Marketing To Internet Communities
Today I wanted to blog a bit about webforums aka messageboards, whichever you prefer to call them. I don’t think I have to define these for any of you here, but for those who don’t know what one is, here is the wiki. I’m really addicted, especially to those involving technology.
What is the special appeal that to spend free time in these places that makes them so popular?
It is the anonymity they provide for people to make their voice heard (even if a good amount of people in the forum know who you are in real life, people still feel compelled to voice their opinion on subjects. Also, they provide a great place to have discussions with like-minded people, especially for those whose day to day life is devoid of people who share similar interests.
I highly suggest you get out on google and find some internet communities which discuss your interests. Even if you blog already, or use aim to talk to your friends, you’re missing a great internet recourse if you’re not on some forums.
Additionally, the market research potential is phenomenal. Internet webforums are almost always way ahead of the curve in terms of trends and new ideas, as when a good amount of people get together in one space to have (hopefully) intelligent discussions, new ideas usually do emerge.
The marketing and PR potential of webforums is enormous as well. You can reach a specialized market with relative ease; all you have to do is register, and post. The problem with trying to instill your organizations ideas or your product on a community of this type, is it’s like setting up a billboard inside of someone’s living room. Don’t go about it like this – if someone set up a billboard in your living room, think about how much disdain you would have for them.
The proper way, is to contribute to the community, gain their respect, and then perhaps (being as subtle as possible) push your product in there. It is a lot of work – but if your product is good, and is relevant to that forum, you may gain a cult-like following, which is extremely powerful. Always do remember to tread lightly on this type of guerrilla marketing, and I only recommend this for someone with high levels of internet experience – you could easily taint your brand name if you do this wrong.
For niche markets, webforums can’t be ignored, and should be included in your marketing/PR plan.
Another option for those really forward-thinking organizations is to go ahead and create your own webforum on your website offering input for your product, and discussion. In this end (if this is successful, and it will be if your product is good), you will be able to score tons of demographic information on your clients, and more importantly, you’ll have tons of market research readily available to you.