Forums have been around for about as long as the Internet.
Some of the earliest ways people used the Internet was to visit a forum. It was the earliest of the earliest form of social media. A way to connect with people with similar interests no matter the location.
Forums are still popular today. It would seem that social media has cut into it a bit. But some of the most popular forums continue to grow.
A forum is pretty basic. There is a main feed of threads. Each thread contains discussion. They’re usually categorized to create some organization. But that’s about it. Most remain pretty bare bones. No frills. No fuss. Just people discussion all kinds of things about the topics they care about most.
Blogging is similar in a few ways. There is a feed. There is new content. There are categories. There can be some discussion in the comments. But blogging is more like a someone giving a lecture while a forum is more like a group of people having a discussion.
But let’s say you have a blog…forums can be great for boosting the quality of your blog.
Here are a few ways…
1. Find Questions To Answer
There are a lot of questions on forums. That’s how most of the threads begin. Someone has a question. Others step in and provide the answers. There can be some really great knowledge on forums. Lots of first-hand stories and experience.
You can use forums to see what questions are being answered and use that insight to identify topics to write about for a blog. You can look for popular questions. You can look for overlooked questions. It’s a great way to identify what people want and fill the need. And it aligns with Google’s purpose.
2. Identify Language & Keyword Preferences
Another key learning point with forums is to learn the lingo of your audience. You can see how they’re asking questions. What words or keywords they’re using. This is easy to overlook when blogging, especially business blogging, because you often have different terms for what you’re selling versus how people might be looking for it.
For example, if I’m stranded on the side of the road I might go on a forum and ask what wrench to use to change the flat tire. I wouldn’t necessarily know to ask about a “tire iron”. But if I was selling tire irons I would probably refer to it as a tire iron nearly 100% of the time.
3. Target Audience Details
You can learn quite a bit about your target audience on forums as well. You can see the questions, as we just discussed. You can also check out their profiles to learn more about them. Where they are located. What they do for a living? All kinds of demographics. It can all help with your business in general, but also with the blogging you do. Target audience is always a key for blogging. You want to write as if you’re writing to one person. Fred Rogers or Mr. Rogers always addressed the television by saying, “Hello, Neighbor”.
You want to think about addressing your blog readers as, “Hello, Reader”. The more you learn about your reader, the better you can do this. And forums can help.
You can also do a little competitive research on forums. You can see what people are talking about in your industry. You can see what people are saying about you as well as about all your competition. You can see how much they’re talking about you versus the competition.
5. Evergreen Insight
I thought about discussing the opportunity to identify trends on forums. And I do think that is true. But you have to be careful when blogging about trends. The thing with trends is that most, 1) are gone shortly after they arrive or 2) they take a little while before the masses really catch on.
So might catch some lightening in a bottle by spotting a hot topic early and then blogging about it. That can work to build your audience and subscribers. But it’s hit and miss. And it takes time and energy away from focusing on the evergreen topics and trends. The things that are popular right now and that will likely be popular in the future.
If you see a topic on a forum from five years ago and it’s still popular now, that’s something you want to consider blogging about.
Forums continue to be some of the most popular destinations online. It’s been that way since the beginning. There is one for just about every topic, industry and niche you can imagine. In fact, there are probably multiple. It’s good for business blogging to identify the ones that are popular in your area and check them out regularly. They can provide a lot of insight that can make your blogging better.