How Not To Use Online Forums

I admit it. I love my online forums. When I watch the Real Housewives of NYC, I’ve got my laptop – rather appropriately – in my lap so I can click away discussing how batty Kelly is and shout “Team Bethenney” along with millions of other people I don’t know on imdb’s boards. 

As a forum poster myself, I know how annoying trolls are. And, none are more annoying than the “advertising troll” who thinks people can’t see through their thinly veiled attempts at tying their product to the topic.

Well, PCWorld just published: It Takes a Village Idiot: The Jerks of Online Forums outlining the top twelve trolls that ruin it for the rest of us.

Take a look at this list and make sure – if you’re using forums to connect with your audience -you are neither falling for these idiots, nor behaving like one yourself. Remember, every community has its own etiquette and Web 2.0 is no different. Knowing how to engage your target audience (and how not to) can be the difference between customers embracing your brand and customers going out of their way to mock it. My favorite example taken from the PCMag piece is:

The Self-Promoter is a message board classic: This bore meanders across the Web, leaving thinly disguised comments designed to pimp his own project. Sometimes, he’ll take a stab at making the promotion look incidental: “Man, that new iPhone software does look rad! You should check out my blog about Windows Mobile here!” But just as often, he’ll ditch the preamble and launch straight into the link without even trying to tie it to the subject at hand.

Shameless self-promotion really is the worst–especially when the shill has to stretch like Elastic Girl to come up with a semi-plausible segue into the promo reference.

As you – and your client – enter the world of online forums, you should get to know each of these personalities so you don’t replicate them or get sucked into their nonsense. The best way to do this is to engage in forums yourself. Get to know how they work, who posts to them, what is allowed and what isn’t. Just make sure you are on forums where you can truly contribute to the conversation. I don’t have kids, so joining a mommy forum would be a bad idea for me in general. But, I could go on there to discuss specific questions regarding my nieces and nephews. Just never pretend to be something you are not in forums.

Web 2.0 – and forums in particular – consist of truly tight-knit communities who know each other’s handles and who will go out of their way to destroy those who abuse the forum. We’ve all had those client conversations where someone asks you to post their url on message boards. Hopefully articles like this PCMag piece can help you dissuade them from that practice as it will backfire.

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