Forums and Facebook Groups – You’re Probably Using Them Wrong/ June 6, 2016
Whether you’re a blogger, a boutique owner, or a consultant, forums and Facebook groups are a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.
But only if you use them the right way.
Smart marketers know that online communities are the perfect place to make new connections and bring in new traffic, but the vast majority have no clue how to use forums and Facebook groups correctly.
Imagine you’d like to lose weight and get fit, so you join a local gym.
You know that most people who join gyms never even go, but you’re not like most people, so you set aside time 3 days each week for a workout.
Even though you’re diligent in your attendance, after 6 months, you still haven’t lost any weight…
And you’ve got a back injury that’s further complicating the issue.
After 6 months of work with only negative results, you’re frustrated, so you hire a trainer.
On his first day, your trainer watches you go through your regular routine…and then tells you that you’ve been using the equipment wrong this whole time.
If you just start using those tools correctly, you’ll get results, and you’re far less likely to get injured. Had you not hired that trainer to point out your mistakes, you likely would have gotten angry, quit, and blamed the gym or conventional wisdom or your metabolism for your failure.
A Tool Only Works When It’s Used Correctly
That’s how the majority of bloggers, marketers, and business owners use online forums.
They “go” regularly – they post frequently, they respond to other people’s comments, and they spend hours scrolling through posts.
After a few weeks or months, though, they’ve gotten no new customers.
Plus, a lot of marketers get branded as spammers and ultimately hurt their brand’s reputation by misusing forums and groups.
Unfortunately, these people rarely come to the point where they hire a coach or get expert advice. Instead, they grow frustrated and negative, and they loudly proclaim that “Facebook doesn’t work!” or “You can’t get traffic from forums!”
Of course they work.
You just need to learn how to use them.
Getting the Most out of Forums and Facebook Groups
Groups and forums are exceptional marketing tools, especially in these 3 areas:
- SEO and Keyword Research
There are also some inherent benefits that come from being an active part of a community – things like brand recognition and general popularity – but those advantages are a little more secondary.
But before you jump in, there are a few rules you should follow.
Some groups and forums have their own rules of conduct, and you should learn them before you start posting.
However, even if the forum has no moderator and anything goes, you’ll get better results if you follow these general guidelines.
Think of them like best practices.
- No spamming.
In fact, don’t do anything that looks like spamming.That means that you’re not blasting links to your blog, announcing your upcoming webinar, or inviting people to your free event.Posting your links in a public forum is a terrible way to get traffic, even if it’s relevant to the conversation. If someone asks a question and you’ve written a blog post that answers it, do not respond with a link to your blog post.They’re not going to read it, and if you’ve already given them a shorter answer, posting your link invalidates your advice because it seems like you only answered their question to get them to your website.
The only time you should be posting links is if someone, unsolicited, asks for it, or if you’re in a private or direct message with a person who has asked you for extra one-on-one help.
- No spamming.
No, that’s not a typo. There’s a reason this is listed twice.There’s another type of spamming that is way too prevalent in public forums – and this is the type that has the potential to wreck your reputation and get you labeled as a scam artist.Indirect spamming is a manipulation tactic. Instead of posting a link and asking for traffic, the “marketer” (using the term loosely since this is such an amateur move) asks a question or makes a comment to try to trick people into visiting their website.
For example, something like this:
“Hey guys, what do you think of the call to action on this blog post? Is it too strong? Here’s the link…”
Most of the time, they don’t want your opinion. They want your traffic. If you happen to be the rare blogger that really does want the opinion, see rule #3…
- No stupid questions.
This one needs a qualifier:If you have a genuine question that you really want an answer to, it’s not necessarily stupid, but not every question belongs in a forum.Before you post a question, make sure you’ve looked for the answer elsewhere – at least do a search on Google and YouTube to see if you can solve the problem first. Once you’ve determined that the answer really is hard to find, you can turn to the group.
But there’s one more stipulation:
Ultra general questions (like “what kind of business should I start?”) and ultra specific questions (like “what should I write in the introduction for my ebook?”) don’t belong in public groups. You’re responsible for doing your own legwork and market research, and if you need expert advice, ask an expert, not the internet at large.
We’ll talk more about questions and answers later, but for now, on to rule 4.
- No spamming.
Yes.Again.The biggest reason that people get frustrated and fail at using groups and forums is because they’re spamming. It’s that simple.If your mindset is “I’m posting in this forum to get people to come to my website,” you’re a spammer.
Sorry to break it to you that way, but it’s the truth. You can’t add value to people if you’re too focused on what you want from them. Get over it, be a human, and you’ll see results.
With those 4 rules in mind, you’re ready to rock.
How To (Properly) Use Forums and Facebook Groups
For SEO and Keyword Research
After all that talk about spamming, I’m not about to tell you to post links for SEO purposes.
That’s not how this works.
Here’s the thing:
Other than entrepreneur and B2B groups that are full of marketers, most forums and special interest groups are used by people who want answers to specific questions, and they can’t find help anywhere else.
Nobody wants to post a question in a public forum, then wait hours (or days) for someone, hopefully someone who knows what they’re talking about, to answer.
The people posting in gardening forums are frustrated. They’ve Googled their question. They’ve looked on YouTube. They’ve spent time on Pinterest. And they still haven’t gotten the information they need.
And since nobody really wants to ask questions to the internet at large, you can bet that other people are looking for the same answer.
Watch for trends in your niche – if you see a question repeated often, you know:
- That there’s not much good information readily available on that topic
- That lots of people would like to know the answer
- The exact words they’re likely using in Google searches
Now you’ve got an in-demand topic AND the best associated keywords to help those people find you easily.
Go ahead and answer their question with as much detail as the medium allows, and pay attention to their responses.
By communicating and helping, you’ll find other competitive advantages. For example, maybe they found other blog posts, but the information wasn’t actionable, and that’s where your content can shine.
Also, pay attention to other people’s answers.
Watch the discussions unfold, and if you see a lot of misinformation or bad answers coming up frequently, you can address that topic, too.
A real example of this comes up frequently in blogger and entrepreneur groups.
New bloggers in these types of groups frequently ask how to monetize.
In response, there’s always someone who recommends affiliate marketing and ads without asking any questions to get more insight. In many (perhaps even a vast majority of) cases, that advice is terrible.
First of all, that question is too general for a public forum – you can’t get a good answer without sharing a lot more details of your business plan and your personal goals – but the fact is that it’s a common topic and it’s often answered with questionable (bad) advice.
Of course I respond to those people with as much detail as possible to help point them in the right direction.
But I also recognized that many of those people were confused by the generic, standard responses you usually find online, and I wrote a post on this blog explaining smart monetization strategy.
I don’t give out the link every time someone asks the question, but I know people are looking for that information, so I created it.
If you want to know who the up-and-coming influencers are in your niche, watch for people who are constantly chiming in and helping solve people’s problems in active groups.
Those are the people you want to connect with.
The opposite is also true:
If you want to get noticed, become a regular in the most influential forums and groups, and help people solve their problems.
Without spamming links.
Trust me, if people want to know how to find your blog, they’ll ask.
As you start to build your reputation as an expert by offering your expert advice for free, you can also extend the hand of friendship to others who are doing the same.
These people are your future collaborators, and they’re likely other entrepreneurs who are using groups and forums as a launching pad for their own businesses.
If it’s possible to send a direct communication, a private message introducing yourself and asking for more information is best. However, sometimes you don’t have a direct messaging option, so you can reach out in a comment and invite them to contact you via your email or social media account.
Once again, you’re not going to spam these people!
This is your opportunity to find out who they are, what they do, and how you can help them achieve their goals.
Go out there and do some good for people, and believe me, that good will be returned to you in surprising ways.
So, if you’re not posting your links, how are you going to get traffic back to your website?
By doing a good job building your reputation and networking.
As you help more people and become a regular commenter, people are naturally going to ask about you.
This is still not the time to put a link to your website…
But you can mention that you have a website, and you’re an expert in a certain kind of information or content.
Those who are interested will either ask you directly for a link, or, more likely, they’ll Google you.
Those who aren’t interested will ignore the interaction, and you’ll avoid the terrible distinction of spammer since you’re not intentionally promoting yourself.
It’s not quick.
And it’s not always easy.
But it’s business, so it’s not supposed to be.
What about asking questions?
So, as an entrepreneur using forums and Facebook groups to grow your audience, can you ask questions in those same groups?
Technically, you can…
But you must be very careful about what you ask and how you ask it.
Lots of people ask inane, overly generalized, overly personal, or just plain inappropriate questions simply to have their name appear in the forum again. They’re the online equivalent of the student who always has a question because they think they’re going to win favor with the teacher, and they’re equally as ineffective.
The only time you should ask a question in one of those groups is when:
- It’s well suited to the type of people that are in that forum.
- You’ve already looked elsewhere for the answer and haven’t found it.
- Bad advice as a response is no big deal.
- It’s far outside of your proclaimed area of expertise.
Here’s the thing about advice from the general public in a forum or a group:
You get what you get.
You have no idea who these people are, they have no real interest in your success or failure, and it’s very difficult to give or get good advice based on the little bit of information in a stranger’s post.
Take advice from these kinds of environments with caution.
And if you’re working to establish yourself as an expert in something, asking a seemingly innocent question about it to the same people you’ve been helping might raise some eyebrows. If your doctor asked you what you think he should prescribe for another patient, wouldn’t you doubt his abilities?
So stop making amateur mistakes, and start posting like a pro.
You’re going to be awesome.
Before you can start leveraging Facebook groups and forums to your advantage,you’ve got to find them!
Your homework assignment this week is to join either a Facebook group or a forum.
Facebook’s search feature allows you to use a keyword to find groups.
If you’d rather find a forum, you can use Google.
Simply put the phrase inurl:forum before your keyword search and Google will show you only results in forums.
It looks like this:
Find a group or forum that relates to the things you blog about and you’re well on your way to becoming a smart strategist.