Back in the ’90s, some of the first websites to pop up online where message boards, forums and chat rooms.
I guess message boards and forums are interchangeable. They’re websites where people go to post questions, answers and general thoughts usually around specific topics.
Chart rooms are similar, but the one difference is that the chats were usually done with people online at the same time. With message boards, you could post something and another person might read it at the same time, but usually you’d post something, leave and come back when you had time or when you received a notification.
A lot of things have changed online over the last 20+ years. Websites load faster. The graphics have gotten better. The user experience (in the right situations) has gotten better. You can access all kinds of online software, cloud storage and more.
But one thing that hasn’t really changed is the message board. There are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of them still around and new ones are probably launched every day.
It’s also interesting that the functionality of message boards really hasn’t changed. I like that fact. The original message boards or forums were pretty simple. You had a main page with a list of categories or boards. Then within those categories you might have sub-categories and from there you had individual posts or discussions.
Users could post something new and others could respond. Sometimes those posts would live on for days, months and even years. You still see some today that are several years old and still active.
The Benefits Of Message Boards Today
There is still a great deal of benefit to using message boards today.
First, an active message board is a place where specific people spend their time. That’s always been a tricky thing. Advertisers are always looking to target specific people. Advertisers might show ads on certain TV shows because they have information on those that watch. Advertisers can target on Google by search intent. Advertisers on Facebook can target based on profile attributes.
Let’s say you have a company that sells mostly to football fans and specifically fantasy football fans. There are a number of message boards and chat rooms devoted to fantasy football. When you go there you know you’re getting in front of the right audience where you get the most bang for your buck.
Second, many boards today are very active. People come to them often. Some people visit daily or even multiple times per day. Some visit less often, but still visit and that’s always been important in marketing. It’s one reason why Facebook has been so successful with advertising…people spend a lot of time on the social networking site.
Third, message boards offer a real opportunity to make connections and to build relationships. The reason the boards have been so popular for so long is that they’re the online version of hanging out with friends. Instead of getting together for a beer to discuss football with friends, which you can still do, you can get online with a beer and discuss the games with people that have the same interests no matter where you or they are located.
How To Participate In Message Boards
It’s pretty straightforward. If you’re looking to market your business or yourself on message boards the first step is to identify message boards within your area of interest or industry. Go to Google and search for “[interest] forum” or “[interest] message board”.
I like to golf so if I’m looking for a golf forum I’d search for it and find this. There are a number of quality, active golf forums where I can go and make some connections.
A big rule with message boards is that people aren’t there to read your promotions. If you jump in and share your product or service you’re liable to have that post removed and you might be banned from participating.
It’s the same as in real life. If you walk into a networking event and walk up to people and immediately give them your sales pitch you’re not going to success and you might get a drink thrown in your face.
Go into the message board and start looking around at the discussion. Get a feel for how people interact. When you’re comfortable with that start jumping in with some answers. When you’re getting pretty good at that and getting responses then you can start asking questions.
Also make sure to thank people for their help if they offer it.
One quick note – before you ask a question make sure to do a quick search to see if the question has been asked before. This is a big pet peeve of people on forums.
Let’s say I go to a golf forum and look for a way to stop hitting my chip shots fat. I wouldn’t want to ask that question as a new post because there are probably hundreds of posts and threads (same as posts) about that topic.
One final thought I have to add about message boards is that it’s good to fill out your profile. I like using my real name. I give a short description of where I live (city, state), what I’m interested in things like that. Sometimes forum profiles allow you to share information that’s relevant to the forum’s theme. Like on a golf forum I might put the type of clubs and equipment I use in my profile.
Fill out your profile and add a nice photo or profile image. Some forums allow for a background image or signature image. Everybody notices these images so you want something that shows who you are and what you do. It’s a good way to get people interested in what you do as a business without being pushy.
Using message boards is still a great way to meet people and to market your business. Some message boards have amazing SEO authority. I’ve searched for something and countless times the top results have been forum threads and posts. Answering questions and being an authority on a message board is a great way to become an authority in your industry. It takes time and effort, but it can be great marketing.