posting in forums to help your business

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posting in forums to help your business

Postby Susanne on Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:09 am

Has anyone promoted their business by posting in related forums? That has been suggested to me but I find many forums are extremely touchy about people talking about their own business. So, I haven't tried it. I've had two bad experiences in forums without even promoting myself so I'm not sure it's a good way to go. For example:

I was in a hobby related forum for several months, posting answers to people's technical questions about websites and SEO. I never even put my website url in my signature or profile, or mentioned it at all. When I asked the moderator if it was okay to post a message asking for feedback on my site, I got kicked off; no warning, no discussion, just locked out and told business advertising was against their rules. I was asking permission before I even posted, trying to be very respectful, and all I wanted was some input about the site. I don't have anything to sell, there aren't even any ads on the site. My site is free lessons to help people get started selling their crafts on line.

What did I do wrong? Is there a way to get involved with forums and, when appropriate, offer your services? Maybe someone should write and sell an ebook about how to do this, I'd buy it :)
Sue
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Mel on Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:39 pm

We used to have a section where you could openly promote your stuff and was very casual about promos in general, but like other message boards, spammers have ruined it for everyone.

In order to not lose our active members, site owners now have to keep their boards locked down to ensure their members aren't being blasted with spam - or spam thinly disguised as information/requests.

I don't know why the mod would have banned you for asking a question as that seems a bit harsh. I can only speak for our rules and how we handle things here. We look at the way the information is presented, whether it sounds like you really are wanting feedback (as in asking for specific feedback about colors, layout, etc) or if if sounds like you're asking a generic "what do you think" - just so people will go see what you offer and with any luck click some affiliate links or buy your products.

We also take into consideration how long you've been a member and if you're participating in conversations regularly or just come in once or twice a month and reply with responses like "great question, I agree with everyone else" - but you never elaborate, etc. If you join and in your 2nd post, you toss in a "here's my sites, can you take a look", chances are, it will be deleted and we'll watch your next few posts to ensure you're not a spammer. On the other hand, if you're participating and we feel that you aren't trying to sneak one by us, then we'll usually let it stay and offer feedback.

Your best bet usually is to put your website link(s) in your signature and then post as you do here, participating, asking questions, etc. Then as it sounds like you did at the other place, you either ask permission first or ask for specific information. Many sites also have rules posted as to what is and isn't acceptable so be sure to read those.

When selecting the forums you visit, make sure you're choosing ones related to your topics. Like this site is about working from home, business start up, etc so we cover a lot of ground and would be happy to offer feedback on your site because that's part of our focus. But if you go to a site where they only talk about donuts and you ask for feedback on your site design, the mods may think it's spam since their members may not have a clue about site design (although they would be able to give you a personal opinion based on what they like).

I hope that helps some as I do think forums are a great place to network and build your business and name. You just have to be careful about how you present your information.
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Susanne on Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:23 pm

Mel,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and well reasoned response. I also appreciate you didn't take the opportunity to blast the other moderator. It is so easy to get down on others when they do unreasonable stuff, especially in the anonymous internet world. I did hear back from the moderator after I sent her a very polite "thank you for your response and best of luck in the future" message. She wasn't real nice, but she did mention very briefly that she was having a medical crisis with her child. That, to me, reveals the real reason behind her emotional response. Usually when someone is that harsh over a simple message, I figure there's got to be something else going on.
I wonder if I should start including my website in my signature. While I've been leaving it off to avoid any problems with looking like a spammer or self promoter, it may have the opposite effect of looking like I'm hiding my site. What do you think?
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Kit on Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:16 am

Hey Susanne,

It sort of depends about the sig. Each site has slightly different requirements. Some allow all-out sigs with unlimited links and graphics, while others don't allow any promotional (links back to your site) at all.

When you join a site, the key is to read all of the TOS and guidelines VERY well. When you're finished, read them again to see if you missed anything. ;) It's also important to read every sticky on the forum. In some cases, they may be the same message every time but like here, some messages/rules are different, depending on the forum.

As a newbie on any site, I think one of the best things to do is look at what the long-time members do and follow their lead, in most cases.
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Mel on Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:16 am

Good point Kit, some sites do have restrictions on what goes in their signatures which is why it's so important to read the rules on every site.

Sue - if you want to post a request for feedback on your site, you're welcome to do so. If you can give us an idea of what specifically you're looking for in regards to the feedback, that would help us focus our attention on those details. For example, if you're wondering if you have the right navigation setup, if you are concerned that the colors might not be right, etc.
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Susanne on Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:38 am

Thanks for your suggestions. I'm learning that different forums have very different personalities depending on who started them. My site is http://www.yourscrapbookpages.com. It is free lessons on how to get started selling crafts, specifically scrapbooks, online. The forum was for people who want to do just that. I was looking for feedback as to what kinds of help people need, where their biggest obstacles are so I could address those questions in the lessons. I wanted them to look at the site and see if it addressed their needs. I'm willing to teach people whatever they need to get started but I'm realizing offering it for free just makes people suspicious that there must be a catch somewhere.
I just won a contest related to business development and I've helped people get their own sites up with email capture boxes, shopping carts, embedded video, SEO, and the like. I guess it's time to go pro and stop giving stuff away. :)
Sue
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Mel on Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:32 pm

Susanne wrote: I'm realizing offering it for free just makes people suspicious that there must be a catch somewhere.


I think there is a time and place for freebies but I agree, it seems that free and super low prices tend to either make people suspicious or not see the true value of the information. If you offered a $5 book for free people might not think it was worth 5 cents or they might wonder what the catch is, yet if you took that same book and put a $25 price tag on it, they'd buy it up without hesitation.

Going pro and charging for your information is probably a better idea and then if you want to offer a discount to make it more economical or maybe occasionally do freebies, you could do that. Doing it that way would automatically make the perceived value go up and then the freebies wouldn't be looked upon as suspicious.

I'll take a look at your site later today and see if I can offer some feedback.
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Mel on Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:52 pm

Hey Sue - I looked at your site and I think you're on the right track with how it should read, but I also think it's a little confusing. So it could be that your visitors can't tell if it addresses their questions/needs because they're not sure what you're offering.

As I read the information, here are some things that came to my mind...

1 - You could probably bold some of the keyphrases such as "clear and simple, low cost way for a beginner to get started" and "this course is free" so that it grabs the readers attention.

2 - Who are you and where does your experience/knowledge come from that you could teach me about scrapbooking? You briefly mention that you're a business owner, but do you own a scrapbooking business or do you do it as a hobby or ??? -- tell me more about you and why I should trust that you know enough about the topic to teach me.

3 - The part that says "Find out how you can start today. Enter your name, email and biggest question. Your first free lesson will be on it's way to your inbox today!" - there's no place to enter that info. I wasn't sure if there was an error on the page or if you meant for me to keep reading.

4 - Where it says "okay, how do I do it" - I thought Ah Ha! she's going to tell me how to sign up.... but that's not what you meant since you have the questions below it. Instead, I would incorporate those questions into your bullet points further down. You could also put the "#1 most important thing you need" into the bullets. Example:

In this 7-day ecourse you'll discover:
- The #1 thing you must know before you get started
- Who your customers are and how to reach them
- The hottest products that customers are buying
- The best places to sell your work
- How to make money from your designs
- Common mistakes that scrappers make and how to avoid them
- How to generate more sales with less effort

5 - This one is a personal quirk and maybe I'm just a ditz but you may want to italicize & possibly bold "Your Scrapbook Pages" or write is as YourScrapbookPages.com when talking about the site, because every time I read it, I think you mean that MY scrapbook pages can help me... not the site "your scrapbook pages" can help me. Again, it could just be that I'm a ditz. :?

6 - Something else I noticed is that you call the course several things. Is it "one lesson" a "7-part mini course" an "email course" or a "free mini web course"? You may want to pick one term and use it throughout the whole sales page so people know exactly what they're getting.

7 - The last thing is the box that says Wait! - It sounds like you're asking them to take a quiz somewhere before they sign up... while I know what your goal was, you may want to change the wording to more straight-to-the-point, power phrases. You might remove the "wait" and replace it with something like...

YES! I am ready to:
- turn my creativity into cash
- invest time daily into my future
- take the necessary steps to achieve success
.... using better wording than I did of course. :)

and then put the sign up box at the end with a submit button that says "show me how!"

---------

Again, I think you're on the right track & in this case, you could probably sell a 14 day ecourse or a 20 page report, but still give away a freebie (sample chapter, checklist, etc) to help motivate visitors to sign up.
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby Susanne on Sun Jul 12, 2009 7:57 pm

Wow, Mel can I take you home with me? :) What awesome input. Thank you so much for putting all that time and effort into reviewing my website. I've worked on it for so long, it all made sense to me. Having fresh eyes to look at it and point out what is confusing or just plain messy, is a huge blessing.
My son is going away to camp for a whole week starting tomorrow and I'm going to reformat my computer to getting it working its best. Then I'll have the rest of the week to play with the site and work on a serious of video lessons. I actually think that sort of stuff is fun. I know, weird, eh?
Thanks again,
Sue
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Re: posting in forums to help your business

Postby KatrinaManning on Sun Jul 26, 2009 9:46 am

I definitely have and it certainly helps! The key is that it's about building relationships, just like anything else. Once people get to know you, they are more apt to trust you. I feel that you should help others and in turn, people usually want to help you too, but that shouldn't be your motivation for offering assistance anyhow. It's a good way to also find out how others are gaining success. You should always follow the terms of service for each site though and spamming never works. In the end, we all help eachother!
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