With the big push toward social media, it may seem like the forum days are gone. But a new study by Huddler shows that enthusiast communities are filled with affluent customers who are much more willing to buy what you’re selling than your average Facebook fan.
An enthusiast community is any online forum or group that is dedicated to a specific topic — some more specific than others. For example a movie forum versus a Blu-Ray forum or an outdoorsman forum versus one dedicated to fly fishing.
The Intent to Purchase
What Huddler found is that these communities were instrumental in getting more than 53% of surveyed forum goers to purchase a product. The number is high because many people visit a forum in order to research a product in the first place, so they come in with an intent to buy.
Huddler also found that enthusiast community members are more affluent and 60% said they’d be willing to pay more for quality — once again, this goes back to intent. If you’re enthusiastic enough to visit a forum on a topic, chances are you’re looking for the best of the best. Millions of people buy new computers but if a person visits a tech forum first, chances are they’re looking for something more than just an average PC.
Forums vs. Social Media
From a marketing standpoint, enthusiast communities beat social media in two areas. First, they have a bigger reach. Huddler says that Facebook posts only reach approximately 12% of a user’s friends, that’s an average of 27 people. A forum post on an active site reaches hundreds, sometimes thousands of readers.
Forum posts also have a longer shelf life. You can search with Google or the site’s search engine and find content going back years. Posts on Twitter and Facebook are nearly impossible to find using search and since daily posts fall away quickly, there are even fewer chances of them being seen by a large number of people.
Spam vs. Substance
The downside to all of this is that forums don’t take kindly to marketers. If you’re seen as a spammer, you’ll be banned from the community. Many don’t even allow link posting until you’ve reached a certain level to prevent people from marketing their wares.
If you want to be successful, you need to become a valuable member of the community before revealing your hand. That means responding to posts and starting meaningful threads that don’t revolve around your business. If people like what you have to say, they’ll investigate what you have to offer.
Once you’ve established a relationship, contact the forum’s moderators and talk about sponsoring posts, running an online class or offering a discount to members. They’ll be happy to have you as long as you ask permission first.