Relationships, as they say, are the new currency and with the advent of social media as a relationship-building tool, it’s being dubbed “social currency”. And yes, social media is an important relationship-building tool, but it isn’t the only one.
Long before Twitter and Facebook allowed us to broadcast our daily comings and goings minute by minute, likeminded people connected on forums to share ideas and build relationships. Forums offer members the ability to connect in a more ‘private’ environment and participate in topical discussions.
Like any other ‘social’ situation, there isn’t necessarily a rulebook to follow, except for maybe common sense. And of course, like maybe other ‘social’ networking opportunities, you need to come up with a strategy to get the most of your time spent in forums.
5 Ways to Get the Most from Networking Forums
#1: Lurk before you Leap! – Not all online forums will tolerate blatant self-promotion and consider posting advertisements in discussion forums spam. Failure to comply with spam policies usually results in the prompt removal of the post and the risk of your account being suspended.
Take the time to review posting policies and ‘lurk’ around the forums first (meaning read through a few discussion threads to get a sense for the topics and its members). More often than not, forums will have specific discussion threads for members to advertise and promote their businesses.
#2: Comment on a Posting – Forum discussion threads range widely from opinion surveys to requests for help or input on a subject. The best starting point for starting to build relationships in a forum is to comment on an existing (active) thread.
Offer tips or share your personal experience on the subject. Members will return the favor when you need help. Don’t forget to add a signature with your web link for potential clients who may be interested in contacting with you directly.
#3: Start a Thread – Wish there was a thread for sharing special offers or connecting with potential joint venture partners? Chances are you aren’t the only one so start a thread or a forum group.
It helps direct the discussion if you specify the purpose of the thread or group upfront. Invite comments and spell out the rules of engagement. For example, if you want to share a Link Love group, specify that participants both share and reciprocate the sharing.
#4: Engage with Other Members – The one-to-many interaction on online forums is definitely a great way to leverage your time, but don’t forget to engage one-on-one with other members.
Take specific discussions to a private venue, such as messages or interactive chats, or invite follow-up via email, telephone or skype. Doing so both takes the relationship to the next level and avoids cluttering up threads with back and forth chats.
#5: Take your Relationship Offline – Connecting with your online relationships offline (and vice versa) is the best way to extend the relationship and stay connected.
Participate in live networking events, informal get-togethers or attend conferences and events.