This is the fifth is series of 10 Shop Owner Bootcamp posts counting down to Black Friday. We’ve covered reputation, photography, market research, tagging your products and today we’ll be talking about engaging with your audience and community on forums.
Do you want to get more traffic to your shop? Do you wish that everyone in ___ niche, category or community knew about your products? You can tell them yourself by taking part in other existing online communities. Much of our referral traffic comes from community powered forums and message boards like reddit, PhantomPilots and TheMiniaturePage. The Shapies who engage on these forums often reap the greatest financial benefit from those visits. David Dewey, of d3wey designs, is moderator on PhantomPilots and generously shared his top 10 tips for engaging on forums. Use these to guide you in your quest to grow your audience and evangelists.
- Read the “Sticky” Topics: If they have them then, always read a Forum’s ‘sticky’ topics. These will often answer frequently asked questions. Failing to read them and then asking one of the questions answered within can cause some of the less friendly in a forum to be… well less friendly.
- Understand and Familiarize Yourself with Forum Terminology: A ‘post’ is an individual bit of writing (a posting) from a user. Posts are found inside a ‘thread’ (also called a topic). A thread is basically a discussion going on between users who’s comments are ‘posted’. When you start your own ‘thread’ it will sometimes be via a rather confusing ‘post new topic’ button (in other words start a new thread).
- Google Acronyms: Acronyms are everywhere and Google is your friend! If you see abbreviations or acronyms that you don’t know then Google them. If you can’t find an answer don’t be scared to ask but again you may find a ‘sticky’ that tells you all of them. Then you’ll know your I.M.O (“In my opinion”) from your IIRC (“If I Recall Correctly”)
- Use the Forum’s “Search” to Uncover Answers: Learn to use the search tools to answer your questions. Some forums have really good search tools (some are awful). Try where possible to do a ‘search in topic title only’. This will get you much more relevant results than searching all posts. “motor failure” for example could be written in any post in a discussion about the risks of wiring something wrong “careful or it could result in motor failure”. Search for topics with “motor failure” in the title and you are more likely to get a page full of discussion about “Why have I got motor failure?” The search on our forum works great, too!
- Post in the right place: Make sure if you are going to start a discussion thread or ask a question, to do so in the correct place. “Why do I have motor failure” in a sub forum called “Classifieds” isn’t going to get you anywhere.
- ALL CAPS IS YELLING: Remember that people will read your post based on the mood they are in. If you type in caps you will, rightly or wrongly, be seen as shouting.
- Beware the ‘Troll’: Love it or hate it there are people in all forums that that will just be rude, blunt and unhelpful. Ignoring is the best method and while it is noble to step into someone else’s argument it will end in raised blood pressure for little gain. You will never win them over so why waste the time trying.
- Forums are a Give and Take: Give back in some of what you take out. If you ask a lot of questions and get a lot of answers to begin with then drop back in from time to time and look at others who might be asking the same. Help them out and point them in the right direction. Forums are only good if the knowledge is shared.
- Do as Others Do with Photos: Learn how to post photos in the forum’s preferred methods (usually found in a sticky!). Many forums now allow you (and prefer you) to attach images like you would an email but some require you to post via a linked photo. If this is so Photobucket is a great free place. Create an account, upload your image, click the ‘share links’, copy the [IMG]http://www.linkisinhere.
com[/IMG] link and paste it in.
- Video, Video, Video: A video says a thousand words. If you have a question with a problem that can be demonstrated then try and video it! Pop it on Youtube (unlisted link if needed) and post it on a thread. People are MUCH more likely to press play on video than read 500 lines of text. Most forums embed the video on the post so people can click play from there. Speaking of video, here’s a fun one David took near Loch Ness:
Big thanks to David for sharing this awesome tips with us. His shop is full of treats for your DJI Phantom quadcopter, with everything from battery doors to GPS and GoPro mounts. There’s no mystery that the more people who see your products, the more sales you will have. By engaging with people interested in things like your products, you not only show that you’re eager to contribute to the community at-large, but you may also find work & inspiration from those communities.
Our forum is very active here at Shapeways, and is one of the ways we keep in closest touch with our community. Have you visited our forum before? What forums do you wish you were more active in but haven’t had the time or guts to join?