Build Your Platform with Online Forums
by Dana Lynn Smith
Forums provide a great way to network with people who share your interests, to build your reputation as an expert, to learn from others, and to subtly promote a book.
These free online communities (also called discussion groups, listservs, bulletin boards, and newsgroups) can be Web based or function as email lists. Either way, they let people who are interested in a particular subject ask questions, offer solutions, and share experiences. Some posts recommend resources of interest to the group or are otherwise informational. Many forums are moderated, so that each message is approved before it is posted.
To find forums related to a particular book’s topic and target audience, search Yahoo Groups and Google Groups, and type “[your keyword] + forum” into a search engine. You can also search for a keyword on Google— click Show Options (near the upper left) and then click Forums. Larger and more active groups will give you more exposure, so it’s best to concentrate your time there.
On some forums, you can specify whether you want to receive each message as it’s posted or receive a daily digest. If the forum has a place for member profiles, upload your photo and enter biographical information and links to your Web site or sites.
When you join a forum, it’s best to lurk for a while first, to get a feel for the group and the level of expertise. Also read each group’s rules. Then look for opportunities to respond to posts in a helpful way. You can also gain visibility by posting a question.
Participating in Forums
For maximum benefit, you’ll need to participate regularly. When you receive the digest of posts, it’s easy to skim the text, looking for anything that you can respond to. After you make a post, check back to see if you need to respond to any replies it receives.
Forums usually allow you to list promotional information in your sig, but signature blocks may be restricted to a certain number of lines. Ideally, yours will include your name, your book title(s), Web site URL(s), and related specifics.
In most forums, it’s okay to mention your book when responding to a question, as long as you are subtle. For example, you might say: “In researching my book XYZ, I found that . . . ”
And some forums allow purely promotional posts, including posts that announce a new book or an author event. Just make sure you’re following the rules for each forum you use.
Here are some general publishing forums to consider joining:
POD publishing: finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/pod_publishers
No doubt you will be able to find other forums that are relevant to your book and target audiences.
Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketer’s Guide to Successful Social Marketing, SavvyBookMarketer.com. For free book marketing tips, visit BookMarketingMaven.com.