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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Developing a Business Forum

For a business website it is important to foster a sense of community. Some of that sense comes by laying the framework of forum netiquette. You can further accentuate the positive by providing categories that result in an understanding that the forum was created for something more than an online playground.

The Look

Determining the overall look of the forum is important because the use of certain colors and patterns are more inviting to visitors than others. The overall layout of the forum may be out of your control, but there may be ways to customize the forum or even allow your visitor to choose a forum skin that best suits their individual tastes.

Category Design

By conducting a bit of research ahead of time you may find certain broad topics may work well for your forum.

Some possibilities include…

1) Welcome

2) News

3) Press Release

4) New Products

5) General Discussion

6) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

7) Introductions

8) Tips

9) Suggestions

The primary purpose of your forum is to provide a common ground for your customers to learn and share their knowledge and experience regarding your products and services.

Purpose Driven Discussion

By keeping your focus narrow you will find the job of managing the forum much easier. It’s possible your categories will expand as your forum grows, but keep categories and their explanations simple.

Forum Etiquette

Do include all of the necessary information in your posts. Whether you are asking or answering a question make things easy for forum members but including all of the necessary information in your posts. There is nothing worse that incomplete posts which then get dragged out by members having to ask for further details or for clarification.

Do be nice. It is a simple fact of life that forums attract people whose sole purpose in life seems to be to try to upset as many people as they can as quickly as they can. Do not react to such people when they enter into a discussion with you and deliberately try to provoke a reaction from you. No matter what comments are thrown at you be nice and polite to everybody and, if necessary, simply ignore rude posters rather than getting drawn into an argument with them.

Do not quote previous messages. Most forums use software which allows you to quote previous messages when adding a post to a thread but you should not do so unless it is absolutely necessary to make your point. People are perfectly capable of following a thread and adding in quotes simply makes the thread unnecessarily long and cluttered.

Do not spam a forum. If you are going to participate in a forum then your objective should be to gain recognition and establish yourself as an expert in your field by bringing real value to the forum. It should not be to simply advertise your product or service. It is generally possible to advertise your product or service through your forum signature block and you can also promote your product or service through your posts as long as you do so subtly and only where it is appropriate to do so.

Maximize Profits With Forums

Taking advantage of forums can be focused on the link of your site you are allowed to place with your posts. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Users must have a reason to click on your link. One reason could be a useful tip or resource you provide with your answer for instance. On the long-term run, you gain credibility and start becoming an expert in your field.

But how do you accomplish that? First, you must study carefully the forums before you join them. Check for their guidelines, their theme, the questions, the level of knowledge and experience the users have. After that, you group the questions in a specific block in order to provide the answers.

For example:

Questions:

1) How can I protect my website from theft?

2) Where can I find HTML security software?

e.t.c

Answers:

1) HTML encryption software

2) Hide your website’s code.

e.t.c.

Now it is time for getting answers. You can find answers using search engines, or a recourse you have already used in the past or even a “how to” e-book you had purchased. There are many options. Don’t forget that you shouldn’t restrict yourself to one topic. You can repeat this procedure as many times as you want.

You can provide your answers to forum users in three ways actually.

Business Owners and Managers

1. Join a small business network
2. Visit online small business forums
3. Consider getting a management consultant or business coach on your team
4. Invite retired business professionals to sit on your Board
5. Seek a mentor in a larger company to oversee your progress
6. Talk to your small business banking specialist
7. Go it alone but harvest best business practices from article publishing web sites

There are loads of different small business networks out there that are formed to provide a platform for other small business owners, like you, to help each other. The reality is that many businesses will be experiencing the same challenges as you and some of them will have already addressed your particular problems in relation to their own business. Conversely, you will have solved some of the problems that other business owners are experiencing. This sharing of experiences, information and support is hugely beneficial and membership costs are minimal.

Some of us are not joiners by nature and would prefer to avoid breakfast meetings in the early hours of the morning. Therefore, a more suitable option may be to join one or more online small business forums. This can be done on a semi-anonymous basis and you may choose to use the forum as much or as little as you desire. It provides the same type of support as small business networks and can be a bridge to interacting with other business owners with similar challenges to yours.

Hiring a management consultant or business coach does not have to be a hugely expensive endeavour for your business. You can start with a short term contract to have him/her visit with you once per month to act as a sounding board and to help chart your ship through rough waters. If he/she has done work in your industry segment before there is a huge value added component that can be brought to the table.

Many successful retired business people in your area may be chomping at the bit to get involved in something new. After all, there is only so much golf they can play. The value they can bring to your business is enormous and their business connections could transform your business. Talk to some of the retired executives in your locality and invite them to get involved.

Some of the larger businesses in your area may have a strong community spirit and want to give something back to the community. You will know the good ones from local newspapers and magazines. Contact some of them and invite one of their senior executives to work with you as a mentor to your business.

Bankers have a bad name in the current economic climate but there are many specialists dealing with small businesses that have tremendous experience in advising companies like yours on a whole range of business issues. Chances are that they have seen your type of business issues before and can offer advice. This service is usually free.

If your personality type dictates that you still want to go it alone, that is okay. You can simply visit many of the online Ezine websites that offer a diverse range of free articles by business professionals. You can learn many new tricks and perhaps find answers to whatever business issues are facing you.