Ten tips for bloggers taking part in forums

These ten top tips for bloggers who want to participate more in web forums might help to make life easier for all involved. Originally written in response to a question from Danielle, actually there are thirteen tips but who’s counting..

Choosing a forum to participate in

1) Search for forums that match your interests using criteria such as “your topic niche” +forum (phpBB or vB)

2) Browse threads with the most replies to see if they are lively, current and interesting. Look at one or two of the low response threads as well.

3) Notice if people are using signatures with links to their websites or blogs. If anybody is, that’s good because it’s what you want to do as well. Read the terms and conditions, but don’t be too put off if they sound a bit strict. Your intention is to become a valued contributor.

Registering with the forum

4) I think it’s best to use the same username identity for each forum you take part in. The password should be unique though. I’d suggest using a gmail.com email address so that you can properly filter any notifications and subscriptions coming from the forum. Receiving email “push” is key to continuing participation so tick any options to be automatically subscribed to threads you contribute to.

5) Edit your profile page to include your interests and website/blog. Don’t give an exact date of birth, that’s too much information except to show that you are over 13 years old or something like that. Edit your signature to include links to your blogs after your name and separator or “witty” quotation. If you can add your own RSS feed into your profile page (as with Ning groups) then do so.

6) Once registered and confirmed by email, make an initial, short introduction post. There may well be a designated thread for doing that. Now log out and make sure you can still read your own writing, with sig or link. The public view may look different to the logged in view. If the forum is going to insist that you contribute without being allowed to bring attention to your own blog in any way then move on to another before you get involved.

7) Bookmark or store the URL to your newly adopted forum with all the others so that you won’t miss it when you do the rounds from time to time.

Reading the forum.

8) The key to being able to keep up with multiple forums lies in being able to quickly find only those posts which are new and unread. If you have to scroll way down past all the old posts to find any new ones then this is wasting your time and effort. Some forums have a “Quick” menu, some have sort by date, some have “take me to my unread threads”. You want to spend your valuable time reading new conversations, not ploughing through old ones again.

9) If you see something which provokes or inspires a response from you, write your reply and post it immediately. There’s no need to read everything else first, this is an asynchronous discussion mode.

10) If somebody has replied to your post, and you should get notified if at all possible, then go back and respond immediately. Don’t go through the rest of your notifications first.

Writing to the forum

Three more tips for bloggers taking part in forums, no less important than the previous ten

11) Intersperse longer considered posts with short one liners. Start a new thread from time to time. Get to know which of the regular posters you can expect to have a good conversation with and engage with them more.

12) There’s a certain knack to getting your imagination into gear for communicating across distance and timezones. Responding to a person in a forum is then more naturally conversational than formal writing. Hear the silent voices in your head! Yes, including your own! Laugh out loud and splutter in appreciation or indignation when appropriate.

13) Have fun.

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