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WAHM > Service Business Articles > Using Forums for Networking

How to Use Forums as a Networking Tool for your Service Business

Networking is important for service providers.  It can help you gain customers, mentors, business partners, and referrals.  Online forums offer many networking opportunities.  If you stay on topic while keeping your name and business visible, you could gain many valuable contacts. 

It is very important to find forums that are of interest to you, not just the ones that you think will bring you the most clients.  If you join a forum that you have no interest in, it will be difficult to participate in the discussions.  And participation is vital to your networking success. 

Before posting to a forum, take the time to read any forum rules.  Some forums do not allow blatant advertising, and some have restrictions on it.  Breaking the forum rules will not only get you banned, it will severely annoy the forum owners and members.  And that’s a good way not to get their business. 

Once you’ve found a forum that interests you and looked over the rules, you need to come up with a good signature line.  While there are some forums that will not let you advertise through your signature, the majority of them don’t mind.  You should definitely include a link to your website, but that’s only the most basic component.  You need to make your signature eye-catching so that forum members and readers will notice it and want to find out more. 

A small and appropriate graphic can be an attention grabber.  Your logo would be good, as would a sample of your work if you do graphic design, art, or photography.  These items could also be used as avatars that are displayed beside each post you make. 

A favorite quote that relates to your profession is good for the text of your signature.  You could also write a mini-ad for your services and place it there.  Don’t give away too much, though.  It’s better to keep the readers guessing a little so that they will visit your site to find out more.  Your website, after all, is the place where you will make the sale. 

Once you have worked up a good signature, start posting.  Posting an introduction is a good way to break the ice, but don’t make it an overt advertisement.  Just tell a little about yourself, including what you do for a living.  If your first post looks like an ad, it could turn people off to anything you have to say. 

Once you’ve said your hellos, start replying to other posts and start your own discussions.  Be sure to stay on topic and use good etiquette.  By being an active participant, you can build lasting relationships with forum members. 

Forums are one of the best ways to network online.  If you use them actively and respectfully, you can make important contacts while learning along the way.

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