This post is the fifth and final post in a series of primers on various platforms available for life science social media marketing (SMM). The other primers are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Perhaps the most underutilized life science SMM outlets, yet ones that often provide good opportunities, are forums. Forums and bulletin boards are the “original” online social media platforms, far predating facebook, twitter, etc., and many online science forums are old, well-established, and well-trafficked. Such forums include the Protocol Online BioForum, the Biology Online forum, Molecular Station’s Molecular Biology Forum, the Scientist Solutions forum, and SEQanswers. As you may guess from their names, many have specialized focuses, but some are quite general as well. Most of the above, however, are very popular with tens of thousands of visitors each month. That’s quite the audience.
Before utilizing any forum for social media marketing, be sure to read the rules of the forum. Each forum will have different rules and some may limit their usefulness for social media marketing. For example, some may not allow you to represent yourself as a company. Some may not allow you to promote a company or product in a post or in your forum signature. Some may not allow outbound links until you have a certain number of posts. Regardless, be sure to follow the forum rules. Not doing so will only get your posts deleted, your account banned, and create a bunch of negative feelings towards you, your company, and your brand. If you feel the rules are too restrictive, don’t use the forum.
That said, there are a lot of ways that forums can be used to your advantage. Some forums will allow you to post about new products and services, or will have specific sections for you to do so. These posts can attract hundreds or even thousands of views, so they are often well worth it. Many will allow you to link back to your website in those posts as well. Providing expert answers to questions on topics within your company’s area of expertise can also be a valuable way to grow and promote your brand image. This sort of projection of expertise will garner respect for the knowledge of your company and staff and will also build goodwill among scientists in your target fields. Sometimes a scientist will have an issue for which one of your products would be a good solution. In these cases, it is appropriate to recommend it to them, thereby directly generating potential leads. Occasionally a scientist will post specifically about one of your products, either to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction, or to ask for support on how to use it when a problem is encountered. In these cases it is very often advantageous to respond to the customer, and again a chance to project expertise, guide customer sentiment, and build goodwill.
Forums provide life science tools and services companies with a platform for much more personal engagement with customers. Offering support, advice, and expertise, as well as announcing new products, are excellent ways to leverage forums in order to build product awareness, goodwill, and project your brand image to an already engaged audience.