Before we get into forum marketing, we must first understand what a forum, or message board is. A forum is a community where like-minded people gather and discuss various topics related to the theme of the board. There are forums for just about every interest or hobby in existence and they are usually free to join.
A forum is the ideal format for getting to know people because its only function is to discuss topics. With a forum, everyone has an equal platform in which to speak, unlike blogging. There are no outside distractions to lure you away from conversations, unlike social communities. You can take your time giving thoughtful responses unlike chats sessions which are fast paced and fosters quick responses. In short, forums are the perfect place to meet people and make friends.
Enter the Marketer…
The marketer is not at leisure like the forum members. Instead, he is hard at work looking for potential clients. His ultimate goal is not to make friends per se but to make sales. It’s not hard to see that there is a clash of interests.
Breaking Through the Barrier…
The first thing you should do is read the Terms of Service, (TOS), to see if they allow you to post personal links in your posts. The TOS rules are usually found in the first thread of the first category of the forum. They will usually allow posts relevant to the particular topic but if the Administrators or Moderators think that you are there just to promote yourself, it could result in disciplinary action. (will explain later)
If they don’t allow personal (promotional) links in posts, then go to your Profile or Control Panel. 99% of the time you will be able to post a link to your website plus give your bio and other information. Since you are new, everyone will go to your profile anyway just to see who you are because they are naturally curious.
Change your avatar and profile picture at the same time every so often. Your avatar is seen by everyone automatically with every post but if your avatar remains the same, then they have no reason to think that your profile picture has changed and will not go there. (thus they won’t see your links) But if your avatar changes, then people might think your profile picture has changed also and will check your profile to see. (and thus see your links)
Add your link to your signature tag which appears at the bottom of every post you make. This is one sure way to get your link seen by everyone but again, check the TOS rules to make sure this is allowed.
Look for the “Introduction” or the “Getting to Know You” thread. Almost every forum has this. This is where you introduce yourself and tell a little about yourself and what you do. Here is an opportunity to use your link during your casual conversation but make sure it fits the context and doesn’t stand out.
If you are not allowed to post personal links in your posts or your sigtag, then look for the ‘open’ thread. This is a thread where anything goes. This thread doesn’t fit the theme of the rest of the board so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. (Hint: it’s usually located near the bottom of the forum) The title can be called by many different names such as: The Lounge, Chat, The Hang Out, The Dugout etc. Anything that describes leisure.
I cannot stress enough the importance of reading the TOS rules before you proceed. Some forums have a strict adherence to them while others do not. Either way, you want to make sure you are a good net citizen to ensure that your links will stay.
Be sure to read Part 2 as the topics include Disciplinary Actions, Ideal Forums, and my Conclusion.