For new bloggers who are looking to find more readers and grow their blog, forums can be a valuable resource. While forums may not directly result in large numbers of visitors to your blog, there are substantial benefits from participating in forums.
Why Are Forums Useful?
1. You can learn from others and get your questions answered. The information you gain may make the difference between having an average blog and a standout blog.
2. You can help others by answering their questions. If you are able to be a valuable source of information to others they will remember you and will be more likely to become a reader or refer other readers to you.
3. Forums are an excellent way to network with other bloggers. Blogging is very community-oriented by nature. All successful bloggers have effectively networked with others. Your network can be a source of information, advice, and links.
4. You can use a signature that includes a link to your blog. If you actively participate on forums with a link in your signature, some other users will click-through to visit your blog. While this type of traffic is nice, it is not the best that forums have to offer.
5. You may be able to promote your blog posts. Most forums have specific places where you are permitted to advertise or promote your own work. Like point #4, this traffic is beneficial, but it should not be your focus when you are using forums.
How Can You Effectively Use Forums?
As we have seen already, there is a lot of potential with forums. However, most bloggers who are trying to drive traffic through forums don’t use the most effective methods. While there are ways to get visitors to your blog directly from forums (points 4 and 5 above) that traffic is very unlikely to amount to anything significant. Most forum users are not there to find other blogs to read, so it is difficult to generate big results with this approach.
Instead, here are some tips for maximizing the potential of forums.
1. Schedule time to use them. While forums are an excellent resource for bloggers, they can also be a huge time-consuming activity if you aren’t careful. If you plan your activities ahead you can be sure to participate on forums without sacrificing time that you need for other priorities.
2. Provide help and feedback to others. This is the best way to be recognized at forums and to get others to notice you. Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions of others, but focus on providing assistance and you’ll quickly increase your value to other forum members.
3. Focus on networking, not direct traffic. The key to effectively using forums is to focus on building relationships with other bloggers. Earlier we mentioned that click-through traffic was not the best that forums have to offer, networking is. Forums may not show up in your statistics as large sources of traffic, but you may meet other bloggers at forums that will wind up linking to you, or will be willing to post one of your articles on their blog. This is where forums really become valuable and this is where efforts should be.
4. Ask for feedback from other forum users. Most forums will have an area for you to introduce yourself and get feedback from other users. Blogging-related forums often have a place to provide a link to your blog and get the opinions of the other users about your blog design and content. Be careful to solicit this feedback in the appropriate places. Some forums are not friendly towards this type of communication if it is not in the designated areas. When I was designing my blog WayToBlogging I got some valuable feedback from others that I was able to use to improve the design (some of it I still haven’t gotten to yet).
5. Use an effective signature file. As you post to forums you messages will include a signature file that can (and should) include a link to your blog. Rather than just providing a link to your blog, give a quick description of the blog or something else that will interest others.
6. Follow your messages and build ongoing communications. Most forums will email you when someone has replied to one of your messages. Be sure to read the responses and try to engage in a continuing dialogue. This is a big part of networking.
7. Be polite. This one should be obvious, but sometimes it’s not the norm. If your goal is to network and build relationships you can quickly ruin those opportunities if you are rude or demeaning to others.
8. Focus on one or two forums. With the large number of forums available it’s tempting to try to use them all. What usually happens if you try this approach is that you will not use any of the forums enough to really be able to network effectively with the other users. At least when you are first getting started with forums you should focus on one or two. The focused approach will allow for the best networking potential. Once you have used a particular forum for a while and you feel like you could be more effective somewhere else, move on and try one of the other forums.
9. Use an avatar or picture if possible. With an avatar other users are more likely to remember seeing you on other parts of the forum. It helps to build your identity.
10. Focus on the subjects that you know well. Most forums will cover a wide variety of topics. If you are looking to network by providing help and assistance to others, you’ll have the best results if you focus on topics that you know the best.
11. Look for win-win opportunities. One of the keys to effective networking is finding win-win situations. If you meet other bloggers that write on the same topics as you, try to find areas where you can help each other. Maybe you can write a guest post for another blogger and a particular topic that you know well. This would be good exposure for you and it would provide valuable content for the other blogger. Link exchanges are also common.
If you are looking for some forums for bloggers, here are a few to get you started: