*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*
You’ll never be able to control message boards, as many of them are managed by fans in the form of admins and overrun by bleeding heart subscribers. But, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Message boards can be your best friend. Think of it as free market research. Befriend the admins of the boards you consider to be the most relevant in your community and partner with them. The reason is simple: you’re catering to fans, and fans are the lifeblood of your program. The more you know about them, the more likely you are to keep them happy. Message boards offer you a free focus group and a finger on the pulse of your fan base at any given moment. All you have to do is plug in that URL and start reading.
Consider this. If you’re looking to gauge fan response to a new, unreleased, uniform idea, your friends the forum admins can test the waters for you without giving away the farm. And they’ll do it just in time for you to react and tweak designs.
Similarly, if you have a new brand campaign you’re trying to make headway with among fans, create message board signatures (the banners you often see underneath posts of particular individuals) that the admins can offer up to their community exclusively. In a matter of days, your new campaign will be all over the internet, thanks to your decision to seed the art to your most rabid fan base.
I know this can work because as a die-hard Oregon State University fan and alum, I once volunteered my time with a noteworthy Beaver board and created school-specific signatures for the community. The response was great, and still to this day I see posts that include a signature I designed.
Message boards are your friends, not your foes, as many would assume. These boards are a resource to you. Market research is expensive; message boards are free. Use them.