Online Forums & Networking
An online forum makes for an excellent virtual community, one that brings together a number of participants all interested in a particular topic or issue and generates a lot of interaction on the website where it’s based.
Since those who take part register to use the forum, it’s not open to postings by anyone. Often those who take part will adopt user names, rather than real names, offering a kind of anonymity, although over time regular users will get to know each other – which is where the networking element comes in.
One thing that sets a forum apart is that it has a location, a website. To read the posts you have to visit the site – and the same to post, of course. Everything is run by an administrator, who can delete posts and ban members if necessary. Moderators come under the administrator.
Using The ForumIf you’re going to join the forum and use it properly, you’ll need to be an active, regular poster. Of course, the forum should deal with your area of business expertise, so you’ll make good, authoritative posts – there’s no point if you end up looking foolish, since no one will take you seriously.
That doesn’t mean you need to post every day, or even just add a one line posting; wait until you have something worthwhile to add. Also, don’t flame others – writing nasty, critical posts regarding what others have said. That won’t win you any friends, and could well lead to you being banned.
The more you can give to a forum, the more you’ll gain from it. Initially no one will know who you are, but over the course of a couple of months you’ll come to know some of the other participants, and they’ll know you.
How To Use The Forum For NetworkingForums weren’t created as networking opportunities. But like anywhere which has the aim of exchanging information and opinions, it can be an excellent place to discuss ideas with peers and others, and begin to build relationships that can exist outside the forum, and even translate to real life.
The question, of course, is how to move outside the anonymity of the forum. It could be quite easy. If you have a post discussing a complex issue, especially something technical, you could suggest others contact you directly and give your e-mail address – a lot of forums will allow this, but you’ll need to check the rules first.
If your product or service has a unique feature that’s applicable to the discussion, don’t be afraid to mention it (or the fact that you work for the company involved – in fact, that’s good full disclosure). Don’t make a habit of it, since that’s really a breach of netiquette, but at times it is reasonable.
WikisWikis are a type of forum, but with the great difference that all users can edit previous content – in other words, they can make alterations to what others have posted, unless things are locked by an administrator.
However, to all intents and purposes, don’t even consider Wikis, since they’re far more anonymous than most forums and give no real opportunity to network with other users.