A view from a forum moderator on lead generation via business forums

Some of you will know that I moderate at some forums with the busiest being UK Business Forums and I thought that this would make for a good article to give a few tips for people who use forums as part of their social media marketing activity particularly with the aim of generating leads.
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Anonymous or Real?

This is the first question to ask yourself and the answer you come up with will tend to be aligned with your objectives. If you are intending to use a business forum for lead generation then my advice would be to be open and transparent where you can. This is simply because people like to know who they are conversing with and potentially likely to do business with.  The rest of this article is based on being real rather than anonymous.

 

Tip 1 – Think about your profile

People will sometimes view a profile before clicking a link through a web page. Therefore it is important that this gives enough information for people to get a good first impression and also what is the best route to follow to find out more about you and contact you. Tell people what you are best at, what offers you currently have running and provide links to find out more about products and services.

 

Tip 2:  Link to Landing page

You can usually have a link to a web page from your forum profile so make the most of this as people will click on this after reading your posts to find out what you do for a living or what service or products you provide. The easiest and most basic thing is to have a link to your Homepage but you might also want to have a think about a more specific landing page. This could be a different page of your website but it could also be a squeeze page, or a more custom greeting page for your forum visitors. It could even be a page to your public linked in profile or your youtube channel or facebook page … the choice is yours. Experiment and see what works best for you.

 

Tip 3:  Reputation

Reputation is pretty much everything on business forums. If you get a reputation early on for being argumentative or a bit of a spammer or someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about then it can be difficult to shake that reputation off and build credibility later on down the line. When you first join a forum it is a good idea to have a read of the rules as these will vary from forum to forum and decide what reputation you would like to build for yourself from the start. My general advice is that quality is better than quantity.

 

Tip 4:  Search out relevant posts quickly to spend more time on quality

Quite a lot of forums have an ‘Advanced Search’ tool and you can use this to find conversations by key words and phrases either by post mentioning those things or by title. This is a short cut way to find all posts by key words. The more time you cut out finding relevant posts the more time you will have to devote to quality postings :)

 

Tip 5:  Community Spirit

Forums can foster a fantastic level of community spirit but you need to get a feel for this within the forum in terms of “how things work around here”.  The rules are a good place to start but also reading through past threads to get a feel for what types of posts are most welcome and unwelcome by other members. Charging into posts spamming your product or service or slagging off a competitor (or even another forum member) is generally not seen as cricket ie; not the done thing.  Notice too whether people tend to post pictures of themselves as avatars or their company logo.  Try not to embellish the truth too much either as forum members tend to sniff out BS fairly quickly.

 

Tip 5:  Personality

Business forums don’t usually carry conversation in the context of “The Royal We” ie; “We do this, We do that” and posting style is usually as a person talking about their company or product or service so “I” is generally better than “We” for showing personality, being human, and having a human opinion and advice to offer. People like to do business with people they like so be careful not to be too corporate or too cold. At UKBF there is a lively “Time Out” thread where members post about all sorts of non business stuff. These parts of the forum are just as important for relationship building sometimes than other parts of the main forums and sometimes get forgotten about when it comes to lead generation.  Simply connecting and conversing with people will lead to click throughs onto your user profile and possibly an enquiry being made for products or services. This can come from simply just having a bit of a laugh or posting in a manner than is helpful and not at all promotional.

 

Tip 6:  Ask for referrals in a non spammy way.

There are sometimes opportunities within conversation on threads to ask for referrals in a non spammy way. This may be where talking through a business issue or an area of growth for your business. You can still usually drop things into conversation provided that you are not peddling your wares too much. This is a bit of a grey area usually and the area that a lot of people struggle with finding a balance so if in doubt err on the side of caution. Smileys don’t make self promotion ok with the moderation team usually either :)

 

Tip 7:  Good use of signatures

These appear under the bottom of every single post you make across every sub forum so put these to good use!  Sometimes people will have a cheesy quote or just a web address or telephone number but both of these miss the mark of opportunity.

For paid up members these can be highly sought after quality backlinks so use of words and phrases as part of an SEO strategy is something to think about here.

For free members it can be a good idea to have something that entices people to find out more such as “Newly released tips for xyz now available at our website” that is much more compelling than just simply writing the web address.

 

Tip 8:  Post Titles & Tags

If your forum has these then make use of them when posting. These help the content to be easily found in search engines. Apart from that it helps draw members attention to your posts.

 

Tip 9:  The Wider Audience

It’s very easy on forums to think that your posts are usually only seen by other forum members and to write posts in a manner that suits that particular forum however there is a hugely wider audience to consider and that is the people who will find you via search engines. Many forums also have what are called “lurkers” which are people who read but don’t post much. Think about the lurkers and the search engines when you are posting if this is part of your lead generation strategy too.

 

Tip 10:  Links within posts

Everyone wants links through to their blog, website, linkedin page, facebook page etc and quite often there are opportunities to do this from within your forum posts. The main point here is absolutely to resist the temptation to do this in a spammy and self promotional way. You can usually only get away with this if it is helpful, useful and not advertising or promoting yourself overtly. If you get this wrong then you can expect for other members to report you as self promoting and you don’t want this because  you will end up getting banned, warned or lose credibility within the forum community so be careful.  It’s also a little bit like the boy who cried wolf. If you are always posting links then they won’t be seen as special enough to click on them. Otherwise you will have to work really hard to make them decent enough in terms of content for people to think “Oh here’s a link posted by XXX I bet that will be worth looking at”.  Choose wisely before link dropping.

 

Tip 11:  Make it easy for people to understand what you do

Besides the profile and signature make it easy for people to get an impression of what you do and what benefit you bring to others. You can make the most of opportunities to do this in a helpful and a way that gives advice but not self promoting.   If this means taking time to write a post rather than copy and paste a section of your blog then take the time if you want to get responses or build credibility.

 

Tip 12:  Don’t do’s

Quick summary of things not to do…. Don’t flame, troll, get angry or argumentative, be rude, slag off competitors or other suppliers unnecessarily, make claims that embellish the truth, blatantly self promote, be too sarcastic etc.  All of these things are because  you will either upset the community or you will not portray a good impression of yourself to the wider audience.

 

I hope you find these tips useful and feel free to add some more of your own …

 

 

 

 

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  • http://www.boostyourbusiness.com.au/ Lead generation company

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  • Maxinemaxxy

    Glad you found it useful Ruth. It’s a good point that you raise about people leaving threads because of harsh comments. People seem to forget they are on the world wide web sometimes and just think they are talking amongst the small community where they can say what they like without any regard for the impression it gives of them and their business! 

    UKBF has had it’s fair share of “keyboard warriors” over the years and it always makes me cringe as people can be so unsympathetic sometimes to new posters and forget they were a newbie themselves once upon a time.

    Hope to see you on UKBF soon :) 

  • http://www.complete-proofreader.co.uk Ruth Ekblom

    Maxine, thank you for a comprehensive collection of tips with regard to posting on forums. I particularly like your positive approach, and the gentle way you warn against overt self-promotion.
    I often leave a forum thread that gets high-jacked by spam or obvious sales speak, and equally those that get hit by unnecessarily harsh comments that cut the person posting to shreds. Either approach is so unnecessary, and even a touch infantile in nature.
    Ruth Ekblom recently posted..One day at the London Book Fair

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