Online forums are a great audience engagement resource
No matter what industry you’re in, there’s a forum online for it. Anything from fan forums to insider chat rooms, they’re out there if you just look for them. And often times, these are where your industry purists can be found – meaning these are the people who care enough about the industry to take time out of their day to connect online with other people who share the same passion about whatever they’re discussing.
Online forums are great sources if you want to take a quick pulse of how people feel about your brand. Now, I’m going to warn you in advance, online forums are no joke. The people on these sites take their conversations very seriously, and woe be unto you if you enter into it as an industry outsider. It is NOT a place for you to hawk your wares or spam advertisements.
It is, however, a great place to learn honest feedback about how people feel about your brand. Hopefully it’s all positive, but even if it’s not, look at it as an opportunity to gather valuable feedback and learn areas your company could improve upon.
For example, we work with Costa Sunglasses (shameless plug: the best sunglasses on Earth). Their audience is anglers and serious outdoors enthusiasts. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of online forums dedicated to all things fishing.
Costa’s social media community manager is very active within these forums, and is able to see conversations as they bubble up pertaining to the brand. If someone is having a sunglass repair issue, she knows about it and is able to jump in and serve as a resource to help. If someone is happy with the product, she’s there, too, to thank them. It’s not about her constantly spamming the online fishing community with Costa’s latest news. It’s about listening. It’s about being part of the conversation in real-time. It’s about serving as a resource.
And because the people on these forums are true anglers, she’s able to see what other issues are important to them, and what’s impacting their sport right now. It’s like having access to focus group participants 24/7, and engage with them person-to-person, instead of brand-to-person.
Consider researching online forum conversations taking place right now in your industry, and jump on in. As with any other communications tool, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Don’t just create an account and then don’t log in for six months. Make it part of your weekly, if not daily, routine to check in and say hi to the people having conversations there. By participating in an authentic way, you’ll be surprised at the types of relationships you’ll quickly build with people who might just turn into potential loyal customers.