Accessing and obtaining information quickly is crucial, especially when time is a constraint. In the past, people depended on their “trusted sources” – friends, colleagues or relatives, to meet their information needs. Thanks to Sir Tim Burners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web in 1989, the internet has changed the way information is accessed, making our world truly dynamic and fast paced.
Internet communities are formed by a group of like-minded people having similar interests. These people come together to serve a few basic needs – availability and anytime access to information with minimal or no costs involved. These internet communities are also referred to as forums.
Internet forums are specific to an industry or technology. For example, Android Forums brings together people who are passionate about Android devices. Discussions range from simple phone customizations such as snap-on covers to complex operating system and read-only memory upgrades. The forum also covers topics on troubleshooting, reviews on devices, speculation on models that are ‘rumored’ to enter the market and much more.
Likewise, there are many more such forums that cater to:
- Food lovers
- Pet lovers
- Software Developers
- Learning and Talent Development
- Human resources
Forum discussions can be viewed by anyone, but to create new topics or to post a reply, one would need to register. In addition to meeting information needs, forums also provide opportunities to network and share best practices.
While forums provide wide variety of information, they come with a caveat – all that is available might not be correct. Wrong information and “rumors” that spread online can pose serious threat to organizations. Therefore, it is best to validate the information across multiple sources.
One example that deserves mention here is Tommy Hilfiger. To read about the rumor that spread for many years, click here.
On the other hand, when used well, internet forums promote knowledge sharing, increased collaboration and higher level of networking, elevating the success of any organization to great heights.
If you want to create an internet forum, one of the ways is through a bulletin board. I recommend phpBB, the most popular open source bulletin board software, which is free to use. It contains a vast database of style and image packages which one can use to customize their bulletin board. Creating a very unique forum in a matter of minutes is a simple task.
Designing a forum is easy but engaging people in quality manner is a challenge. Here are a few tips to make your forum experience fruitful:
- 1. Build your credibility
When you register at a forum, fill in as much information as possible describing what you do and what your interest in the forum is about. Globally Recognized Avatar (Gravatar) is your forum identity which should be unique and identifiable at a glance. This ensures that people associate you with your ideas. In the online space, your profile information or bio is very important as it helps build your credibility and personal brand.
- 2. Follow the Rules
It is important to read the rules of the forum carefully and to follow them. Spend adequate time to read through forum discussions to understand how people converse. Many implicit social norms and rules exist that users must be mindful of. Being polite, courteous and non-controversial is extremely important as forums thrive on a collaborative nature.
- 3. Start by Responding
Forums are about conversations and communities. While one person may start a thread, either with a question or a comment, the others respond with answers or their own comments. The beauty of forums is that people provide advice free of charge, but at the cost of their time and energy. Therefore it is important that this favor is returned. Contribute your views keeping in mind the implicit rules of the forum.
- 4. Contribute Your Expertise
If you have an expert opinion, share it. Providing a link to your page in response to queries is not the right forum etiquette. A way to promote oneself as a source of information and expertise is to contribute highly relevant information immediately and in abundance.
- 5. Write Intelligently and Correctly
While it is not mandatory to carefully script every forum post, you should proof-read everything at least once. Use the spell-check feature to comb for spelling errors. Most forums have no specific rules on grammar and punctuation but consider that everything that is shared represents your personal brand.
So without further ado, make use of online forums to share your information and expertise. It will positively change the way you access, use and share knowledge for your business and personal needs.