Even with your best dis­guise, it’s dif­fi­cult to get away with being an imposter on a forum.

For some, link build­ing with forums is set­ting up pseudo-profiles and start­ing con­ver­sa­tion threads, per­haps drop­ping a sub­tle link to their web­site if and when the oppor­tu­nity presents itself.

You might even to be to stick around and inanely com­ment every time you can, hope­fully hang­ing around long enough to stick a link in your forum signature.

Even when done with the best inten­tions, you’ll stands out like a sore thumb and rile a few of the locals. Whereas you might get away with it once or twice, it’s really not a sus­tain­able tac­tic, nor does it do you any favours with com­mu­ni­ties you really could do with get­ting on your side.

It’s easy to spot imposters and the back­lash you face when you’re caught out isn’t nice — believe me. Here are a few less-spammy tips for using forums in your online mar­ket­ing efforts.

N.B. These tips assume you’re not already knowl­edge­able in the sub­ject of the forum

Repur­pose pop­u­lar forum content


This tac­tic errs more on con­tent cre­ation than link build­ing, but they’re two sides of the same coin, so here we go.

Forums are amaz­ing places in terms of the exper­tise peo­ple share.

The lengths and detail at which peo­ple go to help each, debate prob­lems and resolve issues is incred­i­ble, espe­cially given the peo­ple have rarely con­nected in real life.

One thing you can do rel­a­tively eas­ily is mine this knowl­edge for your own content.

Ross Hud­gens, among oth­ers, has spo­ken about lear­ing how to repur­pose con­tent.

Forums are the per­fect place to start if you’re look­ing for con­tent inspiration.

Try search­ing for your head terms and related terms in the forum. What you want is the posts that have had the most input and have pro­voked the most dis­cus­sion. When you get your results then, refine the search by ‘Replies’.

(Most forums have the option to sort by replies and views. If not, you’ll have to scan the threads manually.)

It’s a good idea to cross ref­er­ence the topic on a num­ber of sim­i­lar forums. Usu­ally this gives you a breadth of opin­ions and tid-bits of advice to include in your cre­ated content.

If the topic hasn’t been men­tioned on one forum, then there is scope for reach­ing out to the com­mu­nity armed with what you know so far and ask for advice.

Once you’ve fin­ished your research, you can let  it guide your content.

Reach out to high pro­file members


Forums are a great place to reach out to peo­ple who know about your market.

If you’re work­ing in a dif­fi­cult niches, find­ing appro­pri­ate fig­ures of author­ity to try build rela­tion­ships can be a bit tricky.

High pro­file forum mem­bers are prime can­di­dates here.

Whereas they might not have Hollywood-metrics in terms of Twit­ter fol­low­ers etc, they’ll know the indus­try you’re work­ing in bet­ter than anyone.

You might want to ask for their feed­back on con­tent you’re devel­op­ing, inter­view them on your own site or sim­ply pick their brains about the industry.

There’s no need for any smoke and mir­rors here; just be hon­est about who you are.

Robert Kozinets has spo­ken at length is his book Netnog­ra­phy about the impor­tant of being com­pletely hon­est when research­ing using online com­mu­ni­ties for mar­ket research or any other purposes.

If you decide to lie or mis­lead peo­ple about your inten­tions, you risk your own and, worse, your client’s reputation.

You’d be sur­prised how recep­tive peo­ple are when you’re upfront.

Encour­age client use


One, per­haps obvi­ous (and quixotic) point to sug­gest, is to actu­ally use the forum in the man­ner it is intended to be used by the client.

The cop-out here is nor­mally: (a) ‘Where am I going to find the time?’ and/or (b) ‘What am I pay­ing you to do?’

The ques­tion is, why wouldn’t they want to get involved? If you really care about your busi­ness and indus­try, why not try invest you’re own time in one of its online communities.

This boils down to the vendor/consultancy ques­tion and the role you’re expected to perform.

Rhea Drys­dale defines con­sul­tancy in her WBF:

 “A con­sul­tant is some­one who receives the busi­ness goals from the client, but then they com­mu­ni­cate the strat­egy back to the client, and say, “What we’re hear­ing from you is this is what you want to achieve, but in order to do that we’re rec­om­mend­ing that you pur­sue these dif­fer­ent meth­ods, which we’re going to help you with or maybe we’re going to actu­ally bring on dif­fer­ent resources or we’re going to help man­age resources within your own orga­ni­za­tion and staff this project.”

If your role is as a con­sul­tant and then you should encour­age your client to grow their own pres­ence wher­ever their mar­ket is online, not sim­ply in forums.

You can hold their hand at first, with a view to let­ting them stand on their own two feet one day.

As I say, per­haps this obvi­ous and dis­lo­cated from real­ity. Still, it would be nice…

Post By Michael Smith (31 Posts)

Michael works at 9xb Dig­i­tal Agency in Har­ro­gate, Mon­day to Fri­day. Click here to fol­low him on Twit­ter or have a look a his Google+ pro­file.

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