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This lesson is continued from Lesson 4 Part 1: How To Market Your Business Using Forums.
Picking The Right Forum Name
Ok, so you’ve found a relevant forum which you can go on to interact in. Next up, you need to register to use these forums. While all the information you input will be pretty straight forward, there is one thing you need to put some real though into: Your forum name.
If you done the research I mentioned above, you will have a good idea of whether or not you’re allowed to use a brand name as your forum name. Whether or not you are, you may want to steer clear of this anyway. Remember, forums are social environments, and people go there to talk to other like-minded people. Yes they will also be open to interacting with brands that help them further their interest in some way, but you will also get a lot of people that will just see you as someone who’s only there to promote to them.
A better way is often to either include your full name, or use your name followed by ‘@’ and then your brand name. For Example, Shaun at DRC Traffic Pro.
I personally like using my name, and leaving my brand name in my signature or tag line. Tag lines are lines in which some forums allow you to add a little bit about yourself. This information appears under your avatar usually, and is viewable by other members.
Using this method allows people to see you as a real person, and not just someone who’s there to showcase their own products. It also allows people to know who they’re interacting with, and will build up a sense of transparency and trust.
So what happens if someone already has the forum name that you wanted? Well quite simply, you have to pick another one. Forums don’t allow duplicate names, as people won’t know who made which comments. It is because of this that you should also avoid having a name very similar to another forum member, as the last thing you want is people mixing the two of you up.
While you can go for a branded forum name if you want, giving off a personal vibe through the use of a genuine name is often the best way to go. You can always put your brand name in the signature anyway, a place where people will look if you’re posting useful information.
Using A Stand Out Avatar
An avatar is a small image you can upload to the forum, that will appear every time you create a post or topic. It is usually displayed under your name, or somewhere close to the rest of your profile information.
If the forum you use allows the use of Avatars, you should 100% definitely use one. Alongside your forum name, this is something that will help you stand out from the crowd, and become part of your branding on this forum.
The good thing about avatars is they’re easily scan-able for other members. You could be scrolling quite fast through a forum, and even if you don’t see every name clearly, you may still see the image of another forum member you are fond of. This will stop some people scrolling, and let them see what that person has to say on the subject matter.
So what image could you use as your avatar? Well, remember that your avatar will represent you. Because of this, two obvious choices are:
- Your Photo.
If you are open about who you are in your business, one option is to have a photo of you as your avatar. This will make you instantly recognizable to other forum members, and give your profile a really personal touch. This will often be the best option if you want to get people comfortable with you sooner rather then later, but it is not essential.
- Your Logo.
If you don’t want to display personal branding in your business and instead want to raise awareness of your site as a whole, the other option is to have a picture of your website’s logo as your avatar. This will of course raise brand awareness, and once again give you a unique image that will hopefully be a lot different then any one else’s.
Your avatar isn’t restricted to just one of these two things however. A final idea is to use a stand out image that both reflects your personality and is also eye catching for scanners. This could be any image; a stock picture that you bought, a pattern, or anything else.
The image you choose is essentially up to you, but make sure it has one of those three qualities: It’s a picture of you (Usually head and shoulders so it’s clear), is your business logo, or is a striking image that will have people remembering you.
But what about size; How big should your avatar be? Well, the size you’re allowed to use will vary from forum to forum. Having said that, they usually have to be a square shape, and not too big in terms of both dimension and file size. When you go in your profile section and to the section where you can upload your avatar (You need to sign up to the forum before you do this), you will usually be told the max avatar size that is allowed. Take this size into account when you are either picking or making your picture.
Interacting In The Forum
Once the set up is all done, the next step is to start interacting on the forums. There are a couple of pointers I want to give you about this, as running in ‘all guns blazing’ will often give the wrong impression of you. One thing I want to make clear right now is this: Never go on to a forum and straight out promote any of your products or services! This is social suicide, and will instantly give off the wrong impression of you. You want to appear as one of the community and someone people can grow to trust, not someone who’s just there to sell to them.
Not only will this be bad for you socially, but there’s also the chance that you will get your posts deleted or even face a forum ban (If you do it in a really spammy way). You should instead make sure everything you post is useful and genuine in nature. You can either share tips and tricks with people, or leave feedback on other people’s questions or posts. If you appear to be useful, others will be more likely to take notice of you, and follow back to your website. So take time to talk to people without promoting to them, and you will see a lot better results then you would if you rushed in with a sales pitch. Here are some other tips for interacting in the forum:
Start By Replying To Other People’s Topics
Instead of creating your own topics when you first join a new forum, it’s often a better idea to look at any existing posts, and reply to a few of them before anything. The reason? Mainly because how many posts you’ve made are usually displayed publicly every time you post, and people often take members with more posts under their belt more seriously.
This isn’t to say you want hundreds of posts when the average in the forum is 50; You won’t want it to look like all you do is spend time on that forums. BUT you do want to get a few posts created before you post your own topic.
Even replying to 10 other topics before you do your own is fine, you can even do this over one of two days if you want. I prefer to do them all in one sitting so I can move on, but how you do it is up to you.
Even when you do start making your own topics, you should still reply to other people’s and get involved in the conversation. This will get you and your signature in front of more people, and as a result get your more website visitors.
Creating Your Own Topics
Once you have a few posts under your belt, you can start posting your own topic threads. You can post about things you notice in the niche, guides, question and answer sessions (We talk about this more below under the header ‘Special Tips: Creating Forum Posts That Can Rank’), or anything else you feel is relevant. You shouldn’t go overboard with creating new topics though, as you want to save some ideas for later dates. As a general rule, don’t post a new topic if people are still interacting in one of your other ones. The exception to this rule is if you have time sensitive news that you need to get out there.
Dealing With Arguments And Disagreements
Although forum marketing can be fun, there are also times where arguments can arise. This is because forums are a place for people to hang out and socialize, and there will always be people with a difference of opinion.
If it ever gets to the point where you somehow get in an argument with another member, then it’s often best to walk away (Before of after you’ve made your point in a civil manner, that’s up to you). Arguing with someone on a forum is not very professional, and it can change people’s opinions on you. Remember, you’re mainly there to shine a good light on your business. You do this by gaining the respect and curiosity of other forum members. Arguing however, can help taint that image of your brand.
If you get into an argument and keep going back and forward with this person, it can go on for a while, and everyone in the forum could see it. If however you step away from the conversation very early, the argument will have no momentum, and pretty much end before it really starts. The thread will then hopefully get lost amongst all the others. Many people will also respect you for walking away from the confrontation, and still see you in a good light.
If you stepping out of the conversation doesn’t help and the person carries on being argumentative and hounding you in other threads, alert a moderator and see if they can sort it out. Hopefully they will warn the person to stop, or even ban them.
You want to retain a good image of yourself on the forums, as if you make yourself a hated member of the community, you pretty much won’t be able to use those forums for promotion any more. You will still be able to get people in front of your business in other ways, but having the forum communities on your side is a very handy thing indeed.
Special Tips: Creating Forum Posts That Can Rank
Alright, time for the magic. This is a tip I’ve never heard anyone else mention before, and one I’m not sure if anyone else intentionally does. The thing with a lot of busy forums, is they can rank very well for a lot of long tail keywords and queries. I’m sure you’ve probably done some searches before and had forum results appear somewhere on the front page of Google or your chosen search engine? Well, you can totally use this to your advantage!
A lot of questions are asked in search engines every day. What you can therefore do, is think of a number of questions people in your niche may ask, then both ask and answer them on forums. You don’t need to go on a keyword tool to figure out what questions to ask, simply think of some possible questions from the top of your head and note them down.
What we want is for our forum thread to rank in search engines for the question we ask, as well as variations of these question. As we’re not taking out questions from any keyword tools, we’re often not going to get much competition from internet marketers only trying to rank for proven longtails. This means it’ll be easier for us to hit on untapped search terms, and rank for them instantly without much (If any) competition.
For example, if I was in the health and fitness industry, questions I could instantly think of include:
- How long should you wait before you eat after exercise?
- How often should you go to the gym?
- Are treadmills better for weight loss then rowing machines?
- How can I set up a home gym?
- Are home gyms expensive to make?
- What are the main benefits of going to the gym over exercising at home?
Like I said, these are all questions I just thought from the top of my head now. If you’re in this niche, feel free to make forum posts with these heading and answering the question inside. If you (and only you) created all of these forum posts and answered them well inside, I can almost guarantee you will get search traffic from these 6 questions (Provided you put them on a good strength forum which ranks well of course). And if you do a good job of answering the questions and have your forum signature displaying, there’s a good chance a percentage of the people who find your article will follow that link back to your website.
With this method, you are effectively ‘killing two birds with one stone’. Not only are you building up your authority in the forums by sharing your knowledge and being helpful to others, but you are also creating pages that can rank in search engines. With the natural authority forums have, longtail keywords can rank very well on them. And as more people reply to the topic you create, they are simply making your page stronger and adding more longtail keywords to the mix.
A quick example of a topic you can make:
How Can I Set Up A Home Gym? All Is Uncovered!
Hey guys. I know some of you have been wondering how you can set up a home gym, so I thought I’d create a guide for you on how to do this… *Carry on with the guide*.
You can make your answer as long or as short as it needs to be, but the important thing is that you answer the question fully. You will also need to make sure that your signature makes it clear that you talk more about the niche on your site, and that this is also a resource that they will want to check out.
When you create these kind of posts, you should do them across a few of the bigger forums in your niche. The reason for this is simple: You want to diversify the forums your posts rank on, in case any of the forums ever lose their rankings in search engines or lose it’s visitors to a competitor. Having said that, forums have been pretty resilient to search result changes. Still, it’s better to be safe then sorry. It will also give you a idea of which forums ranks better then the rest. This can be the place you ask and answer most of the questions on.
As you know, the whole point of this course is to become less reliant on Google search traffic. Having said that, this is a method I still recommend you employ. We’re not only ranking forum topics for the sake of it; each of these topics will be useful for the forum community, and drive traffic back to our site in it’s own right. Even if they don’t end up ranking, they will still have helped drive traffic back to your site via link clicks. If they do end up ranking though, that’s a bonus, and one that will keep sending us traffic for some time to come.
Be sure to create these kind of topics at least say 2 or so times per week, and take note of the kind of results you get. Use your website analytics to see which posts are sending you the most traffic even when no one’s replied to it in a while, and focus on creating even more of these type of posts on that forum.
As you may notice, this method is kind of like guest posting. Guest posting is something we’ll be looking at in lesson 9. 🙂
How Much Time Should You Be Spending On Forums
Before I finish, I wanted to quickly look at how much time should be spent on forum marketing. Like I mentioned earlier on, forum marketing can be fun. The problem with that however, comes when too much time is spent on the forum, and not on other areas of building your business (E.G. Product creation and other methods of traffic generation).
While I would recommend dabbling in forum marketing between 3 – 7 times a week so it becomes part of your routine, I will also say this:
- Don’t spend too long during each forum session, and
- Only do forum marketing outside of your ‘real business’ hours.
Around 20 – 30 minutes a time is usually enough to skim for the best topics, and give a few decent replies. That, or to add your own topic or two. This will of course vary depending on how fast you type, how busy the forums are, and how much your have to contribute.
One way to limit the amount of time you spend on the forums is to give yourself a time limit. Tell yourself you’ve only got say 20minutes to look around, and after that you can’t open another new topic no matter how interesting it looks.
If you find yourself checking forums throughout the day, you should instead tell yourself you can only go on them either first thing in the morning before work, or even better only at the end of the day when you have the list of your other tasks finished. That way, even if you do find yourself spending more time on the forums then you should, at least it’s eating into your social time and not stopping you from doing any other necessary work.
Forum marketing is one of the best ways to get traffic instantly to your site, although it’s often overlooked in favor of other traffic generation strategies such as link building and social media sites. This is a big mistake, as forums can bring you a load of targeted traffic very quickly.
I’d recommend anyone who wants to build up authority in their niche to make forums marketing part of their daily marketing plans. Not only can it be enjoyable , but it can also work very well.
What To Do Now
Here is what you should do between now and next lesson. If you don’t have the time, that’s fine. Do as much as you can, and do the rest when the time is there:
- Look Into Related Forums.
The first thing you need to do is find some forums in your niche. You need to make sure they allow signatures, and that they are suitable for your needs. Make a note of all the forums you can find, as well as which ones appear to be the most popular, and which ones you think could help your marketing campaign the most.
See how people interact in these message boards, and how you’d best be able to fit in.
- Sign Up To Some Of The Found Forums.
Once you have drawn up a list of relevant forums, the next stage is to sign up to a select few of them. You’ll be signing up to all of them in due time, but in the beginning sign up to one or two. You can sign up to the two best ones if you feel confident enough to jump straight into things, or you can try a smaller one first if you want to see what a smaller community is like to start with.
Ensure you have a relevant forum name; Either your own personal name (Or pen name if using one), or your brand’s name if you’re allowed to use that on the forum and want to go down that route.
- Set Up Your Forum Profile.
Next up, you need to set up your profile with the relevant information. If you have your website or product already set up, you can leave a link to it in your signature. You could also leave a link to your opt in page where people can get your free ebook. If you are still setting your website up however, you can skip this part till you have something to show to the community. Add your avatar and tag line if the forum allows them, and also a little bit about you in your profile page.
- Start Interacting In The Forum.
The last thing to do is to interact in these forums. Start out by replying to people’s posts, and getting involved in existing conversation. As you have more posts under your belt, you can also start creating topics that will be helpful to the community. Respond to private messages you get, and try and build up a relationship with people. Be helpful in the majority of posts you create (You can still create some thanking other people etc) and people will start to notice you and follow your signature back to your site.
What’s Happening In The Next Lesson
Next lesson we’ll be looking at how to successfully build a list. List building is essential for traffic retention, and is something that anyone building either an online or offline business should be doing. We’ll look more at why next time, as well as telling you how to best go about building your list. Until then. 🙂