Forum marketing can be a highly productive way to market your internet business, but only if you use it correctly.  Most advice about forum marketing isn’t the most productive in the world.  “Show up on forums,” it tells you.  “Read everything in sight.  Then start making those useful, informative comments that will brand you as an expert.”

Approaching a forum this way can be bewildering and frightening.  What if there are no topics that are custom-designed to show off what an expert you are?  What if you’re not an expert at all, what then?

There’s something very artificial about approaching forums this way, something which causes marketers to forget the overall aim in forum marketing.  It’s not just about finding a dozen places to post up back links.  It’s about becoming known to the overall internet community and about connecting with other people who think your niche is important.  It’s almost impossible to build relationships when you’re approaching forums in such a stilted way.

It would almost be better if forum marketing were simply called “forum participation.”  It’s easy enough to set up your signature line so that it includes a few links, but everybody knows that’s only a part of the battle.  You really have to be someone that other people know, like, and trust.  We humans are inherently capable of telling when someone is only there to make a sale—which means that you’ll never really achieve the full effect of your participation by approaching things with the sale in mind.

What if, instead of looking for some place to be “useful and informative,” you approached forums by looking for interesting conversations to join, and then joining them?  You still avoid the ubiquitous “nice post, very informative” posts which litter the internet, but you also avoid approaching the forum like a bloodthirsty marketer on the hunt.  You approach the topics naturally, like a drifter at a party who mingles in and out of different conversational circles.  You talk about what interests you and what’s important to you.  You acknowledge other people’s opinions and respond to them.  The clicks on your signature links, and the reputation as an expert, come later, because you’re focusing your productivity where it counts—on the relationships that you are building.

It’s easy to feel like you’re just wasting time on forums when you do this, because doing this is a lot more fun than just looking around for ways to be a know-it-all expert.  That’s one of the secrets of true productivity in the internet marketing world—done right it really is a lot like fun, a lot like having conversations with people you actually like.  It may be that your posts are interesting and informative, but they’re often just as effective if they are merely human.  You can control your time by setting a post limit on each day—3 to 5 posts, say, or an hour spent scanning and scouring the forums before going on to nurture other parts of your business.  Some days, you might not post at all, because you just don’t have anything to say.  And that’s okay.  When it comes to forums, honest participation trumps “marketing” any day of the week.

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