Where’s Your Forum Strategy?

For many industries, forums are the home of the majority of consumer conversations

by Jason Falls |

Social Media Explorer is gearing up to launch our first-ever research report called The Conversation. For the first edition of this new approach to market research, we’ll be focusing on the banking industry. You’ll want to make sure you subscribe to updates about our Industry Reports if you haven’t already to find out about the report as it’s released, though we’ll certainly blog about it more here.

For this new product, we’re taking the industry in question and looking at what consumers are saying about it in the online conversational marketplace. Whether it’s on blogs, news sites, social networks, microblogs and more, we’re trying to find the conversations around a given industry and dissect them to better understand what the customer is saying and thinking in an unfiltered, unadulterated environment like the social web. No one is asking these people survey questions while holding a clipboard. We’re finding the conversations, not the people.

One insight that emerged from our deep dive into the banking industry is that the majority, actually the vast majority, of conversations about banks and bank products online are held not on blogs or social networks, but on forums and message boards. The old school social media channels account for 90 percent of the conversations we discovered about banks and bank products.

Top Conversation Sources - Banking Conversations
Top sources for online banking conversations. Data and graph courtesy of NetBase.

Which brings to mind the question, “Where is your forum strategy?”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to have one. And yes, I’m well aware there’s some trendy, smart-ass meme going around claiming that Twitter, Facebook, blogs and even social media itself aren’t mediums that need strategies. If it makes you nit-pickers feel better, let me rephrase: Where are forums in your plans?

The answer for most marketers is, “they’re not.” This is likely because marketers don’t realize how much of the online conversation takes place in the consumers-gone-wild world of threaded conversations. But it could also be because marketers are petrified of them. Why? Because marketers typically aren’t welcome there. Most forum administrators are quick to thwart link droppers and promotional banner wavers. You can’t blame them. The users come there for … wait for it … conversations.

And as we’ve talked about already this week, marketers don’t know how to participate in those.

While The Conversation: What Consumers Are Saying About Banking will have advice for bank marketers and the agencies that serve them on how to combat the challenges we uncover, we’re going to do our part here to discuss how to approach forums and message boards, should they offer fertile conversational ground for your brand.

In the meantime, you should get a copy of Patrick O’Keefe’s Managing Online Forums or check out his thoughts on marketing in forums and message boards in one of his presentations on the subject.

Note: Amazon links are of the affiliate kind.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).