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Networking in online forums is my number one strategy for finding high-quality clients. In fact, I’ve spent thousands of dollars joining forums — but I’ve earned back my investment many times over. The thing is, I’ve been getting these results even though I never had a system for forum networking. And when I get busy with client work, I neglect forum networking. In today’s guest post, freelance writer Sean Platt shares his step-by-step method for finding treasure in online forums. It’s solid advice, one I’ll be taking myself.
Forums are filled with hidden treasure for working writers.
But like any buried treasure, it’s a lot easier to find with a nice map and a big X clearly marking the spot. You don’t want to get lost in forums, or fritter your minutes without a solid strategy telling you what you need and where to get it.
You can easily navigate a forum in 15 minutes a day and maximize every minute spent, so long as you know what to do. Social media is essential to the modern freelancer, but it’s all too easy to lose track of your time and walk away with little in return.
It’s okay to spend your hours, but you should always make sure you’re spending them intelligently.
Forums are a fantastic place for data mining and gathering relevant information on your market, especially for writers. Whether you’re writing fast-moving fiction or a killer sales letter, a forum is an excellent place to take the pulse of your market.
The below strategy is by no means poured in concrete, but you can use it as a soft template to test before tweaking it to your individual personality and needs.
1. First, spend three minutes checking on trending topics.
This is extremely valuable information that you can use for future blog posts, products, videos, or just about any content you’re planning to develop. The majority of information you gather while sifting through forums is likely to come from those first three minutes.
2. Take another three minutes to answer any personal comments or messages; anything that’s directed towards you.
Be polite, respectful, and encouraging of other member’s thoughts and ideas.
3. Next, take five minutes to post your answers to any other member questions, but only do so as long as you have quality information to share.
Don’t use this as an opportunity to be a Spam-O-Matic. Be as helpful to the community as possible. If you can’t answer every question, that’s fine. It’s better to answer two questions extremely well than five questions marginally.
4. Take two minutes to send a few private messages to other members of the forum.
This will help you to deepen relationships with other forum members. This is good, old fashioned networking and definitely worth your time.
5. Finally, take two minutes to start a new topic.
Ask a question where you have a legitimate interest in the answer, such as “How do you feel about …?” or “What was the biggest challenge you faced when …?”
You get the chance to be an authority by answering the question, but you’re also going to get pain points you can use when writing later.
Forums definitely have their own rhythm, different from the time you spend in other social media hotspots or on your own blog. But the information you can gather is so specific and finely tuned into the thoughts of your market, every minute is a minute well spent.
Do you use forum networking to find clients for your freelance services? If so, how have you been doing it? What results have you been getting?
Share your experience and thoughts with us in the comments below. Thank you!
Sean Platt helps good writers make a great living. Get his free report, How to Get Known in Social Media (In Just 15 Minutes a Day!), and follow him on Twitter.
photo credit: TommyClicks