Big brands and message boards don’t work.
It’s not rocket science.
It’s common sense.
From a client’s perspective, the Internet is simply real estate.
It’s another piece of property that you get to own, another medium for you to brand, however you like.
And what better way to do this than to own a website, with your own built-in forum, so that you can directly influence people about your products. What better way to cross-sell your products and alert folks about your latest campaigns than to plant opinion leaders within their midst to constantly remind them of how cool their product is and how badly they need to have it.
Why, if you had your own forum, wouldn’t your fanboys be grateful to you for even giving them the chance to hang out in your living room and play with your toys?
And, since every other kid out there probably belongs to at least two forums, aren’t you doing everyone a favour by adding yet another channel to the mix?
I think that the reason why big brands always want forums is that they’re always misinformed.
It’s probably because someone told them that teens spend all of their time on forums and tell each other to buy products and watch TVCs that have been cleverly ‘viralled out’ on Youtube.
It’s probably because they think that everyone wants to be associated with their brand because their company is actually really cool and also did really good this week on the stock exchange.
It’s probably because they think that owning a message board gives them control over their audience.
In fact, you’re probably going to think that I’m just bashing clients when I say this, but most of the time, I think that clients who want their own online forum are misinformed senior management who don’t actually know what a forum or message board is, let alone telling the difference between a blog, a message board and Twitter.
Everyone is secretly a brandwhore. It’s just not cool to be seen as one.
Just go to Big Boards, and you’ll see that three out of the top five message boards on the Web are about gaming. Spend a few more minutes browsing the site and you’ll find a plethora of forums that are dedicated to almost every single interest known to humanity.
And you think your Big Brand message board stands a chance next to these guys? These guys who started their own message boards from scratch. These guys who have been fending off spam, switching forum engines and server hosting for years just to keep their board going. Here are people who have a vested interest that goes beyond the term ‘online community’ and extends further into their lives than perhaps some of them even realize.
The point here is this; if there really is a need for yet another forum on the Web, do you think people are going to sit around and wait for a big brand to start one?
On another level, some brands do take some time to think about how they’re reaching across to people on message boards.
Let’s look at Zouk Singapore, for example.
Zouk Singapore is one of the biggest nightclubs in Southeast Asia. They pioneered club culture and still bring over some of the best DJs on the planet.
But their online marketing is all wrong.
Well, not all wrong, but a little half-assed when it comes to message boards; if you go to Exitmusik.com, one of the many active Singaporean music message boards, you’ll notice that they regularly spam the ‘Events’ thread with their latest gigs. Sometimes, they’ll include a picture of an upcoming artist that they’re hosting or a link to their website. Most of the time, what you get is one paragraph of a copy-and-pasted biography.
Sometimes, Zouk’s rival club, Ministry of Sound, will post flyers with freebies that readers can claim when they turn up at the venue with a printed flyer.
That’s great. There’s some thinking there. But why doesn’t it ever extend beyond spam and e-flyers? Why don’t their marketing teams extend some VIP treatment to loyal readers? Why don’t the Zouk fans on message boards get any preferential treatment because they’re there?
To be fair, there are probably some cases where big brands have owned or participated successfully on message boards. But I don’t really care about any of that because big brands have already ruined it for a lot of people and they should start thinking about ways to complement existing platforms instead of re-inventing the wheel, all of the time.
I’m a member of a few message boards. I find it intrusive and annoying when big brands try to make friends with me on message boards. I find it disgusting when they join under a false name with the pretext of spamming me with their marketing bullshit. I find it stupid when ‘Jeffrey85’ joins a forum and his first post is a link to a video on Youtube and yet, he doesn’t take part in any community discussions until they start to revolve around his video.
Worst of all, I hate being told to be ‘Jeffrey85’ whenever a client needs to reach out to kids on forums.
That shit, ladies and gents, is just not cool.