members self-select and by definition are part of your target market
they can be self-sustaining as members interact with each other
lots of opportunities to test product ideas and get feedback
happy customers ‘sell’ for you in the forum
regular returning traffic on-going opportunities to sell or generate advertising revenues
Sounds perfect! The reality, of course, is slightly different. The internet is littered with the withered remains of failed forums. And in amongst the detritus are the weeds – the forums with thousands of automated SPAM posts, soulless ghost ships.
Forums require hard work, good timing and – most importantly – interesting content.
Here are a few tips for using forums in your marketing:
don’t launch too early – ensure that there is already a reasonable level of traffic to your site; people need to see that a forum is .alive’
recruit moderators – identify at an early stage people who have knowledge and enthusiasm – and then look after them
start slowly with a few categories – and provide help for new joiners
promote your forum – on your website, blog, web 2.0 media, social bookmarking – and encourage your members to do the same
ensure that your forum is search engine friendly
get involved – respond quickly, ask questions – encourage others to register and post
be an active moderate to prevent ‘flaming’ – being passionate is OK, being insulting is not
include forum posts in your newsletters – and vice versa
watch out for ‘troll’ – people who will try to lure members to other forums
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