While analyzing the sources of online conversations for the banking industry recently, I was stunned to find that 90% of the conversations about banks and bank products were coming from forums and message boards. Even if my methodology were imperfect, 90 percent is a baffling number. As I combed through the various conversations and looked deeper, I discovered the broad statistics weren’t lying. When people talk about banks and bank products, they do so more on old school social media platforms. From my gut-check analysis to date, forums are far more prevalent in online conversations for other industries, too, though at varying degrees.
For marketers, this poses an interesting problem. Forums have never been at the forefront of their social strategies because there are far too many of them, thus fracturing their focus. And forums are often protected by administrators and self-moderating users who shun marketing messages and toss around the “spam” accusation freely. But if these channels are hosting so many conversations — many of which are purchase decision-oriented — what are marketers to do?
In order to confirm or refute this notion that forums and message boards might be an untapped conversation point for marketers, we included several questions in The Social Habit that might better inform us. We started with usage.
It turns out that nearly two-thirds of respondents (American social media users 12 and older) read online message boards, which is more than read blogs. We also asked the same question, though pointed at the last 24 hours rather than week.
The numbers go down, but correlate to the weekly responses. More American social media users 12 and older read forums and message boards than blogs.
And yet, where is your forum strategy? What message boards are you participating on regularly to drive your business?
Certainly, there are demographic and even industry differences in these responses. Many of those cross-tabulations can be made with the full data set of The Social Habit (which you can access by purchasing the Premium Consulting Edition). But the results of both these questions and the other information we’ve seen recently with source of conversation investigation would lead us to believe forums and message boards should at least be considered and contemplated as a potential channel for your outreach, monitoring or marketing efforts.
So what say you? Are message boards important to your industry? If so, which ones? The comments are yours.