As technology advances, companies have to change their marketing strategy to reach an audience that adapts as quickly as the next gadget hits the market. The first course of action for many companies has been to increase their presence on social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The functionality of these channels has moved far beyond a social networking outlet between peers to become a news source, lifestyle guide and most importantly, a marketing platform.

There are inherent risks to marketing your company through social media outlets. Some companies’ target audience is not active on social media, while some new companies may have trouble reaching a target audience at all.  Small businesses using social media channels may find these outlets to be less helpful due to the difficulty in marketing a product without a baseline audience presence online.  The target audience must be easily located and informed of the product your company offers. An easy way of accomplishing this is through online forums and communities.

Understanding forums

Online forums share many of the same features as some of the more popular forms of social networking such as networking and sharing ideas in a specified industry or market. You can direct message another user on the forum or post to everyone in that forum. Some of the more popular forum hub sites are Board Reader, Big Boards and Board Tracker. Using keywords, you can find a forum that is helpful and relevant to your company.  Essentially the forum is a structured group for like-minded corporations and individuals to communicate in a common field or industry.

Using industry-related keywords

Finding the right forum and getting involved can be a difficult and sometimes confusing process. If the necessary steps are not taken, you may find forums to be a greater disservice than service. When you’re looking for a forum that suits your interests, use one of the forum hub sites mentioned above to search keywords that identify your preferred topic. Usually forums have about 1,000 members and approximately 10-15 posts a day. Once you find a forum community you like, create an account as soon as possible. Seniority plays a large role in forums; some forums even deny new users ability to post for their first couple days on the blog, so the sooner you become established in the forum, the more productive the forum will be for you.

Getting started

Another way to earn your stripes in a forum is to have a solid backstory. Forums give each user the ability to make a user profile; this is your opportunity to earn some credibility early on. Your profile should be professional yet personal. You don’t want to come off as too opinionated or stray off the topic. Once you start to get more involved with the forum, you’ll need to treat the forum like a physical meeting. Introduce yourself to the community, then spend some time listening to the conversations in place. Once you feel like you are ready to contribute, get involved in the conversation, but don’t rush it. The first things you say are the first impressions of you to other users in the forum. Often forum discussions can become pretty heated, and when this happens it is best not to get involved.

Online forums are pretty similar to college: Do your homework, participate in discussion, avoid drama, don’t do anything stupid and you will find it to be pretty beneficial and possibly lead to something better. Online forums are an excellent way to establish your brand, expand your network and stay relevant within your industry.

Matthew ZitsosContent Creator

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