According to Entrepreneur, 20% of Americans recommend their favorite products in forums. Whether you’re marketing in Facebook groups, popular forums within your niche or creating forums within your website, you can build and grow your brand by engaging with customers in forums.
Approximately 33% of marketers choose to market their brands on forums to reach a bigger audience within a specific niche. You can choose to run ads on highly targeted forums or sub-categories to boost brand awareness. If you choose to promote your product without running ads be sure to add value by answering questions, giving detailed information about a niche and being helpful to community members. The goal is to create a sense of community by building relationships with the members of the group without an aggressive sales push.
Forum Example: Oculus is an example of an online store that created its own forum. With over 100 pages of active and daily discussion, the popular VR and gaming forum excels at educating its customers while allowing their customers to engage with one another. They regularly post announcements with bug updates, new features and polls. It allows them to keep their customers informed while also allowing them to master market research when creating new products. Customers can also interact with each other or ask each other questions. This helps build a community with their members which indirectly helps build brand loyalty.
A Facebook Group is a place for group communication where people on Facebook can share or discuss common ideas or interests. A Facebook group can be created by any Facebook user. This group of people interact based on a shared interest, to express their opinions around a common cause, issue, or activity. People on Facebook Groups are commonly seen discussing posting comments, sharing photos, or other similar content. Facebook Groups can be private or open to everyone to allow members to join freely.
Since first being implemented, Facebook Groups have undergone many changes. In the very beginning it was possible for anyone who could see your Facebook profile to see what Facebook Group you were part of. Now, those open forums are called Facebook Pages. These are created by companies, celebrities, or brands that help to facilitate communication with their audience, and act as a platform where they can share interesting content for their Facebook followers. Only the administrators are the ones that can post to these Facebook Pages.
Something unique about Facebook Pages that Facebook Groups don’t have are Page Insights. The Page Insights allow the administrator of the Facebook Page to see what level of activity they are receiving over a period of time. This activity is also represented in graphical format. The graphical representation allows for a better understanding of how the audience is receiving the content the administrator is posting. These analytics are not offered to Facebook Group managers, mainly because Facebook Group insights are based on a small, selective group of people, rather than a larger, wide-scale audience.
You can use your Facebook Groups and your influence on Facebook to promote your products and services. Facebook Groups can especially be helpful to position yourself, to find new customers, and to keep up-to-date with matters that concern your business or brand. If you join Facebook Groups relating to your niche, you’ll be able to use your platform as a way to support and market your business.
An advantage you could have by joining Facebook Groups is that you’ll get access to the conversations and discussions that are taking place there. These Facebook Group insights will help reveal opportunities where you can demonstrate your knowledge or expertise in areas relating to your business. Answering the questions and interacting with the Facebook Group users will help spread valuable resources, and give you a platform to communicate with your target audience. Additionally, you can also share a helpful blog post, or mention your own products and services.
Marketing through Facebook Groups can be very powerful because it’s highly targeted. People post questions which you can directly answer, increasing your credibility and becoming a useful resource for them for future references. If you tend to provide them solutions on a regular basis, you’ll be able to increase the trust in your brand and business. You can also use these searches and questions to gather FAQs and create original content for your target audience.
Share expert knowledge about the topic. Help the people in the group. And when you do finally post your product make sure it’s relevant to the thread topic. Be so helpful to members of the community that they genuinely become excited about your products when you finally mention your brand. Aim for at least 1 to 2 months of value based communication in the group and forum before you start posting products. However, if you join a buy and sell Facebook group, you can start selling the same day. The audience of these groups is different and people expect to find products to sell on those types of groups.
Promote your products in Facebook buy and sell groups. Be sure to contact the admin and read group regulations before posting the products to avoid getting banned from the group. By following the guidelines of the group, you can work on promoting your products long-term which can help boost sales overtime rather than a one time boost.
Be picky about the type of group or forum you post in. If every post seems like spam and has no engagement, you likely won’t be able to generate a profit from the group. Focus your efforts on quality groups. How many members does the group have? Is post engagement high? What type of posts do they like the most? How can you incorporate your product into a post they’d like and engage with? These are just some of the questions you should consider before joining a group. You can also create a spreadsheet with the forums you’re active in to help you keep organized.
Start your own forum. You can add your own forum to your online store with apps like Muut. By hosting discussion on your website, you can build a community for your online store. You can allow customers to share product photos, ask product questions to other customers and nurture your customer relationships. As it’s hosted on your online store, you’ll have more control while being able to be transparent about issues. You can monetize your forum by having an Announcements or Sale section where you post the day’s discount codes, special offers and promotions. Also, by having your own forum you could even get organic traffic to your website for the search queries and optimized user generated content. This helps customers looking for a deal get access to it easily.
If you run a Facebook page, you can now link your Facebook group to your fan page. By linking your group to your fan page, you’ll increase the group’s visibility. The Facebook group allows you to build a community among your fan base where your customers and fans can ask questions and share ideas. You’ll still need to promote your group to grow its membership, but your customers are more likely to discover it if it’s linked to your page.
When selling via Facebook groups, make sure that your pictures are captivating. Use customer photos or Instagram friendly photos to show off your product’s best features. The picture is what’ll sell the product in these groups so avoid having a product on a plain white background.
When writing copy for your product post mention key details that’ll help sell the product. Is it new or used? How many do you have available? Use scarcity if possible. Mention the product price to avoid sticker shock. Add a link to the product page.
Don’t meet in person to sell your product. Many buy and sell groups allow people to sell their products in person. As an online retailer, you can tell those interested in buying your product that you only do online transactions, especially since you’re not carrying inventory. If you do need to sell in person, meet in a public place, avoid inviting people to your home to pick up or view the product.
Join multiple groups and forums. Your best chances of success will require that you spread yourself out online and become an active member of several groups. Aim for groups with big audiences and high engagement, instead of several small groups. The practice of being an active community member will take time, dedication and relationship building to increase your chances of monetizing your brand. You’ll need to be active by responding to messages once you start selling items.
You can hire a community manager or promote one of your most active members to admin. If you have a customer support rep who’s looking for more work, this is a simple task they can take on. This doesn’t need to be a full-time or even a paid gig. However, you’ll need someone to commit a few hours each week to build natural, authentic and ongoing conversation on your forum. He or she will also need to monitor the forums to ensure no one is violating the terms of service. They’ll also need to be equipped at converting a visitor into a customer when it makes sense.
Muut is Shopify app allows store owner to add an ecommerce forum to their online store that matches their branding. The ecommerce forum allows you to see who’s currently online, the latest comments, your feed of discussions that you’re part of and trending topics. It costs between $45 and $120. As such, you’ll likely want to use this forum if you have a high traffic store getting hundreds of thousands or millions of visits each month. This app works best when you have a constant flow of traffic to ensure high engagement on the pages. With this app, you can also allow customers to comment on product pages.
Trello is a tool you can use to organize and track your forum activity. You can create boards for all the forums you’re active in. And add notes for each one depending on what the impact of each was. Did you get free traffic on your site for one of your posts? Did you convert a sale on your forum? Tracking it will allow you to understand what type of content performs best so you can improve your marketing strategy on the platform.
Google Sheets can be used to keep your forum activity organized. You can create lists of forums and groups you’re active in. And update the lists to include how many posts you did per day/per week and the results of it.
Social Media Examiner’s 9 Ways to Use Facebook Groups for Business is a great blog post on how you can market your online store via Facebook groups. You’ll learn about where to post your products within Facebook groups, how to showcase your niche expertise and how to test the market before launching a new product.