Yesterday, I published a guest article on superperformance.com titled: “How To Make Online Forums Work For You”, by Jessica Swanson. Swanson does an excellent job of describing the do’s and don’ts of posting in forums and suggesting appropriate content for your posts. Forums are good places to build relationships with other members of those discussion groups. You can increase your contacts and promote yourself to people who have already shown an interest in your expert niche just by the act of joining the forum.
I was glad to see the article, because sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace seem to get almost all the attention today as the premier places to go to get known as an expert and develop your self-promotion skills. To me, forums seem much easier to use. First of all, they are subject-specific. All you have to do is search for “forum” and “(fill in your expert topic or keyword)” in your favorite search engine and you’ll get pages and pages of references that will lead you to a forum (or forums) where you can have an opportunity to shine. You don’t have to check your account for the scads of unrelated posts from “friends” who are conversing on every subject in the world. Nope. Everyone in the discussion group is there to talk about your subject. Second, they are not time-consuming. You don’t have to create any profile or pages. You don’t have to invite people to be your “friends”. You don’t have to write on anyone’s “wall.” You just drop in whenever you like and check to see if there’s any discussion going that you can contribute to or benefit from reading. Third, there’s no pressure to make any posts to the group. You can take your time and get to know typical participants to see where you “fit” in the group before you try out your own contributions. You can also read old discussion threads to see if it’s a well-monitored group that discourages harsh criticism, rudeness and “flames.” (You want a discussion group, not a war.) You can be as active as you like.
Imagine this: if you spend only one hour per day, five days a week, updating your Facebook and Twitter, over a year’s time, you are spending more than seven business weeks a year on that project. (Assuming a 9-5 workday, 35 hour week.) Considering the time cost and the uncertain return on investment, forums seem to be a better choice. Nevertheless, you don’t have to choose. Since forums take so much less time, if you are having good returns from the “social networking” experience, you can add the forums to the mix.