In the paid search game, you learn by testing. You test your ad copy, your images, your CTAs. You test your headlines, your placements & your keywords. With all that testing, it’s easy to get worn out and think you’ve tried, well, everything to improve performance and increase conversion rates.
Don’t worry: you haven’t. Here is a little idea that’s popular with industry leading sites, it’s a back door into the most active community in your niche; Trade Forums.
If you understand how to leverage Trade Forums, they can be incredibly valuable, improving your brand’s reputation and potentially drawing in a ton of qualified leads. The trouble is, most businesses simply don’t understand how forums work. Trade Forums are very unique platforms, even amongst social networks.
Read on for everything you need to know about marketing on Forums.
What Is Forums, and How Does They Work?
Forums are predicated on a simple promise — that visitors will always have an ear to the ground about the latest and most important events. In this way, the user-driven website serves as a glimpse into what is trending as much as it’s a trendsetter, almost like a selfie taken by the Internet.
The Home Page
The home page is the thing everyone sees when they first land on the site. In a sense, it’s sort of like Google’s Search Engine Results Page, in that content that makes it here is seen by everyone, regardless of where it originated. That said, the home page does look a bit different for users who are logged in, as Forums allows you to curate your experience by subscribing to specific threads (described below).
Forum gauge a direct measurement of positive engagement. If a user likes a post or comment, they upvote it, increasing its rating & reputation. Consequently, if they dislike or disagree with a post or comment, they downvote it. In my forums you can get blocked or banned for breaking their rules.
That said, posts with an extremely high volume of upvotes can be featured on some forum’s homepage; in that way, your profile rating is an indication that your brand is good at generating engagement.
Threads are the core framework of any forum, self-contained communities formed around specific topics, interests, or hobbies.
Most threads take a very negative view on self-promotion, as traditionally there’s been no shortage of businesses spamming them with shamelessly sales-focused content.
How Businesses Grow through Forum Communities
Generally speaking, a business or brand increases its presence on Forums not by relentlessly pushing branded content but by becoming an active participant in the threads frequented by your target audience. Paid promotion and ad placement can also help a great deal. Ideally, you’ll want to strike a balance between the two, with your focus being on interacting with your audience rather than generating sales.
Branding your Content
For branded content, you have two options. The first is to create a Forum profile to represent your company directly. Alternatively, if your brand is tied closely to the personas of its leadership, you could have each member of your executive team maintain their own Forum profile.
If you plan to spring for paid promotion as opposed to organic content, you’ll want to take the former route. You should also set up a Forum advertising account and do a bit of research on the threads you plan to target. Make sure you exclusively select active threads; the more users a thread has actively following it, the better.
Advertising on Forum’s generally go one of two ways. If you understand the platform and target your ads effectively, they can bring in a ton of traffic. On the other hand, if you lack an understanding of the platform and its users, you’re essentially tossing money into a bonfire.
The most important thing to understand about targeted ads is that each thread has its own unique culture. As such, your ads should be tweaked to specifically appeal to each community in which they appear. There’s also one trait that every thread shares — they value authenticity.
Our Top Tips for Effective Forum Branding
We’ve already established the importance of understanding what makes Forum advertising unique. Beyond that, here are our five top tips for marketing success on Trade Forums.
- Don’t be a spammer. Don’t incessantly promote sales-focused content, and avoid asking questions or posting content that’s already been covered. Be honest and authentic. Just as Forums look down on sales-focused content, it also looks down on dodginess and shady behavior.
- Consider your audience. Who do you want to reach, and what can you offer them? What trends are likeliest to catch their attention? And what topics and language should you avoid?
- Be active. Start things off slowly by commenting on a few posts and sharing some third-party content here and there. Pay attention to how people interact and how sentiment shifts over time. Most importantly, engage with your audience by responding to comments and answering questions with as much authenticity as possible.
- Find your niche and let loose. Don’t be afraid to roll with the punches. In most cases, people tend to love it when a brand engages in playful banter or doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you want to see examples of this in practice, just look at Wendy’s on Twitter or Denny’s on Tumblr.
- Respect, quality, originality. Bring something unique to the table with each post and content. Treat your customers with dignity and respect, and make sure to proofread and edit your content thoroughly before posting.
Go get it
Find your trade forum and spend a few months actively getting involved in the community before you drop the cash on ads.