There are literally hundreds of online forums these days and they can be extremely useful for anybody who runs an Internet business, providing you with the opportunity to make your name in your particular field and to attract visitors to your website. However, there are a few rules which are common to all forums and which you must follow if your are to succeed.
1. Do keep to the topic of the forum. Forums are designed as a meeting ground for like minded people and will normally cover a single topic or perhaps a small group of related topics. There is nothing which will upset members faster than posting content which is off topic.
2. Do include all of the necessary information in your posts. Whether you are asking or answering a question make things easy for forum members but including all of the necessary information in your posts. There is nothing worse that incomplete posts which then get dragged out by members having to ask for further details or for clarification.
3. Do be nice. It is a simple fact of life that forums attract people whose sole purpose in life seems to be to try to upset as many people as they can as quickly as they can. Do not react to such people when they enter into a discussion with you and deliberately try to provoke a reaction from you. No matter what comments are thrown at you be nice and polite to everybody and, if necessary, simply ignore rude posters rather than getting drawn into an argument with them.
4. Do not quote previous messages. Most forums use software which allows you to quote previous messages when adding a post to a thread but you should not do so unless it is absolutely necessary to make your point. People are perfectly capable of following a thread and adding in quotes simply makes the thread unnecessarily long and cluttered.
5. Do not spam a forum. If you are going to participate in a forum then your objective should be to gain recognition and establish yourself as an expert in your field by bringing real value to the forum. It should not be to simply advertise your product or service. It is generally possible to advertise your product or service through your forum signature block and you can also promote your product or service through your posts as long as you do so subtly and only where it is appropriate to do so.
Participating in forums can be a very good way to make contact with your target audience and find out exactly what your customers are looking for. However, it is vitally important that you follow the rules of a forum and make a genuine contribution to the discussion if you are to get a good return on your investment as a forum participant.