Forums are great places for dealerships to build their reputations online and grow their business. If your dealership participates in forums in a genuine and helpful manner, it can be a big opportunity to grow traffic to your site and increase leads. Here are some tips on how (and how not) to engage with your target audience on forums successfully.
1. Do register right away.
Seniority matters—big time. The sooner you join, the better. Most forums will display the date you joined along with your username. Some forums will even prevent new members from posting right away.
2. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Choose two to five forums to participate in so you don’t neglect replies and questions, or spread yourself too thin. On a popular forum, your post would generate many views anyway, so you don’t need to post on twenty-two different forums.
3. Do build credibility.
First impressions count—choose a short, legible username and a simple, professional avatar (your profile picture). It’s important that you upload an actual photo of yourself for the profile image so people see there is a real person behind your comments. Build your profile up with your experience, areas of expertise, and some fun facts to prove you are not a robot.
4. Don’t start marketing right away.
Good things come to those who wait. Some forums will ban you if you start pitching your products right away. You need to build trust and authority before promoting yourself.
5. Do be valuable.
Contribute in a meaningful way—provide helpful answers, ask a useful question, reply respectfully to others. Putting the interest of the community first and your sale second will help you in the long run. Being knowledgeable and helpful is the best way to build credibility.
6. Don’t engage in arguments.
Remember why you joined the forum. Avoid damaging your image and your business’s image by avoiding controversies, drama, and heated arguments. There is no way to make everyone happy, so just remain professional and ignore any rude comments.
7. Do participate regularly.
If you post twice a year, no one will remember you and it won’t be as effective as if you participate weekly. The more you interact with other forum members, the more you build genuine relationships and build your reputation as a thought leader or helpful resource. Participate often to leave your mark on the forum before advertising.
8. Don’t Spam.
Spamming, just like engaging in heated arguments, damages you and your business’s image. Wait until you have gained the community’s respect to start advertising; they will be much more likely to click on your website, or check out your services.
9. Do make use of the signature.
If there is a signature allowed, you should make use of it and put a link to your business’s website. Don’t include a sales pitch or lengthy “about-our-company” here. Linking is not always allowed, so make sure you check the rules first.
10. Don’t get banned.
Check the forum’s posting guideline and user agreement to avoid being kicked out. It varies from forum to forum, but some forums will not allow linking, or contacting other members for commercial purposes. If you are unsure, contact the forum’s moderator. You wouldn’t want all that hard work going to waste!