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Getting the Most Out of Online Forums

As a small business consultant dedicated to helping my clients succeed, I am always on the lookout for resources.    One of the places I always turn to are online forums.   I was looking for a source of photos or art for blogs, Squidoo lenses and other uses, and went to the Work-at-Home forum (http://www.work-at-home-forum.com).  A lot of people there seem to be using Photobucket.com instead of Google Images.  So I checked it out.

I spent WAY too much time last night browsing. Any photo that made me laugh out loud, I downloaded. Any photo that I thought could be used in other contexts, I downloaded. I now have a catalog of about 85 photos and images, like the one to the right here, ready to be uploaded whenever I need them.  And since they are submitted to the site by users who agree to share, I don’t have to worry about copyright infringement when I use them.  Nice.

I surf forums all the time.  I think I belong to something like 34 of them at last count, in several different industries.  I still look at some of the legal discussions from time to time, but I spend a lot more of my time these days on the work-at-home, working mothers, small office/home office forums.  I find they are great places to find out information about what’s new and happening.  You also get a sense of what the issues are and can craft a stronger marketing message to those particular audiences.  The tips and techniques that get shared are incredible.  Who needs to buy an ebook?  Someone out there will tell you what they’ve learned, and if you don’t see it readily available, just ask and someone will answer.

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WAIT!  I have to interrupt this blog for an

SPEED NETWORKING is scheduled for May 18, 2010, at The Meeting Place.

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Anymore, I never buy a new piece of software or advise a client to use any online service without first browsing a couple forums to see what the positive and negative reports are.  The Warrior Forum is a great place for all things internet-marketing related.  If it doesn’t work, if the provider promises a money-back guarantee and they don’t honor it, if their upsells are too aggressive, you’ll find it discussed.  Or, if the product exceeds everyone’s expectations and they get 20 ideas on how to grow their business, you’ll see that discussion, too.

I’m using the forums mostly for information gathering, not to sell my services per se, which is good because most forums frown on blatant sellingBut I do get business.  It’s just a more subtle approach.  I answer a lot of questions and try to give people honest answers.  I refer them to my blog, or to other resources I know about.  In return, I get inquiries from people who want to know more about me.  Those inquiries often lead to connections on LinkedIn or Facebook, and new followers on Twitter.  Sometimes, those inquiries lead to sales of my content-writing packages or consulting services.

And don’t forget that other nugget that comes from being involved in forums, especially the more active ones — that precious backlink to your site that Google loves for search engine optimization purposes.  If you write your forum profile using your targeted keywords, and your “about you” box has the link to your website or blog, Google will find you and give you credit in the page rankings and search results.  Win-win for everyone.

Depending on the target audience, I encourage clients to get involved in one or two forums, in addition to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  If you are active on the forum, you will develop a following and start to be recognized as a expert.  That’s not a bad thing.  But sometimes, you don’t need to be active.  Just sign up, go out and observe.  Read the discussions.  See what resources people like.  See what they don’t care for.  There is a wealth of informatioon about your potential customers out there just waiting to be discovered.

For my list of favorite forums, email me at SuccessPointConsulting@hotmail.com.  Please put “Favorite forums” in the subject line.

Here’s to your success,

Trina

P.S.  We’re only 3 weeks away from the How to WOW! Now seminar.  Seating is limited, so reserve your spot NOW.  RSVP to http://howtowownow.eventbrite.com.

P.S.S.  My good friend, Heather Tapia, is running a series of classes entitled “Why2How2 Abundance Marketing” starting Monday, April 26.  Get more information and sign up at http://abundancemarketingpro.eventbrite.com

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2 comments

  1. Jeroen

    I’m using http://www.netbuilders.org .This webmaster forum has been around since December 2008 and the amount of members is steadily growing. What makes this forum unique is the use of several ‘Gurus’ who are available for all kinds of questions related to their expertise. Besides that, it is a very friendly community and has a growing marketplace as well.

    I’m working on a web based business and Netbuilders has been very useful to me and I booked results as well. I’m using LinkedIn too for networking.

    Cheers

  2. Grace TAYLOR

    Indeed interesting post u have here. It’d be just great to read a bit more concerning that matter. Thank you for sharing such data.

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