The Oldest Social Media Channel is Still Really Cool & Relevant

For most marketers when it comes to social media, the chase is always on for the latest and shiniest new social media service or the ones that seem to get the greatest attention from the news media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Instagram etc. But there is a much, much older social media service that even after over 30 years remains steadfastly popular.
The latest iteration/version of this social media tool? It’s often called the front page of the internet; Reddit. When it comes to Reddit it’s just an online forum slightly redesigned and beefed up. And there are today, hundreds of thousands of forums that remain actively in use. And no, not just by silver surfers and the over 40 crowd. By teens upwards as well.
Forums are a vast treasure trove for marketers. For competitor insights, research into products and how consumers use them, opinions and ideas for creative directors and more. In some cases, forums offer advertising and they can be a very viable channel for CTR volumes.
Oddly, forum etiquette remains quite staid and true to it’s roots. Most are moderated and almost every forum has very specific rules enforced either by the owner of the forum or group moderators. They are also quite fiercely kept on topic. In most cases, there will be multiple discussion threads and one dedicated to more “general” discussion where anything goes. Marketers that have tried to participate in a forum to promote their particular product or service, usually find themselves quickly banned from a forum. Engagement needs to be carefully considered when it comes to these channels.
Often, the best value for marketers when it comes to forums is research and indirect engagement. There are thousands of forums for marketers from creatives to SEO and other aspects of digital marketing.
To find the forums that may be of value or interest, simply search by topic in any search engine adding “forums” or “forum” to the end of the query. You may be surprised at the results.
Forums evolved out of online Bulletin Boards (known as BB’s) in the late 1970’s and 80’s from universities and the San Francisco Bay Area as the hippies were getting into social media. They were text based only then, not with all the little emoticons and .gifs of today. But they have also remained largely utilitarian and basic.
Don’t discount them. Figure them into your market research and planning and potential sponsorships and ad campaigns. But be cautious about engagement. Keep in mind that many are privately run outside of Reddit, while others are more public. Our research has shown that it is pretty much equal use between men and women. The users of forums tend to be extremely passionate about their topic of engagement as well.

About the Author Giles W. Crouch

Giles Crouch is a design anthropologist and CDO/CIO. He spent over 20 years in globally-focussed marketing communications for technology products and services, but his roots are anthropology in a modern sense. He uniquely ties his deep knowledge of technology, marketing, design thinking and design anthropology as a polymath to help clients seeking digital advantage in today’s complex world. Giles has been regularly interviewed by international news media on topics such as social media, blockchain, artificial intelligence and it’s impacts on society. He is a passionate practitioner of design thinking and anthropology. Giles is prolific writer and public speaker, lecturer and keynote. He has also completed over 250 netnographic research projects since 2009. His secondary activity is as Group Publisher with Human Media Inc.

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