The party-goer’s guide to online forums
Everything about an online forum is just like a party in real life – including the basic rules of etiquette.
If you’ve got a question about running your small business, odds are that someone on the Flying Solo forum has either already asked it, or is standing by to answer it for you. Here are a few tips that will help you join in this information-swapping party with both gusto and panache.
Don’t be a stranger
Your first priority on arriving is to introduce yourself to people. It’s good manners, and it’s also the friendly thing to do, which in turn inspires others to welcome you warmly. (Some people prefer to be anonymous online, which is fine, but consider sharing your name and ideally your photo too – forum members like to network with people, not profiles, business names or logos).
Don’t be a party pooper
Think before you speak. Any comments you make are being directed at a real, live person. If you wouldn’t say it at a party for fear of hurting their feelings or creating a bad impression with onlookers, it’s probably best you don’t say it in the forum.
Don’t be a wet blanket
You want everyone to go home from the party having had a good time, and delighted that they met you. That means that while it’s sometimes appropriate to offer constructive criticism, it should always be accompanied by suggestions for improvement.
"When you offer your experience generously, your relationships, your reputation and those leads you’re so keen to acquire will all develop organically and gracefully."
Don’t be pushy
Jumping in on forum conversations purely for the purposes of promoting yourself is the equivalent of running around at a party thrusting your business card under people’s noses: it paints you as desperate and makes others want to avoid you. Instead, take a long-term view, because when you offer your experience generously, your relationships, your reputation and those leads you’re so keen to acquire will all develop organically and gracefully.
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Don’t be a wallflower
You’ll learn bucketloads by hovering around the forum eavesdropping on conversations, but that’s not a patch on what you’ll gain by having a chat yourself – especially if there’s a problem you’d like help solving. Along with our official mandate, ‘We pride ourselves on being the friendliest, most helpful online forums around,’ we also have an unofficial motto, which is that ‘The only dumb question around here is the one you don’t ask’. So please dive in – the party is in full swing and we’re all looking forward to getting to know you.
What are your tips for getting the best from online forums?