Social media isn’t just about tweeting and posting links on Facebook. You also need to get out there and engage your audience in real discussion. Sometimes, that takes talking with them in a web forum. But you may be hesitant to start one up on your website or Facebook account because you don’t think it would be appropriate for your audience. Would your business benefit from the use of an online forum?
Benefits of an Online Community or Forum
One of the best things about the Internet is that you can find a niche audience for practically everything you can imagine. Even better, these folks are probably so interested in said subject that they would be willing to talk about it with total strangers.
And I don’t just mean simple questions and/or complaining; somewhere out there is a dedicated audience for your custom made clay figures of Captain Caveman, and they will defend it to their dying day. Talking with these folks could do almost nothing but improve your chances of bringing them back for another round of figurines – the figurines you sell!
Speaking of complaints, having an online forum gives your customers another chance to tell you what’s wrong with your product or service, giving you an opportunity to fix it before something worse happens. If a user posts the Captain Caveman figurines they’ve bought have weak clubs, regular contributors might be more willing to reply. In fact, they could help with possible suggestions for fixes.
Who’s Your Audience?
Of course, you may be concerned your audience just doesn’t fit any sort of criteria for being an appropriate use of a web forum. For one, you may think your customer base is simply too tech-unsavvy to worry about talking with other people on the Internet. For instance, after your Captain Caveman clay figurines sell out, you might decide to focus more on items geared towards an older audience.
Internet usage for the older crowd, while on the upclimb recently, is still relatively low. They might not care to go online and blab the day away with an anonymous bunch of people, fellow lover of antiques or not. Therefore, it would be quite a waste of time to devote a lot of energy to that mode of communication.
You might also be concerned with your product or service being one of high security; say, you might not want your customers discussing the ins and outs of your program if it involves secure information like social security numbers. Even then, however, the information the users share is of their own volition, and steps could be taken to restrict certain things getting posted (like blocking the posting of a series of numbers).
Really, it will take an honest look at your customer base to really decide if it makes sense to utilize online forums or other communities. If you really weight the facts and there’s no way it would work, then spend time and energy on other things. But consider giving it a chance, as you might be surprised how much people want to talk about what it is you’re selling!
Would your clients and customers benefit from a forum for in-depth conversation?
By Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases, the online leader in affordable PR distribution since 1998. Grab your free copy of Seven Cheap PR Tactics here, a must-read for the small business professional. Follow eReleases on Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter