Forums and message boards are a great basis for marketing your business online. Forums are effective social communities on the internet enabling you to engage and control discussion in your product or brand within groups of like-minded people.

Forums and message boards are a great basis for marketing your business online. Forums are effective social communities on the internet enabling you to engage and control discussion in your product or brand within groups of like-minded people.

Identify ‘busy’ communities within your industry

Depending on your level of commitment you may decide to try and build an online presence on forums and communities related to your industry. Identify the busier communities and attempt to cultivate relationships with key figures and promote your business in a relatively low key manner. By discussing your product or brand on a forum your marketing message is rather more subtle than an explicit advertisement.

Become a fount of knowledge in your field

Avoid ‘spamming’ forums by signing up with a solitary advert that creates an unwanted reputation for your business. The best way to gain respect is to show knowledge in your field by scanning for relevant topics and posting answers and solutions for forum regulars. This process can be repeated as frequently as you like keep your business in the thoughts of users.

Consumer research

If you are looking to conduct consumer research into your product then an online forum is a great place to receive feedback from consumers who may also be able to provide areas for improvement. Why not conduct an online poll on a forum? This is a quick and easy way for users to rate your product in terms of usability, functionality, price - pretty much anything you’re looking to research.

Creating your own forum

Many businesses now create their very own online forums to encourage debate in their brand amongst their target client base. A virtual community is a great way of building bridges with customers and developing long-term relationships. You may choose to spend time on existing online communities before creating your own to get a feel for your target audience and the kind of issues they really want to discuss. During this time it may be worthwhile making notes about positive and negative aspects of existing forums and how you would like to implement things differently. In the infancy of a forum there is naturally going to be very little discussion as your membership base grows. It is therefore important to engineer debate yourselves, encouraging new members to get involved.

Providing members with responsibility

Once your forum has evolved into its own community you can incentivise your members to remain on the forum by handing them responsibility to police areas of the site. Whether you appoint moderators or simply entrust senior members alerting you to potentially offensive posts, this helps to give members a sense of co-ownership with the forum. It is said that the percentage of forum members continually active in discussions is between 1 and 10 per cent. So do not worry if it takes time for ‘lurkers’ to rear their head and contribute to the conversation.

Many business experts consider online communities as the best way to promote a business in a domain where consumers are most likely to surf and talk. Improve your business standing and promote your services using online forums.