Your Company’s Social Media Strategy Should Include Joining Forums and Message Boards
Small business owners should know that forums and message boards are still the most popular places to ask and answer questions about brands and products. Yes, more popular than the powerful trio of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn! If your online marketing strategy  doesn’t include participating in forums and message boards, here are some suggestions on joining the conversation:
Follow the rules: Almost every forum or message board has guidelines about properly identifying yourself and your company, what marketing language is allowed, and whether you can include links to other websites. Don’t imagine that you’re too important or too big to follow the rules. If you don’t see anything specific about marketers and companies joining the community, then ask the administrator.
No hard sell: Marketing pitches aren’t welcome in forums and administrators are ever vigilant about suspected spam. So respect the community and watch how other members communicate before you jump in with a pitch.
Don't be defensive: If a moderator accuses you of violating the rules, don’t bristle. Instead, apologize and ask what you did wrong. Then remember what the administrator has said and make sure you don’t repeat whatever it was that brought on the criticism. If a fellow member complains about your posts, don’t consider it a personal attack. Counter the arguments and don’t resort to insulting or degrading anyone.
Participate, don’t initiate: Forums have a different approach than Facebook, Twitter or blogs do. In a forum, you’re there to participate in other members’ discussions, so chime in and let the community guide the discussion. If you want to start a topic, don’t introduce your brand into the discussion. If someone else mentions your product or service, then you can answer the question, but without hyperlinking to pages away from the forum.
How’s your John Hancock?: Your posts on a forum or message board can include a signature line and you can usually mention your company and include a link to your website. Make sure, though, to check with the administrator if this is permitted. If it is, having your company or brand information in your signature might induce more people to connect with you. This also provides full disclosure if you talk about your brand in forum conversations.
Participating in forums and message boards builds trust and relationships, and will lead to people contacting you. This "old school" social media  will take longer to produce results than traditional advertising or email marketing, but the advantage is that forums and boards are archived and can be searched. Play by the rules and you can give your brand a boost.
Have you participated in a forum or message board as a commercial member? Was it beneficial? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments field below.