I have long considered online forums to be an early form of what we now consider to be social networks. They’ve been around much longer than Facebook, Twitter and the rest, and have allowed users to create profiles and communicate with each other on the web.
They have profile pages, private messages, and public conversation where other users can respond and add to the conversation. They are also indexed by search engines. Do you value forums as social media marketing tools? Tell us what you think.
In a post a few months ago, I referenced a WebmasterWorld thread discussing how Google values forums. WembasterWorld founder Brett Tabke said Google was devaluing forum links, but there is a bigger picture I think that Jaan Kanellis pointed out (which was also referenced in that article).
“It is normal for Google to favor forum threads for certain queries. Naturally websites do not optimize themselves for long-tail queries that forums are automatically optimized for by way of user-generated content.”
Forums have marketing benefits. And they’re very much the same as the benefits that come from social media marketing. In fact, I would say that social media marketing plans should include forums in the mix when applicable. When it is about the conversation, that conversation is generally not confined to Twitter or Facebook. That conversation is very possibly being extended into the Blogosphere, and yes…online forums.
Forum participation allows for reputation management strategies, brand awareness tactics, and even link generation, similarly to where social media fits into the SEO equation. Of course, many marketers have known this for ages now, but forums seem to have taken a backseat in the mind’s eye to the newer, trendier networks.
But the forums are still there. And they’re there in niches. And niches mean relevant and related content, audiences, and engagement.
Of course, there are benefits to forum participation beyond just marketing. They often provide destinations for help with specific problems that can be hard to find elsewhere. They are still a fine venue for networking with other professionals, and just being involved in the conversation often simply translates to staying in the loop for current trends within your industry.
With social networks like Facebook and Twitter, do you still have time to participate in forums? Tell us about it.