Online Groups and Forums

There are various types of forums on the Internet. You can have a web-forum, an email forum and a newsgroup forum - for which you need a newsgroup browser.

Web-forums or discussion boards can be found for any topic imaginable. DejaNews, a very popular web accessible newsgroup with hierarchical group names such as rec.sports and rec.sports.baseball was bought over by Google, can be accessed at http://groups.google.com. It is one one of the busiest online discussion forums, with hundreds and thousands of topics. Egroups is another very good email based discussion forum that was bought by Yahoo! , and accessible at http://groups.yahoo.com/

Once you join these groups, you can start to make posts. You could use email or their web based system to make your psots. To post via email, you have to email your posting to a particular email address, and then your message gets broadcasted to all subscribers of that group.  Alternatively, there is also an online form through which you could make the posting. In both cases, if the postings are moderated by the Group Admin, they will moderate your posting – by first checking to see if it is appropriate and relevant, and then giving the go ahead to the sytem to broadcast your email message or posting.

There are also countless industry specific forums or online bulletin / message boards, that you should look for, join and participate actively. Look for forums that are buzzing with life and have many members, posts being made and articles being read. Start making relevant and intelligent postings and participate in threaded conversations on these bubbly forums. Since these will be read by people in your industry / niche, if you make good insifghtful posts you can get a lot of mileage in terms of web traffic and requests. 


A few tips –

Before you actually start posting messages after signing up for a forum, you should wait a few days and see what kind of postings people make on it, and what is being discussed. Don’t just rush in and blindly post anything.

You should never post commercial messages in the egroups or forums, unless you are posting in a commercial group, where people want to hear about your service. Posting your commercial messages is bad netiquette and is equivalent to spamming. Don’t “flame” groups with your commercial messages or slang.

If you want to advertise your service, join a relevant newsgroups and offer some good advice to the members of the group, and then at the end of your advice you can put a simple link to your website – and say something like “for more information and tips, please visit so and so …” You may also make a small 3 to 4 line signature file, and describe your service. By becoming an expert in a particular topic, and giving free advice, you can eventually draw a large number of people to your website, and convert them into customers. If you are good, many people will see your email address that is displayed with your postings to the newsgroup and they will begin emailing you directly for personal advice and help.

Forums are a great place to meet like minded people, get clients, or hear about latest happenings in your industry.

A Tip: Avoiding Email Bot Harvestors from collecting your email for spam

Sometimes, you may not want to directly post your email address at the end of your posting in the forum boards. This is because forums are a very popular place for spammers to “harvest” your email address. They run “newsgroups harvesting” programs that automatically scan postings for email addresses. The best way to fool these programs and make sure they don’t pickup your email address is to write your email in any of the following or similar ways —
- yourname at yoursite dot com
– mike(at)yourwebsite(dot)com
– mike [at] site [dot] com

or you can come up with your own unique method. Just be different, and make sure that a human will be able to comprehend the email address, and at the same time the harvester software program will not recognize it as an email address. (most harvesters look for an occurrence of @ and . or com or net- in a single word, to recognize and pull out the address.) By splitting up your email address into separate words, it becomes hard and even possible for the harvester to pull out your email address.

Starting your own Group

You can visit Egroups at Yahoo! and even start your own discussion list. Sniff around and see if there already exists a discussion group for your topic, and if none are there, you should consider creating a new egroup. It will take at maximum 10 minutes to create an egroup, and once you have it up, you can invite your friends or other people who may be interested in participating in your Egroups discussions.

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