OK, I know the plural of forum is actually fora but anyway…, I do frequent various forums. Some of them I just check into now and again and others more regularly. They are a great way of sharing information, raising your profile, and getting the odd tip.
Each forum has it’s own unique “atmosphere” and some are more helpful than others. Forums can be a great way to promote your business, if you use them properly and post helpful advice or comments over a period of time. They can also be a great way to deter would-be customers/clients, if you behave inappropriately or aggressively. Check the forum rules on signatures and signature links (posts where the moderators have removed or modified the signature links do nothing to enhance your business profile). On some forums, the presence of a good moderator has a really positive effect on the forum community. While on other forums, the moderation is either ineffective or non-existent, leading to some fairly aggressive behaviour.
How to get the best out of a forum
- Remember your manners.
- Try and get a “feel” for the forum by reading through some of the archives.
- Check that you are using the “right” forum. Some forums are geared more for the “industry” ,eg. AccountingWeb is geared towards accountants and non-accountants looking for free tax advice sometimes get short-shrift ) and others are more general. If there are “sub-forums”, then check that you are posting into the right one, otherwise your thread may be moved or deleted.
- Don’t post a message whilst in a bad mood.
- Don’t “flame” people, make personal remarks or derrogatory comments or aggressive posts, even if you are angry (see also point 4) . On most forums, repeated “trolling”, as it’s called, will get your username and/or IP address banned. It’s a well-known adage which applies to forums too – “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all”
- Remain professional. Remember that your posts are there permanently and many forums will not allow you to edit or delete posts afterwards.
- Don’t spam (just start a thread, or reply to a thread with an advert for your business. In fact, don’t sell overtly, that misses the point of a forum. If you are a regular contributor of helpful information, that will be more productive in the long-term.
When asking a question –
- Before you post a question, search the forum to see if it has been answered before, and if it has been answered before, check the dates in case the advice is no longer valid (tax advice, in particular, can go out of date very quickly.
- Cross-reference any answers that you receive.
- Remember to thank the people who responded to your question, for their time & trouble. Some forums have a special “thank you” button specifically for this purpose.
When posting a reply –
- Check the previous responses to make sure that no one has made the same answer. Ensure that you are adding new information (and not just rephrasing or echoing what has already been said, unless the original person has asked for clarification or a “show of hands”). Repetitive answers look desperate and clog up the thread. If someone else beat you to the answer, let it go – there will be other chances.
- If you disagree with a previous responder, then do it nicely and with genuine respect.
- Make sure your advice is helpful to the original enquirer.
- If you think that the original question is daft or ridiculous, just don’t answer it. Posting to say that the original post is daft is rarely helpful, very aggressive and does nothing to promote your business. (see point 5 in the general section, above)
- Use the “PM” (Private Messaging” facility with care. Spamming other members with adverts will not help you and could result in your being banned.