While it’s easy to get carried away diving headfirst into digg or myspace to promote your company, it shouldn’t be at expense of a good presence in the important forums in your industry.
They might not be as envogue as some of the more recent web 2.0 developments but a good forum presence can be one of the most effective forms of social media marketing.
Learn what your customers really think. Market research is too expensive for most companies, but if you have members of staff in the forums where your customers are, you’ll get a great insight into how well your business is doing, whether you are providing a good service and what products the market wants. It might not have the statistical integrity of a complex research strategy, but it needn’t cost anything other than time and the understanding of your customer can really pay back in the long term.
Solve small problems before they become big ones – online reputation management is a real problem for many companies. One disgruntled customer can have a disproportionate influence over many potential buyers. If you are visible and easy to contact in forums you can often solve little problems before they become big problems which can damage your bottom line.
Discover the strengths and weaknesses of your competition – if the users are singing the praises of your company or putting you under some real scrutiny, you can be sure that your competitors are getting the same treatment. Find out what they are doing well and do the same. Find out what they are doing badly, make sure you do it great and let everyone know about it.
Personalise your business – it’s easy for companies to become faceless. The more customers associate a friendly virtual face with a brand the more likely they are to stick with that company. It’s a great branding exercise that will help you today, tomorrow and years down the line.
Benefit from the odd contextual link – As an SEO you can never forget the benefits of a good contextual link. If you add no value to a community you are going to get any links to your site pulled down in no time. If you are leading light in the forum you’ll be given plenty of leeway to get away with the odd link to your website.