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?