Companies today work in a highly competitive environment and getting an edge over the competitors is vital for its success. Traditionally, the tools used for doing that included marketing gimmicks like advertising, street shows, posters, T.V and radio commercials etc. Other things that could directly affect repeat customers are after sales support, warranty coverage period etc but if one of the most important factors that influence sales and repeat sales is word of mouth of the customers. This is one thing that is available free of cost for the company as an advertising medium that is so effective that it can even surpass the effectiveness of traditional advertising. Companies have realized this long ago and have always leveraged it for their profit. There are even some business models that have become successful and rely solely on this medium, for example the Direct Selling industry.

Now with the changing times, as more and more people have started going online for most of their day to day tasks and as online shopping is gaining popularity among general users, word of mouth marketing has found a new avatar for itself and all this takes place inside online communities and forums. Online communities are places where people come to share their idea and experiences with other users around the globe that have same areas of interests as them. Also, online communities are the places where people look out for support before going anywhere else. These online communities serve as a hub that connects people around the globe and help them immerse into deep discussions that sometimes results in exploration of great new things.

Now, since the experience is so engaging, there is obviously a chance for companies to leverage this for their own profit as well as for the benefit of their customers. First of all, setting up a community around a product or service provides the company cost benefits as it empowers word of mouth advertising scenarios over the internet, but apart from that, reduces the number of support calls for the company as most of the issues are resolved by the community experts. A company can support this process by organizing contests, centered on their products lines and/or giving out their products as prizes. Plus creating a panel of experts for the forum out of the users selected from it also provides a great boost to support system of the company, at negligible or no cost.

Apart from all this, traditional modes of advertising such as banner ads and link exchange programs can also be used on forums to leverage the direct monetary benefits out of it.