“Shopping” is sometimes just that: looking around, browsing, gathering information and opinions about a product. Today’s customers do a great deal of this before they buy. If they want to see a product, they might go to a gargantuan superstore, but they might also prefer to go to a specialty shop where they could more easily chat with someone who’s an expert in their field.
There should be room in your social media plans for interacting on community forums. It’s easy to get lost on Facebook and Twitter, and more specialist discussions often yield better results. Sometimes called groups these sites provide opportunities for you to establish yourself as a friendly expert, which could lead to sales.
Look for forum rules and follow them to the letter. Many forum managers want their discussions to be ad-free, though they sometimes will set up a special space for vendors. If it’s not spelled out in the rules section, email the manager and ask if you can include a link to your blog or website in your signature line. Establish yourself as an expert by providing answers to questions.
One of the best ways to find relevant forums is also the most common sense and simplest: Consult the search engine of your choice.
You sell car parts and accessories directly to consumers and you’re considering marketing to the Kia Soul crowd. First search for: Kia Soul forums. In this case, your first hit is what’s probably one of the most active sites: Kia Soul Forums.com.
If your search isn’t fruitful, are you being too specific or too vague? Try entering Kia forums, you’ll get pages of relevant results back. You might also try different phrases like Kia groups or Kia clubs. Be region-specific, so you’ll find sites like Kia Owners Club (UK).
You can also go directly to the manufacturer’s site – which may provide links to product discussion groups.
If your business is part of an industry that isn’t terribly mainstream and you’re not getting any good hits on your direct searches, try other phrases that might lead you to success, like car ratings or car reviews. Here you’ll come across numerous publications. Take a look at the major ones as they often have a Links section.
You may also run into specialty sites whose job it is to rate vehicles. In our example, we found Edmunds.com quite quickly, which had myriad active forums.
People who are active in groups may want product information, but they don’t want outright sales pitches. Use the opportunity to show your expertise by answering questions, which will help you better understand your market’s critical issues. Even if you don’t connect with potential customers in a group, you’re getting valuable information that will help you continue to refine your social media strategy.