Much lip service is paid to the effectiveness of utilizing the Internet for marketing and without exception, the focus is always the same tools: email, ads, search, and now blogs and online video. But little literature, if any, actually presents the other interactive services that consumers also use, particularly message boards and chat rooms.
And why not?
Because to date, there have been no widely recognized strategies or metrics that anyone can use to benchmark and guide any efforts. al berrios & company has been utilizing and studying the effective use of message boards and chat rooms for over 5 years and the following is a best practices guide on utilizing the oldest features of the internet.
Static Communities. To begin with, understand that blogs are just a new form of message boards. Message boards, let’s call them “static communities”, have existed as user/news groups, forums and guest books. Unlike blogs, which take on the personality of the creator, message boards and forums are indeed communities, taking on the characteristics of the group, which is usually older in age (around 30s and over). Despite moderation, like-minded community members still control the content.
Targeting. The very nature of message boards means that targeting a specific consumer segment is as simple as identifying a specific user interest, from Harley Davidsons to classic television programming. And once you’ve found your target, interacting with them is as simple as continuing the dialogue, without interrupting the member who has the floor and the topic being discussed.
Initiating. There is always a concern about marketer infiltration, unethical communication, and user criticism, and this frankly, is the real root of hesitation among researchers and marketers in using these tools. But suffice it to say, these concerns are misplaced. Consider that when you’re at a bar with friends or among family members, anyone is welcome into the circle, as long as everyone knows who they really are and they always respect the topic of the conversation. A weirdo is one who just pops in, tries to subvert any topic to his own, and leaves without soliciting any response. That person will always be remembered for the wrong reasons.
Assuming you understand these basic rules of social interaction, why is it so unbelievable to expect the same rules to apply online? After selecting your target audience, initiating a dialogue with them must include these same social rules, including being sincere about your objective in contributing to the community.
In addition, it is strongly suggested you create copywriting specific to your goals, to maximize the effectiveness of every interaction. It won’t be “infiltration”, but rather a networking experience, with the goal of either generating awareness or soliciting feedback. (Yes, there are goals to networking ). Our own metrics prove that well under 1% of consumers find this sort of marketing annoying.
Results. These are the rules and when followed they work. In a brief prepared by Aankit Patel at our firm, we utilized message boards to analyze the demographics of Harley Davidson enthusiasts online. Our findings (2) matched those recognized by Harley Davidson (3), and took less than two hours to find.