Today’s guest post is from Patrick O’Keefe, owner of the iFroggy Network and the author of the book “Managing Online Forums,” a practical guide to managing online forums, communities and social spaces. He blogs at ManagingCommunities.com and is on Twitter as @iFroggy.
Some people consider forums old hat. But they are still a vital foundation of the social web, used by just as many people as blogs and social networking sites, according to a Forrester research survey conducted last year.
They can be powerful traffic drivers, but they can also be protective and sensitive to outsiders. But, if you do your homework, participate genuinely and approach them with respect, you can benefit from your participation with increased awareness of your Web site, company or brand.
Here are four simple rules for generating traffic from forums:
- Observe first, act second. Before you do anything, check out the forums simply as a reader. See how people participate and what the social norms are. Check out the guidelines (or rules) and read them thoroughly. You’ll want to make sure that you respect these to the absolute letter. If you are unsure about anything, always ask a member of the site’s staff first. And, since you are looking to generate traffic, make sure that you are at least allowed to link to your site in your signature.
- Fill out your profile, especially your signature. Once you’ve determined that links are allowed in your signature, put them there. Link to the product, Web site, whatever it is that you are looking to share with people. If you are allowed a profile homepage URL, use it. Be tasteful. Don’t go to a community on flowers and put a link in your signature begging people to join your community about flowers.
- Want to be there. You have to want to be there. This means that you enjoy participating and will be the very best member that you can be. Share your opinions in a helpful, thoughtful way. Have fun and share appropriate humor. Help others. Participate in a manner that is consistent with you and your brand. Never fall into the trap of arguing with someone in a way that would reflect negatively on you; personal attacks and name calling have no place.
- Don’t mention your Web site. Yes, you read that right. Do not mention your Web site in posts or refer to your signature, unless it is abundantly, extremely clear that it is acceptable. This isn’t your Twitter account or your Facebook page — this is the community space. The way you generate traffic from forums is generally through your signature. You do great things, you help people, and you make good posts. That makes people look at your signature and your profile, which is how you receive traffic.
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