One of the most powerful online tools for outreach and education is the online forum. Like the Greek symposia of old, modern online forums are hubs of discussion for all manner of topics and opinions. Finding a few forums, or sections of forum-like websites like Reddit, can be an amazing way to find an entirely new audience for your company, product, or services. You can build awareness, while also establishing yourself as a thought leader.
However, it’s important to do this the right way. As with all social interactions, there is etiquette to be followed. Behaving as a good online citizen will help endear you to the people seeing your posts, and ensure your messages are received positively.
1. Limit self-promotion
In general, people become quickly tired of people who are constantly talking themselves up – and that’s just as true online. If you’re posting in business-related forums, it’s already assumed that you’re posting partially for the sake of self promotion. Therefore, it should be a subtext to your comments, rather than overt text.
One way to work with this is to lean into your own experience. “With over ten years in this industry, I can say that...” style comments usually work well.
2. Add unique and informative responses
Fundamentally, the Internet runs on data – and this is absolutely true in online forums. Mindless “me too!” posts are typically ignored, or even viewed with disdain. If you enter into a discussion, be prepared to add new information, new facts, or new perspectives to the conversation. This is valued, and seen as proper contribution.
3. Answer questions
Message forums are always full of people asking questions, from the obvious to the obscure. So, one of the best ways you can engage with people online, establishing yourself without overtly promoting yourself, is simply by answering questions whenever you can contribute ideas of value. Merely being helpful can do wonders for improving your online reputation.
4. Take customer comments seriously
As you establish yourself online as a representative for your company, you will eventually see people addressing you as a representative. Remember: every one of these interactions is an opportunity to improve public perception of you and your operation! So, don’t argue with them. Be respectful, take comments seriously, and when the person has a genuine complaint, do what you can to resolve it. Or at least refer them to someone else within the company who can help.
Again, merely being helpful is one of the best possible things you can do in online discussions.
5. Don’t feed the trolls
Any online forum will have its share of “toxic” participants – people who are either deliberately trying to cause trouble between participants, or who say outrageous/offensive things simply to get attention. These are the trolls, and they’re an unfortunate fact of life in online discourse. The best thing you can do is simply ignore them, even if they engage with you directly.
(As the old saying goes, “Never wrestle with a pig. You’ll just get dirty, and the pig likes it.”)
6. Be honest
There is no faster and easier way to tank your online credibility than to be caught in obvious lies. Remember, most Internet forum participants are entirely comfortable doing research and fact-checking for themselves. If you tell a whopper, it will be found out – and your reputation will suffer for it.
FUSE Makes Ecosystem Discourse Easy
FUSE from LogicBay is a platform designed to encourage growth, communication, and collaboration within your business ecosystem. Our extensive communication options, including discussion forums, put you in touch with employers, users, students, and more. So make the most of it! Contact us to learn more, or just sign up for your own free account.