Building and earning visibility through conversations has proven itself to be a very result-oriented approach in online marketing.
Sharing your knowledge and expertise on online communities doesn’t just help you build links (that get clicked more often than not), but it also allows you to build a strong brand presence that will let people in your industry know that you really know your stuff.
And best of all, it can also help you generate leads/sales directly.
To start off, I’ll throw a couple of samples of how I personally gained from just being active on some of the biggest online communities in the SEO industry in the past.
Note: My links’ actual conversion data (from early 2010 – June 2013) has been wiped out when Google Analytics’ new interface was launched earlier this month.
A few years back, my blog marketing strategy heavily relied on building conversations on other sites (particularly those that I knew where my target customers are) – and I believe they really paid off.
For instance, I used to be active on Warrior Forum in the early days of my blogging career (in which I have contributed 173 forum posts).
Over the span of 3 months, I’ve managed to get a few service inquiries:
And I was able to work on 2 good projects (for $500/month – that was my monthly rate before).
So if I had a total of 173 forum posts, which could have taken me 2 minutes to make each post (a total of 346 minutes or 5.8 hours), and say I’m paying myself $20/hour. Then the total investment I made for this specific task would be $116.
The return was two $500/month worth of projects. Not bad for an investment right?
Another sample would be my current presence on Inbound.org (being one of the community’s top users).
Which definitely have generated a lot of business leads for Xight Interactive for the past several months:
It has been much easier to close deals with prospected clients coming from this community, since they already know what type of service they are looking to get.
Other than getting service leads, it also helps me scale my marketing efforts, as I get more linking opportunities – seeing that other community members perceive my brand as an authority in the field.
Calculating the amount of efforts I’ve done vs. the results I got (as a business owner) was definitely satisfying.
I’ve already shared 1,545 articles on Inbound.org (although I’m not saying it’s about the quantity of your contribution). So let’s say it takes me a minute to share a single post on the site – which actually isn’t, since I believe it’s just a few seconds (a total of 1,545 minutes or 25.8 hours). Then I’ve already spent $516 worth of my time on contributing to Inbound.org (if say I’m paying myself 20 bucks per hour).
The returns were I was able to close a lot of new client inquiries and got more marketing firepower for my blog’s brand – which I can truly say a win/win.
Improving your conversational marketing strategy
Like any other marketing strategy/tactic, conversational marketing also has a few best practices of its own.
Generosity is key.
The more you add value to the discussions or give valuable information to other people in your target communities, the more you can:
- Make your brand and contributions appear more authentic.
- Build an authoritative identity for your brand.
- Standout in discussions that really matter (increases click-through visitors).
- Help and influence other people.
- Build better relationships and become more linkable.
I know some people in our industry who have been really generous in sharing their ideas/knowledge, which I think have helped a lot in establishing themselves as an authority in the field.
Invest more time on communities that will actually drive results
Participate on blogs, forums, social network groups and other online communities in your industry that really matter. Choose the communities that have:
- A strong search share (to ensure that your contributions will be seen by their constantly growing search-driven visitors).
- Large traffic, an active community and majority of it is your target audience.
Scaling your conversational marketing efforts
There are also a few things that you can do to make the most out of your forum and comment marketing campaigns, such as:
Hire smart people to do the community infiltration for you
If you have a great in-house team that really knows how your product/service(s) work (your sales or marketing people), then adding these small tasks of participating to online discussions can tremendously help you build a solid sales funnel. Just imagine if they can just do this for 15 minutes every day, right?
I’ve been working with Affilorama for the past 3 years, and I know that they’re support and sales team do this on their free time.
Check the top referring online communities that are driving conversions on your website (via Google Analytics). Spend more time on the ones that are really working.
Give product samples to other active community members
Get to know the other active users in your target communities, especially those who’re already/somehow considered to be an authority (but not the moderators).
Give them free samples of your products, as these can help you:
- Get more inputs on how you can further improve your product (which can make your brand more link-worthy in the future).
- Build rapport with the people who really care about your industry – and eventually build brand evangelists who can voluntarily promote your content within the communities they are active in.
Build more non-linking brand mentions
Instead of aiming for links when using this approach, use conversations to mainly amplify your online branding efforts. Because there are ton of advantages in doing this, such as:
- It reduces the chances of getting flagged as a spammer (especially on forums), when you’re slightly promoting your own products.
- It can cultivate more branded search (given that you didn’t provide a link) – which is a very powerful signal that search engines use to determine strong brands.
- Search engines can understand these non-linking brand mentions (through phrase-based indexing and the concept of co-occurrence), which means they will most likely count them as votes for your website to have better ranking ability on search results.
For more tips on comment marketing, watch the video below from one of Rand’s Whiteboard Fridays.