Online forums and message boards are all over the Internet, and many
see thousands of visitors each day. How can you use these forums and
message boards to market your home business?
Search for the Proper Forum
If your home business involves creating jewelry, you probably don't want to spend your time on baking forums. Search for a forum or message board that is tailored to your business. There are so many of these available now that a quick online search should turn up several. You may want to begin your search generally, for instance "sewing forums," and then narrow in ("wedding sewing forums," etc).
If one of your main objectives in finding a forum is to market your
business, be careful not to choose a forum that is too small.
Be a Lurker
Although you may be tempted to register and begin posting about your
business immediately, resist the urge. Spend a week or so just reading
the message boards to determine if the site has the "feel" you like. Do
the other posters seem helpful? Mature? You may even want to email one
or more of the frequent posters with a few questions to determine if
the site is the right place for you to spend your time and efforts.
Join and Read the Rules
Once you've decided on a forum/message board that seems good, register as a member and read the code of conduct. Be sure to choose a professional user name; "hot bunny1" just doesn't have a legitimate ring! If the site uses avatars, a photo of some of your work could be a good marketing tool for your business.
Fill in your profile on the site; again, be professional and point out your expertise in your business area: training, experience, examples of your work, etc.
Many sites have rules against soliciting business on the site. But
don't despair; you can still market your business in such an
Build Your Reputation
Once you've joined, your goal is to establish yourself as a knowledgeable poster about your area of expertise. Spend a few weeks posting helpful answers to others' questions and tutorials on an area you know a lot about.
As you become known on the board, others will trust your opinion and perhaps even begin to solicit your advice.
If forum guidelines allow it, create a signature line to end all
your posts with, listing your business name and website. This is an
excellent way to find new customers who could be interested in the work
Be a Good Forum Member
Part of building a good reputation in an online community involves shunning forum drama. Most message boards are homes to drama at times, whether it centers around a political or religious issue, a member misrepresenting herself, or something even more complex. During these times, resist the temptation to step into the fray. Instead, remain profesional and keep out of off-topic debates that come up. You want to maintain a professional standing among other members.
Keep these tips in mind, and you'll find online forums are an excellent way to promote your business in a free and far-reaching way.
Susan Braun is a freelance writer living with her husband, three daughters, 2 rabbits, 2 gerbils and hedgehog in Indiana. She writes at girlsinwhitedresses.wordpress.com and Associated Content.