Most people are familiar with internet forums. Forums have facilitated communication between people with similar interests for almost as long as the internet has been around. However, age does not cause obsolescence; forums are as active and popular today as they were in the early days of the internet. The reason forums persist and thrive is because of their social nature. Forums, like other social media endeavors, have some of the same rules when the topic of optimizing our efforts comes into play.
Here are 5 tips to get the most out of the time spent in forums:
1. Join the right forums - Spend some time and look around for the right kind of forums. For business purposes you will probably want to be in a community with similar interests. This means being active in the forums at all your selling venues, and at least one non-venue forum dedicated to your particular craft. For example, if you hand-make eco-green totes, bags, or purses, it might be a good idea to join a forum for green living or green fashion, as the people in such forums would be interested in your products.
2. Become part of the community - Like most of our social media initiatives, there's no real shortcut here. You'll need to put in the time to get to know the community and be seen by others as a veteran, rather than a "newbie." Try not to just advertise on a forum, you want to establish yourself as human being, rather than a spammy-one-post-wonder. Most forum communities have become particularly efficient at keeping up their guard against unwanted commercial solicitation.
3. Ask good questions - One of the great things about forums is they become a repository of knowledge for their users. You can bet that if you have a question, others who are just a little too timid have the same one. By asking good questions you can help inspire great discussion and grow the knowledge of the community.
4. Establish yourself as an expert - This is the next step from just being a community member. Show others in the community that you are an expert in your field, which you all are! By helping others and answering questions you will be a more respected member of the community. If you've been in forums before you've probably seen such experts. With a little time you'll be right there with them.
5. Customize your signature - This isn't possible on all forums, however, many forums let you create a custom signature that will be seen beneath every one of your posts. You can include a link to your website or selling venue in many forum signatures. With a custom signature, every post you make on those forums becomes another back link to your website, studio or blog. This tip is best utilized once you've established yourself in the community and prove that you are there to add value to discussions and not for commercial purposes.
Of course, you can create your own forums too! You may think that without a hundred people it would be hard to get a forum going, but really it only takes 20 to 30 active forum members. If you're just not happy with the forums available to you, talk to a few fellow artisans and see what they think about starting up a forum. You can get free web ad supported forums from several different sites. If you inspire great discussion and use a few SEO and SMO tricks, you'll even have other like-minded artists finding you. This is a rather big step to take for most people, but it is entirely possible if you're up for the challenge.
If you're not sure how to find good targeted forums for your craft, or if you have any questions, comments or feedback, you can leave a post here or send private questions to Kevin@artfire.com.
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