A to Z of Social Media: F is for Forums

While everyone’s raving about Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter etc., let’s not forget about the humble Forum.

A Forum is an internet message board where like-minded individuals congregate to discuss topics, ask questions and generally network.

Wait a minute – isn’t that what social media is for?!


It certainly is, but social media sites can sometimes be complicated to use and a little daunting.  An internet forum is usually much more straight-forward.  You sign up for a free account (although there are paid levels on some of them) and then browse through the different discussion topics to find threads of conversation you find interesting and want to get involved in.

To find a forum that’s related to your industry or your target market’s industry, do a keyword search on Google, e.g. marketing forum, beauty forum, small business forum … you get the idea.

Once you’ve joined a forum you have the option to add a signature to all the posts you make.  Be creative with this – add your website address or a link to your Facebook page.  Note:  some forums will only allow you to do this once you’ve made a certain number of posts or if you have a paid account.

What should you use a forum for?

  • Ideas for blog posts – look through the topics being discussed, many of the questions could be turned into a blog post
  • Answer questions – show off your expertise by answering questions, but remember not to sell in your reply.  By giving people genuine help you’ll soon become known as the go-to person for that topic
  • Ask questions – forums are a great place to do some market research – the replies may often throw up things you’d never have thought of
  • Find new contacts – look for referral partners or suppliers, do some research on them by browsing their activity in the forum first

Here’s some fantastic business forums I’ve used in the last year and actually got a new client from one of them:

Have you found a forum useful in the last year?  Let me know in the comments box below.

And remember to check out the rest of the A to Z series here

E is for Edgerank

Do you think that everyone who has clicked the ‘like’ button on your Facebook page sees the status updates you make?  You’d like to think so wouldn’t you?  Unfortunately that’s not the case and it’s all  because of something called Edgerank.

Edgerank is the algorithm Facebook uses to decide which posts (or stories as Facebook likes to call them) appear in someone’s newsfeed and it all depends on how interesting it thinks that post will be to each user.

It uses 3 things to work this out (in a nutshell):

  • Affinity Score:  This takes into account how connected the user is to your page. e.g. do they write on your wall, comment on your posts, click the like buttons, share your posts etc.
  • Edge Weight: An ‘edge’ is a type of action you take on Facebook e.g. status update, comment, like, tag, share etc.  If someone tends to comment more on photos they’d see more photos appearing in their newsfeed.
  • Time Decay: The older the post the less likely it is to appear in a news feed.
Basically Facebook wants you to be as interesting and interactive as possible on your page.  It’s not an advertising medium … and it’s called ‘social’ media for a reason.  Try a few of the following things to get your ‘fans’ to interact with you more:
  • ask a question
  • include some fun posts (don’t make it all boring business stuff)
  • add a photo to your posts (it was called ‘Face’ book for a reason too!)
  • use the video facility and record a quick post (Facebook loves video)
By trying different things you’ll be able to see what works best for you and your fans.  Remember, your Facebook page is about building a community of advocates … give them something to advocate!
Don’t miss: F is for Forum

D is for Discovering

One of the great things about using social media for business is that you can discover things.  Information about all sorts of things is strewn across the internet – most of it in the public domain for us all to read.

Research has become so much easier due to social media sites.  We can hear what people are saying about our products and services – good and bad (giving us the opportunity to amplify the positive comments and respond to negative comments).  Set up some Google Alerts to see what’s already being said about your company.

We can listen to conversations to find out what needs our customers have, helping us refine what we offer and tailor our social media content (blogs, videos, free reports etc.) to help answer their questions and drive traffic to our websites.  Find a Discussion Forum where your target market hangs out and browse the topics being discussed – you might be surprised at what you find.  Take a look at Social Mention and listen to the conversation across 80+ social media sites.

Social Media advertising can be very specifically targeted because of the information people fill in on their profiles.  Take a look at Facebook Ads or LinkedIn Ads and see how many people you could reach.

The same profile information also helps us find and connect with prospective customers, suppliers and referral partners.  Try the Advanced People search on Linkedin or take a look at www.followerwonk.com and hone in on your target market on Twitter.

Make a point of discovering things on social media on a regular basis and act on what you find – it’ll definitely make a difference to your social media marketing efforts.

You can discover more about social media on my Facebook Page – come over and introduce yourself.

Want to know more? E is for Edgerank

C is for Compelling Offer

One of the objectives of using social media for business is to capture the email address of those people who have an interest in your product or service.  You’ll notice many websites featuring a form which asks you to enter your name and email address to receive their free newsletter.

If your email box is anything like mine it’s already chock-a-block and takes some good time management to keep it under control.  So unless it’s a company I already know really well I’m highly unlikely to enter my details in the hope of getting an interesting newsletter every week or month.

However, if I come across a website or Facebook Page that asks me to enter my details in return for a compelling free report, video or ebook that has some information that will solve a problem for me or will be extremely helpful to me, then I wouldn’t hesitate in handing my details over.  It’s a no-brainer.  I’m happy and the company has my email address enabling them to keep in touch and build a relationship with me … and ultimately sell to me.

If you want to build a targeted list of prospects then think about what you could give away as your Compelling Free Offer.  If you’ve spent some time researching your target market you should know what things interest them in regard to your product or service.  Set up a sign-up form on your website or Facebook Welcome Page, feature your Compelling Free Offer and see if you get more people giving you their details.

Take a look at these 12 Most Compelling Free eBooks by Business Bloggers to get some inspiration.

What’s your Compelling Free Offer?

Next time: D is for Discovering

B is for Blogging

A blog is a platform where you can publish an ongoing supply of short articles that gives your customers and prospective customers some interesting, useful information to do with the products or services you offer.  The blog post is written on a blog page (like this one), preferably housed within your website.  There’s some great free blogging software around that’s fairly easy to use – this one being WordPress

If your business wants to include social media in their marketing mix then a blog page, in my opinion, is essential.  It’s essential because it helps you do the following:

  • You can use it to attract visitors to your website – Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn are good platforms to use to post links directing people back to your blog posts, which creates traffic to your website.
  • Well written blog posts that include relevant keywords people would use to search for your type of product/service can boost your search engine optimisation efforts.  River Pools & Spas are an excellent example of how effective blogging can be for this.
  • An informative blog post can help showcase your expertise.  Writing regular posts that are helpful to your target market can help you become the person they think of first when they’re ready to buy.
  • A consistent blogging strategy that focuses on your customers’ needs goes a long way to building that know,like and trust factor.

If you’re not sure what to write or you’ve run out of ideas to blog about, take a look at Nikki Pilkington’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge.  It’s packed full of creative ideas, inspiration and tips, so you never have to worry about writer’s block again!

Check out C is for Compelling Offer

A is for Autoresponder

If you’ve ever signed up for a discount coupon, free report or ebook download on a Facebook Page or a website you would have entered your email address into an ‘opt-in’ form.  This means that you give permission for that company to send you further emails.  The emails you receive after you’ve downloaded the free report are a way for that company to start building a better relationship with you.  They might send you more free information, ask you if you enjoyed the report or if you have any questions about it.  Eventually the company will email you details of products or services they think you will be interested in buying in the hope that by this time you’ve grown to know, like and trust in them and what they do.

This series of emails you receive have likely been set up in advance and are called Autoresponders which means that every time someone enters their email address into the opt-in form those details are put into a database list on email marketing software such as Aweber or Mailchimp.  This then triggers the autoresponders.  The emails you recieve will have an unsubscribe button at the bottom for you to click on if you want to stop receiving them.

The company who set the autoresponders up are able to see which people on their list are opening each email and what links within the email they are clicking on.  This enable the company to tweak their subject line or email content if they find not many people are taking action.  The opt-in form and autoresponder are excellent social media marketing tools to help a company build a list of people interested in their product or service and they work best with an initial compelling free offer.

Next time:  B is for Blogging