People strive for recognition. We like when others listen to what we have to say, and when they give us credit for our thoughts and opinions.
And that’s exactly why discussion forums haven’t died yet, and probably never will, unless the end of the world really arrives. 🙂
Whatever your specialization, whatever you think about, dream about, or write about, you can certainly find forum boards where people discuss the topics of your choice.
But can you promote the book on discussion boards? I will try to answer the question in the following paragraphs.
Three main marketing techniques
You can apply different promotional techniques on discussion boards:
- Paid banner advertisements (negotiate the conditions with forum owners, and pay a flat monthly fee for direct promotion of your book)
- Forum spam (spam relevant (or even irrelevant) discussion threads with a link to your book, difficult to carry out on moderated boards…)
- Joining the forum and building your authority in the niche (engaging in the discussions, making relevant comments, promoting your book or website in the signature (signature is typically allowed for senior members, and you can achieve the senior status by reaching certain post count, typically one hundred posts).
The easiest way to promote your book on discussion forums lead through paid advertisement. And it can definitely work, considering that you promote to a targeted audience.
However, the effectiveness of this strategy depends on your niche, your ads, quality of your landing pages, the position of the banner, the monthly traffic of the discussion board, the relevance of your offer, etc. Many factors come into play, and the only way to see whether this technique works for you is trying it.
You should consider allocating a small budget (let’s say $100) for your campaign. Then you should read something about designing a good banner and about landing pages that convert, and try to promote your book on the most relevant forum.
Try not spending much, and set specific Urls for each banner campaign, so you can track the clicks and evaluate the ROI (return on investment) at the end.
If you paid $100 for a monthly banner, and, tracking clicks and conversions, made $120 from royalties, it would definitely make sense to continue the promotion—possibly to infinity.
Actually even if you made just $80, or possibly just $50, it would still be worth trying to improve your ads and your landing pages, which should lead into better click through rate (CTR) and better conversion rate (CR), which will eventually lead to a better ROI, and a meaningful marketing campaign.
Considering the genre of University of Solitude, and my writing for non-profit, I won’t use paid advertisements on forums, at least for now. But you should definitely try them, and let us know how it went 🙂
One can either spam the discussion boards manually, or with a help of a bot (paid software that automates tasks you would normally do by hand). Bot takes care of creating new accounts, answering random threads with pre-typed answers, and eventually posting link to your book, or to your blog, on various threads of your choice (or on all new threads).
Most big forums are moderated. They won’t tolerate your spam, and will ban your accounts in a flash.
But spamming probably still works in some niches, especially those that target basic human desires and most common “problems” modern people from rich countries face in their lives, because you can find a lot of forum spam nowadays, done by people selling things like weight loss products, or make money fast tutorials and eBooks.
If the technique didn’t work for them, at least to certain extend, they would not continue spamming the forums.
If you decide to give spamming a shot, try to be creative. Do not use the same posts all the time; rotate your accounts and use proxies. Use URL shorteners instead of your real domain name. Experiment and see what works for you.
Since my long term strategy consists in building a personal brand as a writer and a thinker, I won’t use forum spam. Spamming could seriously harm my reputation. What’s more, University of Solitude doesn’t fit any niche where spamming can realistically work.
But if you publish with pen names, or if you are simply a marketer, trying to sell something somebody else has written or produced, you may find the technique profitable in certain niches.
Disclaimer: You are reading a philosophy and marketing blog, where we try to explore and test all possible marketing techniques. I’m not going to moralize and tell you to never spam. It’s your decision what you do, and what techniques you try, since every technique can be effective for certain books and products, even spamming. You will bear the consequences (whether positive or negative), not me. Please keep it on your mind if you decide to try forum spam.
Asking, answering, starting threads … and promoting.
To join the discussion board, start new threads, answer questions, and post opinions, just like any other active member of the board, is the third option you have for promoting your book on forums. . . .
When a member reaches certain post count, e.g. 100 posts, they can add a signature to each of their posts. Sometimes you can add only a sentence (e.g. “author of the University of Solitude“), other times you can add a link (to your website or blog), and sometimes you can even add a banner, e.g. animated GIF, pointing to your website. It depends on the policy of the forum but anyway, signature is always allowed when certain post count is reached.
How will you benefit from participating in the forum?
- If you start interesting threads, or post unique and useful messages, other forum members may look you up on Google, or click the link in your signature.
- Google and other search engines recognize the authority of forums, especially the big discussion boards that feature thousands of various threads and tens of thousands posts…. Search engines will often show them on the top of their results, for various search queries, and many forums actually receive hundreds of thousands hits every month, just from search engine traffic! Needless to say, these guests (who do not belong to the forum community) will also see your posts and signature, and may also click it, should your answer catch their eye.
- Every link in your signature stands for a unique backlink, which will help your website gain authority in the eyes of Google (and that will, in a long run, result in a higher organic traffic for your own website).
Tips to make the most of forum posting
- Join the forum with your real name, so people know who you are, and have an option to look you up on Google, even if you do not add signature to your posts.
- Visit the forum regularly, participate in the discussions. It makes no sense to join the discussion board and then never post a reply to any threads. I suggest you making it a routine exercise. You can set a specific day of the week, and a specific time, e.g. Monday 8 pm, when you will visit the forum and reply to some new threads.
- Quality beats quantity. You can’t always post a perfect, or the most intriguing answer, but you should always try to add value to the thread. If you post only to increase your post count, or if you copy the answers of the others, nobody will be interested in your signature or work.
Case study with the University of Solitude
I have joined two philosophy forums, one with my real name, another with an abbreviation of my real name.
I’ll try to answer several threads every week (five or more), and when I grow the accounts a little bit, I’ll be starting new discussion threads, touching various philosophical questions and topics I thought over in Iranian solitary confinement. . . .
Just much later I’ll add signatures to the profiles, try to monitor the traffic from the philosophy forums, and I will post the results on this blog.
To promote book on forums takes time, and you won’t see the results immediately. But if you do it right and build your authority, you will enjoy recurring targeted traffic to your book page and website.
Side benefits of forum posting:
- You will improve your knowledge, learning something new from the answers and opinions of other forum members.
- You may find new friends on the forum; after all, you share the same passion.
- You will build natural backlinks to your website.
- You may help other people with your meaningful answers and posts.
If you see the big picture, you will probably come to a conclusion that joining relevant and active discussion boards really makes sense … doesn’t matter whether you sell more books because of doing that, or not.
- People from all around the world join various discussion forums, to express their opinions, learn from the others, and debate the topic of their choice. You can find discussion boards for every single niche.
- Many of the boards get hundreds of thousands visitors every month, not only due to members’ activity, but also due to the authority Google assigns to them, showing their threads in search results for various search queries.
- You can promote your book (blog, music album) in various ways: paid advertisement, spamming the forum, or actively participating in discussions and promoting your work in your forum signature (visible below each post you make).
- Spamming works only for niches connected to basic human desires (find love, look better, gain confidence), or urgent problems (make money fast, pay debts, etc.). If you aren’t involved in these niches, don’t waste your time trying to spam the forums.
- Paid forum advertisement can definitely work, since you show your offer to highly targeted audience. On the other hand, the ROI of such a campaign depends on many factors. You can influence some (quality of graphics, landing pages that convert), but you have no control of the others (forum traffic, ad blindness of regular users, etc.).
- Posting great content and starting new threads on relevant forums is the most rewarding method, at least in the long term. Try to join a couple of relevant forums, and use your real name when registering.
- Visit the discussion board regularly, post meaningful comments, and add value to the threads you reply to.
- Promoting your book shouldn’t be your only goal. Try to learn, try to help the others with your answers, try to open your mind. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to express your opinions. If you approach it in this way, you’ll eventually find the activity enjoyable. Getting recognition as a writer, and selling more books, will come automatically, as a byproduct of a worthy activity on the forum. Remember, law of action and reaction always work, even though it sometimes take time to see the results.
That’s it for today. Don’t forget to regularly work on your marketing, and try to enjoy doing it. I’ll be in Switzerland next week, enjoying the local mountains and clear air! I’ll see you with a new article in two weeks time.