|Hotrodders Bulletin Board Guidelines
Automotive Business Affiliations
The Right Way to Promote Your Business on Automotive Forums
Automotive forums provide a vast untapped market for established automotive companies, as well as industry entrepreneurs.
On Hotrodders.com, we have over 100,000 members. We also run the Crankshaft Coalition, through which we maintain listings of over 200 other hotrodding forums. There are thousands more automotive forums that wouldn't be considered to be specifically targeted to "hot rods", but still account for millions and millions of automotive enthusiasts.
That the market is large and untapped is undeniable. However, penetrating it is difficult -- forums are generally decentralized and non-commercial. While "banner ads" or similar overt advertisements can be purchased, they typically garner poor clickthrough rates, and provide an unsatisfactory ROI. Registering a username and making commercial posts is usually considered spam, and is greatly frowned upon.
If you want to successfully promote your business on an automotive forum, there are only two things you need to do:
1. Establish a reputation for knowledge and trustworthiness.
2. Associate that reputation with your company, without breaking the forum rules.
You can establish a reputation by the same method as any other member -- registering a username, and correctly answering topical questions in a reasonable and reliable manner. The designated username can be managed by a company owner, or a company "forum tech guy".
Obviously, such a method would have no commercial benefit if you were completely forbidden from mentioning your company. You would just be "smartcarguy435" or some such, and nobody would know about your business. So, you need to associate your reputation with your company -- without breaking the forum's rules and harming your reputation.
Most forums will allow you to mention your company, as long as it's not done in an overtly commercial manner. For example, on Hotrodders.com, you aren't allowed to have company contact information (urls, phone numbers, email or physical addresses, etc.) in your posts, or in your username. However, this only applies to contact information, not to a specific company name. A savvy company owner might use their company name as part of their username: "Jim's Ford Parts", or "Bob from Pro Racing". Then, every time he made a high-quality technical post on the board, his reputation would be linked to his company name. Not only would his posts be noticed in that forum, but in Google and other search engines as well.
On Hotrodders.com, you can also put your company url in your personal profile page (not on public board posts), you can put your company name in your "custom user title" or "location" fields, and you can even use your company logo as your avatar. Other forums will have similar methods of "representing" your company, without overtly "advertising" your company.
Established companies can deploy tech representatives to automotive forums, and locate discussions about their products using the forum search engine. Forum members are usually delighted to see a company representative "stumble upon" a discussion about their product, and lend a hand with technical assistance or perspective.
This is a far cry from the notion that some company owners seem to have -- copy-paste a promotion onto a few hotrodding forums, and wait for the money to come pouring in. Really, the "secret marketing strategy" above is the same method you would use to build a long-term reputation in the offline world. It's also part of an economic system that rewards everyone involved. Individual automotive enthusiasts gain free access to technical knowledge from professionals. Company owners get free advertising based on their knowledge, not their budget. And the community benefits as a whole by rewarding those who are most willing to share their knowledge.
For more information, see 3 examples of commercial posts, or 3 rules for commercial posting.
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