If you’ve spent any time in groups or forums online, you’ve seen a lot of people come in and do “drive-by” posts to market their business. Many have good intentions and some may have nefarious intentions, but either way, good intentions or not, this is not the way to market your business in groups and forums. If you want to know how to do it the right way, keep on reading.
Read the Rules and Guidelines of Each Group or Forum
When you join any group, always read the pinned post and the rules and guidelines. If you don’t like those rules, then it’s possible the group is not for you. It’s a lot of work running a group or a forum, and the owner has a right to run it as they see fit.
Create a Standout Profile for Every Platform
Ensure that your profile adequately represents your voice, your brand, and what you do. Ensure it leads them to your website too. This can seem a little harder on Facebook but the best thing to do is to have a public Facebook page since you must join groups as yourself. If you want to get business via Facebook groups, this is the best way. Use your privacy settings to limit what people can see when you post, but don’t hide your profile from the public.
Introduce Yourself Correctly without Making a Sales Pitch
After reading the rules and guidelines and scrolling through the group and reading other posts and comments, you should have more information about how you can introduce yourself. Some groups are fine with you putting one link to your business page, but others are not. If you’re unsure, introduce yourself without it. People who are interested will ask or look at your profile.
Be a Resource to Members and the Owner of the Group or Forum
When you notice people asking questions and you know the answer, go ahead and answer if you’re sticking to the rules. For example, don’t post affiliate links without permission, don’t private message people without permission, and so forth. Help people without needing to profit from it because you’re trying to build relationships.
Engage with Members Often
Don’t be a drive-by person; try to devote some time to groups that you know your target audience hangs out in. Congratulate them, answer questions, ask questions, and commiserate with them in a friendly manner the same way you would if you went to a live networking event.
Provide Real Value to Members of the Group
Remember that you want to be a valuable member of the group so that people seek you out, tag you, and even send you private messages. If you’re valuable enough, an owner might even ask you to be a moderator, which can give you more street cred with new members.
Do Not Engage in Negativity
Even if other people are negative in a group and do the wrong thing, don’t participate. That includes all sorts of politics and other sensitive subjects. Leave that type of thing to the group owners, including calling out people for bad behavior. Even if you’re a moderator, don’t participate outside of your duties.
Don’t Hijack Someone Else’s Post
Often, someone will post something that brings to mind information of your own situation. Outside of being a good resource, don’t turn it into a discussion about you. If you want to, you can use that post as a starting point and make a new post about your situation, but avoid taking over someone else’s thread.
Use Reporting and Blocking When Necessary
The best defense when it comes to groups and forums is to use the reporting and blocking functionality when it’s available. If it’s not, just use your ability to completely ignore people who aren’t behaving properly. If you report harassment to an owner and nothing is done, you may want to question if you should be part of that group.
When in Doubt Ask the Admin
If you’re not sure something you want to do is allowed, such as announce an event you’re having, a sale, or so forth, just ask the admin. Do read the rules to try to decipher whether the owner will be open to it at all before you even ask. They may have ad space for that type of thing too.
Being part of any group or forum is like being part of a club. If you don’t like the rules of the club, talk to the leaders in a respectful way to find out if there can be changes. If not, it’s okay to acknowledge that the club isn’t right for you and move on to a new club that is more in line with what you need in a group or forum.