A Special Report  
            
   Skills for Using Forums
 


"Forums are Gold Mines of Information and Opportunity - Mine them Wisely"
 
 
One of the great benefits of visiting forums on the Internet is that just about any question that might come to your mind has probably already been asked -
and answered
!

Most forums have a Search feature that can lead you to your answers.
This article by jl Scott will help you get the most from your forum visits.


Skills for Using Forums
by  jl scott, ph.d.

     A forum is a type of community, no matter what web site it's on. Usually, there's a core group, and others come and go. A lot of people have to interact, and hopefully, get along together.

     Others "lurk." They read the forums, but never post. They may be shy, they may think they don't have anything to contribute, but mostly, they just don't want to jump into the fray.

    Obviously, there also has to be a leader. Someone has to have the final decisions. And, that gets tricky sometimes.

     While I was thinking about all this, I realized, I wasn't exactly doing an exemplary job either!

     So, this is something where we can all work on together.

     I believe that all forums would be busier if everyone just used some basic common sense. It isn't tough. Positive forum behavior is simply based on the Golden Rule. How do we all want to be treated by others?

The Rules
 
    First, we need to follow the rules.
If the forums are built around topics, we need to post in the appropriate place. And, that includes everyone. As the leader, I don't need to post willy-nilly, wherever I please. The rules apply to everyone.

     On the other hand, the leader shouldn't have to even mention the rules. Rules are always posted, and it's every user's responsibility to read and abide by them.

 We don't want to force the leader to be the bad guy, trying to enforce rules.


 

What is Our Tone?

     Forums are often used as places to learn. This is a good thing because lots of people are there to help. We may be a teacher on one topic and a learner on another. Well, except for the gurus - who know everything.

     In helping, we don't want to "talk down" to people. Just because someone asks a question, we can't assume that person is an idiot or even a novice. Not knowing something in one area doesn't make anyone ignorant in every other area. Nor, does it mean they need to be "spoken" to, or lectured, as if they are generally incompetent.

     I don't care HOW long any of us have been online, or doing anything else, we ALL still have things to learn. The day someone comes across as if only THEY have all the answers, is the day I stop listening. And, others do too.

What Words Do We Use?

     People ask for advice in forums. This is also a good thing. To have some input jogs the mind and gets the juices flowing. But, they are NOT asking to be criticized.

     Now, you tell me if you asked for advice, which would you rather hear?

"Your web site looks unprofessional." OR "Using such-and-such might make the site look more professional."
"You need to stop doing this and start doing that." OR "When I stopped doing this, and started doing that, everything worked much better for me."
 
"You can't do that." OR "It was easier for me when I did this first, and worked up to that later."

     Notice in the second of each pair of answers, the "you" word is never used. If we know how to communicate using sentences without the "you" word, we're good communicators. And, people will hear what we say.

     We often use the "you" word when we're writing. However, when helping someone one-on-one, it's ineffective, and frequently hurts people's feelings. It sounds as if they're being attacked, rather than helped.

     This technique is used in all kinds of support groups. Anyone can learn it. Is a forum not meant to be a support group?


What is Our Attitude?

     Do we really know everything there is to know? Well, if we come across like we do, people get tired of listening because they KNOW better. NO ONE is the infallible guru on ANY subject, much less all of them.

     This is where the "I" word can become problematic. When we're asked a question, the person asking is asking for usable information. They didn't ask for a discourse of everything we know, and everything we've ever done.

Frankly, they don't care. No one wants to read through our entire professional history, all of our experience, how many people we've helped, how long we've been in business, and what an expert we are, just to get a usable answer to a simple question. Most forums have an "Introduction" spot for all that.

What is Our Motivation?

     This rides side by side with the question above. Are we in that forum to help and learn? Or, are we in that forum to do something else?

     Do we spend our valuable time writing L-O-N-G answers to people, mostly all about US,
and everything we think we know? If so - we're not helping, we're SELLING.

     And, no matter how many times, or how many ways, we say we're there to help, people see right through it! If we blow our own horn loud enough, EVERYBODY can hear. And, it's annoying!

     Of course, we've all heard that forums are great places to pick up customers. I don't have a single problem with that. I encourage it. However, there's a right way, and a wrong way to do it.

A good introduction of ourselves (who we are, and what we do) tells part of the story. Then, if we truly are helpful, people will use our sig files and visit our sites. There, they'll find out everything they need to know.

   SO! How Good are YOUR forum skills?
             Ready for an upgrade?
    
  
     This article may be republished, using the following attribution box. 
    =====================================================
Dr. jl scott is the Director of the Chamber of Commerce on the Web, formerly the International Council of Online Professionals (iCop) the membership site for current and future online business owners. Created BY the members, FOR the members!
                   CLICK to visit the Chamber of Commerce on the Web

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