I participate in quite a few groups and forums. When I have some “give-back time,” I pop in and lend a hand where I can.
Community forums exist for most service providers where users can help each other and share information. Groups, like those on Facebook, draw folks with like minds together to network and exchange ideas.
The OP (original poster) often makes helping them more complicated than it has to be. Then you have trolls and troublemakers with too much time on their hands, posting to be agitators.
While we have no control over others’ actions, we can set an example by using these venues in a way that provides a more enjoyable and constructive experience — by leading by example.
How to Use Groups & Forums Properly
Follow these simple guidelines to help be part of and build communities with like minds.
Review the “Charter” or Rules
Every group and forum has posted rules for participation. Please read them and then abide by them.
If you don’t like the terms, rather than ruin the other participants’ experience, find another forum or start up your own. Most rules are commonsense basic online courtesies to ensure a pleasant experience for all.
Don’t be Spammy
This means you do not arbitrarily or gratuitously post your business links. The only time you would post your business link in the body of the message is if you were explicitly asked for it.
Some only participate when there is an opportunity to add a link to their website. But unfortunately, that approach rarely allows you to become a contributing member. And is it a turn-off to those who are there to share.
It is also wise to note that it is your site — not one you are simply referring to. Transparency in the disclosure is crucial to the credibility of your post. You can soft-sell your business by incorporating one link in your forum signature file if allowed.
What about my right to “free speech”?
Use of any site or forum is not a right. To participate, you will be asked to follow a few simple rules. The “freedom of speech” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution that folks so willingly throw around (many times to justify their poor behavior) only protects you from governmental intervention in your right to express yourself.
It does not give you free rein to use private or public computer resources, post repetitive links and not play by the rules against the owner’s wishes. So, if you don’t like the posted rules, search for another forum that is more in line with what you feel is tolerable.
Stay on Topic
Discuss issues only relative to the thread in question. A thread is a term used for an ongoing conversation based on a particular subject. If you disregard the forum or section’s topic, it is common for moderators to move your posting to the appropriate board.
When creating a new post, take the time to craft a clear and concise subject, so it is clear to other members what the purpose of your post is—the more detailed, the better.
When New, Lurk
Lurking is the practice of watching and becoming familiar with the flow and personality of any group or forum. “Lurk” for a while to get a feel for the community and personalities of the regulars before you post.
You will be participating in an established community and don’t want to bust in and blurt out your opinions, demands, or questions before getting a good idea of the feel of the group. So, a short intro about yourself before you comment is recommended in your first post. Doing so helps you start to become part of that community.
Never Post Personal Information
I’ve experienced users who need assistance posting their login credentials (UN/PW) in their posts. Never ever do that.
Be very careful with providing that data, even if a forum member offers to help. You don’t know the person on the other side of the screen or their intent.
In that case, check out the member’s profile to ensure they are legit and an established member. Then PM (Private Message) them the details necessary for them to assist.
Never post specifics to your location (phone and address) on forums or groups. Also, refrain from noting you’ll be out of town or on vacation dates. Troublemakers can then farm this information for nefarious reasons.
Don’t Fall for Trolls
Trolls post rude or inflammatory comments to get a rise out of everyone involved. Trolls is another word for Troublemakers.
Ignoring folks who do this halts their efforts to disrupt the forum and withholds the attention they seek. Move on to more constructive conversations.
There will always be differences of opinion.
Try to remain objective and not personalize issues. You can disagree with others by being firm and expressing your opinion clearly. To make your point, there is never a good reason to resort to name-calling, slurs, or innuendos.
Posters who behave in this manner are generally those whose opinions are weak or not based on truth or facts. Not a good look if you want to build a solid reputation within the community.
Always Review Your Post
Make sure your comments express the appropriate tone you want to relay. If you are joking, for example, add a ;).
Use emoticons to reflect the seriousness or lack thereof of your comments. Most forums provide you with standard emoticons so that you can do just that.
“I didn’t mean it that way…” does not apply online. People will take your words at face value.
If you type it, you had better mean it and be willing to accept the repercussions. Checking your spelling and grammar also leads to your posts being viewed as credible.
When Conversations Get Out of Hand…
Sometimes, others resort to personal insults or innuendo because of your comments. If you did not do anything inflammatory, try not to take it too personally – they don’t know you.
When you need to defend yourself, do so politely based on your opinion—no personal digs. Always take the high road, and the other forum members will respect you.
Wrapping-up Forum & Group Tips
Group & Discussion Forum Etiquette
Forums and groups, when used properly, are great resources for learning, forming friendships, and sharing experiences. Keep the above in mind, and you’ll have a more informed and enjoyable time!