Online discussion forums — branching out

Gaia Online, a community for gamers, is one of the most popular online discussion forums. It has over 26 million members and more than 2 billion posts. The non-gamers reading this probably aren’t using the platform, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be seeking relevant discussion forums to boost your company’s marketing strategy.

By Ellie Clifford, account executive

Companies often use LinkedIn groups as a first port of call to market their businesses online. But why stop there? There is a wide range of online forums businesses can take advantage of, some boasting additional perks not offered by LinkedIn.

For example, some forums use a Q&A format, which can more easily facilitate conversation.  You may also find that they have more activity and more relevant users than LinkedIn groups. Therefore, an alternative to LinkedIn could provide a great opportunity to express yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Here are my top tips for using online discussion forums in a way that benefits your business.

Choose your forums carefully
Ensure you only get involved in forums that will help you achieve your business objectives. For example, if you sell motors for factory conveyors and are aiming to generate new sales leads, you need to be communicating with engineers and plant managers, not postmen or gymnasts.

The best way to achieve this is to think about who the forum’s users are and what they are interested in. This will allow you to decide whether they fall into your target audience.

Proofread before you post
You might not think twice when posting about music that you like, but when participating in forums relevant to your line of work, you’re representing your business. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can make your comments less credible and could even damage your company’s reputation.

Luckily this is easy to avoid. By proofreading your comments out loud before you post them, you can make sure your posts are accurate.

Get the tone right
When answering questions, make sure you provide all the information that the enquirer needs. Where possible, include evidence to add weight to your point. However, you should avoid long, waffling answers. Make sure you stay focussed on the question and answer in a clear and succinct way that can be understood by your audience.

Go with the flow 
It’s important to join in with the discussion, but make sure your comments are relevant to the thread. Similarly, make sure all links that you post are relevant to your comment and to the discussion, not just a link to your company’s Facebook page or website.

If you’re into gaming and not one of its 26 million members, have a look at Gaia online. If not, and you want to boost your online marketing strategy, why not find an alternative forum to communicate with your current and potential customers.

For more advice on how to get involved in online discussion forums, call +44 (0)1785 225 416 or e-mail ellie@stonejunction.co.uk.

Ellie Clifford

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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