This post was written by Mirna Bard, a social-media consultant, speaker, author and instructor of social media at the University of California at Irvine.
SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.
Last week’s poll question: Do question-and-answer forums play a role in your social media strategy?
- I’ve never used them, but I’m open to giving them a shot — 27.06%
- I have answered questions on these sites to help establish myself as
an expert in my field — 22.35%
- I have used them, but haven’t seen any significant results — 22.35%
- I don’t plan to include them in my strategy — 21.18%
- I have used them to ask questions, but not to answer them — 7.06%
Question-and-answer forums are becoming more popular, but I believe they are still the best untapped secret of the online world. The use of these sites to generate leads is still underrated by professionals or vendors who can give some helpful advice to potential customers, position themselves as the leading authority in their industry, drive traffic to a blog or website, build relationships and possibly generate qualified business leads.
High-traffic websites such as Business.com, LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo! Answers, Answers.com and many others are valuable platforms that deserve some attention and time investment. These forums can create high-quality experiences for both businesses and prospects because a dialogue quickly forms between people seeking answers to important questions and “experts” or professionals who have useful (non-spammy) answers to those questions.
The poll results show that many of the respondents are either non-users or “lurkers” who may read or review discussions but do not actively participate in question-and-answer sites. However, it’s great to see the majority are open to giving these forums a shot. I say the best time to start is now, before competitors tap into these sites.
Thus far, my personal experience with Q-and-A platforms has been very positive. When used correctly and consistently, they have proven a viable place to play for some serious relationship building and excellent lead generation. If you are going to take a dip, remember these forums are just like any other relationship-building tool: It takes time to see results, so they require some patience and perseverance.
Take that first step by researching the sites that you think may be the most relevant for your business; answer some questions without giving a sales pitch — though it is OK to include a link back to a blog post where you have answered that same question. Then invite the people you helped to join you on one of the other social networks and start building those relationship. Give it at least a few months, and then report back to give us the results.
If you already use Q-and-A platforms, have they been a source for generating leads? What results have you achieved by answering questions on these forums?