there are many “safe zones” along the way. There are some great lenders out there that have really helped a lot of businesses with financing. Business owners just need to be clear about what they need and *should* be looking for, not just jump at the first open door.