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.
All too often the OP (original posters) make helping them more difficult than it has to be. Then you have your trolls, trouble-makers with too much time on their hands, posting just to be agitators.
While we have no control over other’s actions, we can set an example by using these venues in a way that provides a more enjoyable and constructive experience. Leading by example.
How to Use Groups & Forums Properly
Follow these simple guidelines to help be part of and to build communities with like minds.
Review the “Charter” or Rules
Every group and forum has posted rules of participation. Read them and then abide by them.
If you don’t like the terms, rather than ruin the experience for all the other participants, find another forum or start up your own. Most rules are commonsense basic online courtesies and in place 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 specifically asked for it.
Some make the mistake of only participating when there is an opportunity to add a link to their website. That approach rarely allows you to become a true contributing member. And is a turn-off to those who are there to share.
It is also wise to note the link it is your site — not one you are simply referring to. Honesty in disclosure is crucial to the credibility of your post. You can soft sell your business by incorporating one link in your forum signature file.
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 reign to use computer resources, post repetitive links and not play by the rules against the wishes of the owner. Again, if you don’t like the posted rules, search out 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 the term used for a ongoing conversation based on a particular subject. If you disregard the forum/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 awhile 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 just bust in and blurt out your opinions, demands or questions before getting a good idea for the feel of the group. Then, in your first post, a short intro about yourself before you comment is recommended. Doing so helps you start to become part of that community.
Never Post Personal Information
I’ve experienced users who need assistance proceed to post their login credentials (UN/PW). Never do that.
Be very careful who you provide that data to. Even if a forum member offers to help.
In that case, check out the member’s profile to make sure 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 for example) on forums or in groups. Also refrain from noting you’ll be out of town, or vacation dates. This information can then be farmed by troublemakers.
Don’t Fall for Trolls
Trolls are folks who will post rude or inflammatory comments just to get a rise out of everyone involved. Trouble-makers.
Ignoring folks who do this simply 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 with clarity. There is never a good reason to resort to name calling, slurs or innuendos just to make your point.
Posters that behave in this manner are generally those whose opinions are weak or not based in any 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 an example, add a ;).
Use emoticons to reflect the seriousness or lack thereof of your comments. Most forums provide you with standard emoticons so you can do just that.
“I didn’t mean it that way…” does not apply online. People will take your words at their face value.
If you type it, you had better mean it and be willing to accept the repercussions that can possibly ensue. Checking your spelling and grammar also leads to you and your posts being viewed as credible.
When Conversations Get Out of Hand
There will be times when 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 feel you need to defend yourself, do so politely based on your opinion. Not personal digs. Always take the high road and you will be respected by the other members of the forum.
Wrapping-up Forum & Group Tips
- Review the rules and abide by them.
- Don’t spam, rather contribute.
- Stick to the topic at hand.
- Lurk to get a feel for the community.
- Never post personal details.
- Review before posting
- Always take the high-road.
Forums and groups, when used properly, are great resources to learn, form friendships and share experiences. By keeping the above in mind you’ll have a more informed and enjoyable time!