Using Forums to Boost Your Online Business
By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/20/2006 | Entrepreneur
There are many ways to boost your business online - writing articles, search engine optimization, acquiring incoming links - the list goes on; but one of the best ways which is often overlooked is to find forums relating to your line of business and join in with them.
Being a frequent participant on forums can increase links back to your website, increase your chances of being seen as an expert, increase your mailing list, sell more of your product, get new affiliates to sign up, make you new friends - in fact there's not a lot to be said against joining a few forums. However, there are some things to think about before you get started:
1. Research each forum before you join. Make sure it's relevant to your business and see if the participants are in your target market. Look at how much traffic the forum gets. How busy is it? - there's no point in joining a dead forum with very few posts.
2. Check the forum rules before you post. Some forums will allow you to post adverts for your business while others will object. Check if you are allowed to add a signature at the end of your posts - adding a small biography with a web link to your business is a great way to increase incoming links to your site and to get more traffic.
3. Be polite and treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. Even though you don't meet people face to face you will build up some great relationships if you take the time to give good answers to questions, to be helpful and to respect other people's opinions. And every post you answer adds to your reputation. Use your posts to give genuine, useful advice, not just to plug your business and you'll soon be looked on as an expert.
4. Don't be afraid to ask for advice - no-one knows everything and sometimes you will need help.
5. To make the most of your time on the forums, allow yourself only a certain amount of time each day. Read only the posts that are relevant and that interest you and post answers quickly before moving on. It's very easy to spend the whole day on forums and not get anything else done.
1. Never, ever use a post to blatantly advertise your business, particularly if the forum rules don't allow it. Nothing will damage your reputation faster than spamming a forum.
2. Don't go through the list of forum members, collect email addresses and send them unsolicited mail. At best you'll be banned from the forum and at worst the owners might report you to your ISP.
3. Don't ever get involved in a flame war (this is when a heated conversation on a forum boils over and degenerates into nothing but an exchange of personal insults). It might be really satisfying to say what you think about someone, especially if they've been getting on your nerves, but just imagine what other people will think of you if you do.
In conclusion, treat people online like you treat people in real life. Think of it as a networking event that's taking place on your computer and don't forget that other posts on the forums are made by real people with real feelings.
You already know how to make friends and new contacts face to face. Apply what you already know to online networking and you could be enjoying great success with a global audience.