Demographics & Digital Marketing, Part 4: The Evolution of Chat Rooms & Message Boards

This five-part series details some of the history behind using demographics as part of a digital marketing strategy. In addition, we’ll talk about how you should approach online engagement, and which tools we find most useful for managing our campaigns.

In our last post, we looked at SEO best practices. This week, we examine the evolution of online chat rooms and message boards, and ways for businesses to leverage them.

The internet’s lexicon has changed pretty significantly over the years. Where once there was dial-up, guest books, Ask Jeeves and web portals, now there is 4G, responsive design, LinkedIn, and Squarespace. However, the biggest shift can be seen in the chat room.

Chat rooms were an integral part of the Internet’s sense of community up until the mid-2000’s. There was a time when most sites at least had a forum or an Internet Relay Chat set up. These were forums in the Roman sense of the word, meant for discussion and business purposes. Portals to find specific chat rooms and forums were at one point our primary (if not only) method of accessing specific demographics. If you wanted to advertise to baseball fanatics, you bought a banner ad on If you were trying to profile comic book readers, you went to and asked questions.

As the Internet grew in popularity and social media platforms arose, we began to see the decline of these chat room communities. Nowadays, most marketers probably don’t give most of these hyper-specific sites a second thought.

However, chat rooms and forums are not dead. They’ve merely incorporated themselves into existing social media sites. Comment sections on sites are common, and websites like Reddit and Linkedin Groups offer you access to, and feedback from, a community of professionals and amateurs in the field you’re trying to access.

If you’re trying to engage with a specific segment directly, your best bet is to seek out these niche communities. Here are some very general social rules that you should follow before you take the plunge.

Rule #1: Stay engaged

The biggest mistake that people make is that they can make a single post and then bolt. You’re representing a product or a company when you enter these communities, and if you want them to remember your name you need to do more than just post once about how great your product is if you want to see any kind of results. Take the time to read, comment on and share other posts. Be helpful where you can and offer advice when people ask for it.

Rule #2: Don’t use forums directly for promotion

It’s important to remember that you are a stranger in this community. If you come in touting the strengths of your product, chances are you’ll receive the same kind of welcome a door-to-door salesperson would. If you’re going to promote your product, make sure you’re offering some other benefit as well.

Rule #3: Approach with a willingness to learn

Ask questions of your own about community perspective. If you’re thinking of putting out a new product, test the waters by asking the community what they think. Take the time to learn about what they’re interested in and passionate about.

It is also important to take into consideration that many internet users don’t post or comment on anything, and by reaching out to these communities you may only be getting information from a vocal minority.

Next Week: Real World Demographics On The Web


Jason Janoski

Jason Janoski