Good Day Class!

Remember Tracy, of I Hate My Message Board? When I interviewed her last month, she told us what happened when a post of hers went viral (see: For The Sake Of The Children, Blog Smart)

Today, we have the honor of having her as our substitute teacher (guest writer).

Tracy will discuss another source of traffic to our blogs we often forget about – forums. As the owner and administrator of I Hate My Message Board Forum, she’s here to share the rules of engagement.

Without further ado, here’s Tracy.

Hello Class!

It’s great to be here.

Please take a moment to review the exhibit and then we’ll get on with the lesson.


Today’s Lesson

Forums can be a good traffic source for bloggers. I estimate 15% of my traffic comes from forums.

It can be an ego booster and deliver new readers or you can feel personally attacked and helpless.

Here are some hints on what to do when you find a forum link in your referrals.

Decide if what, if any, action you’ll take.

I get a kick out of the Air Force’s blogger engagement chart and I think it applies to forums, too. There is no need to respond to posters who are hostile to you and it will probably backfire.

Likewise, if they are just happily discussing the contents of your post, you have no obligation to respond if you aren’t interested or don’t have the time. If you would like to respond, keep these points in mind:

Don’t spam or overly self-promote .

Forum owners are inundated with spam and could remove your post if it seems like you are only there for self-promotion or to sell something.

If the forum allows it, you can put a link to your blog in your signature, but I’d be hesitant to ask people to subscribe or provide additional links back to your blog, unless they are directly related to the topic being discussed.

Add value

Do the posters have questions that you can answer? Do you have additional information that’s helpful? Can you provide other resources?

Helping others is a great way to establish your expertise and get people interested enough to take a deeper look at your blog. Remember, forums are indexed by search engines, too!

Debate but use caution.

Just like comments on our own blogs, the key is to state your argument without losing your cool or being insulting. Show off your wit, but be gracious.

I think that it would be wise to do a quick scan of other posts on the forum to get a feel for the general culture. Some welcome a lively discussion while others are more geared to people saying what they think and that’s that. On the latter, it would go over better to simply thank them for reading your post, if you want to say anything at all.

If it gets ugly, leave.

There is no reason at all for you to subject yourself to people insulting you or not being respectful. You don’t owe them any explanations, chances are they’ll forget quickly that you posted once or twice and left but getting visibly upset can be a red flag to some internet users.

Consider linking back.

If the conversation went well and you think your blog readers would enjoy it, sharing the link is appropriate but not obligatory.

But don’t trash talk.

If it didn’t go well, it’s tempting to post a rant on you blog. You’ll likely get a lot of sympathetic comments, but again, red flag to others. If you want to discuss it, do it after you’ve cooled down.

Forum traffic can be very valuable.

Taking a moment to think before you act can save you unnecessary headaches and possibly earn you traffic years to come. It’s upsetting sometimes when people are talking about our posts in a medium where we have no control, but take comfort that it’s a sign that you’re on the map.

Today’s Assignment

Have you been linked to from forums?

Did you reply on the forum or address it on your blog?

Do you actively use forums as a source of traffic? If not, why not?

Raise your hand and share your thoughts.

tracy.jpegTracy is the author of I Hate My Message Board blog, I Hate My Message Board Forum as well as I Hate My Message Board – Life and Style blog. When she’s not blogging or administering her forum, Tracy can be found on Twitter.

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Look Who's Talking
  1. I’ve seen my comics used in a lot of forums, which has both delighted me and angered me. It’s a great ego boost when you see your stuff on extremely popular sites, especially if the people are saying nice things.

    I hardly ever visit forums anymore, though. For one, they are too complex and unwieldy. What really annoys me is when I visit a forum I know has linked to me or used my content, but I have no clue what subforum to search for the link because the subforums are either not specific enough or named in such a manner only forum regulars would have a clue where to start to find specific info.

    Many forums have too many topic options, which take either a Herculean effort or lots of time to follow (let alone moderate) so I tend to keep out unless someone tells me to check out a post.

    However, a thriving community of non-trolls can make forums a wonderful place to hang out.

    I’ve considered a forum for CollectiveInkwell, but I’m not sure if we have a large enough readership to support one yet. And I’d hate to start a forum that turns into a ghost town.

    Thanks for the thoughtful guest post, Tracy. And of course, thanks to Barbara for always having a pulse on the web and oftentimes, things I’m thinking about.

  2. I have no idea if I’ve ever been linked to from a forum, probalby not. So many web things to explore. Still trying to get the hang of Twitter, Stumble Upon & Digg, but forums may well bear having a look at, thanks.
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..i winned! i winned!! =-.

  3. […] Believe it or not, this IS living the dream for me. And on Friday, June 19th I have a guest post on Blogging Without a Blog on how to handle it when your post is linked on an online […]

  4. TracyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Jannie! You’ll see the forums in the referral portion of your stats. Some are private, meaning you can’t view them unless you register (and sometimes will need administrator approval to view even more private forums).

    I probably should have put as step 1: decide if you even want to read them or not.

    One of the good things about forums is many of the posters are also members of social networking sites, other forums and if your post is compelling to them in some way, they’ll go on to share it at those other sites.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Letters to my life coach =-.

  5. DotNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks, Traci. It’s nice to learn what to do in those situations that might come up. I briefly considered starting a forum at one point, but as always for me, the answer was, I don’t have time. Nor have I found any forums (not that I’m searching) I wanted to join yet. Your suggestions remind me of lessons learned on listservs, in dealing with flaming and other negative expressions. And I love that flow chart from the military. Everything is analyzed and decided for you, so you don’t have to make any decisions of your own. 😀
    .-= Dot´s last blog ..Comment on Life and Mad Lib-eration Answers by Ribbon =-.

  6. Tracy, thanks for sharing your insights here! I’d love to know more about personal development blog forums. Does anyone know of any good ones?
    .-= Positively Present´s last blog ..find a balance between having hope and living now =-.

  7. JulieNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I don’t dish out forums too much, mostly because there tends to be negative talk/debates there.

  8. I’ve heard that a lot of people get traffic from forums and I’m currently experimenting with participating more. I’ll see how it goes.
    .-= Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Using Fear as Motivation: The Lab Rats Leave the Lab =-.

  9. Forum links are awesome. I’ve been super annoyed though because I got linked to from one but even when I registered I still couldn’t view the post because you have to have bought one of their themes. And I’m not going to buy the them just to find out. I’ve thought about emailing the guy who makes the themes and asking him but I was afraid he would think I was really vain 😉

  10. Hi Tracy!

    Yes, I have been linked to from forums, including yours I believe. 🙂

    It was generally a good experience. I join the discussion when I can, but some forums are closed so I can’t even see what they said about my post.
    .-= Vered – MomGrind´s last blog ..Friday Links =-.

  11. TracyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Dot! Forums do take up a fair amount of time, especially in the beginning when you’re trying to build a base of posters large enough so that momentum takes over.

    I think the best policy is to remember to take a minute before reacting and this flowchart forces you to do it and reminds you, hey, I don’t *have* to do anything!

    Hi PositivelyPresent! I hope you can find a good personal development forum. I think they can be a good supplement to the community we find on our blogs and expose us to more ideas than we might have otherwise.

    On the other hand, they can be a time suck so proceed with caution!

    Hi Alex! Like I said, I get a fair amount of forum traffic but most of it hasn’t come so much from participating as people finding my posts on social media and sharing it. Heh, I suppose the key to blogging success is to become somehow ubiquitous.

    Hi Kim! Ooh, that’s my pet peeve. Just my opinion, but I think that having an open forum makes more sense almost all of the time. I do have private forums on my board, but those are more for sharing personal, sensitive information, otherwise it’s open to the world!

    I get a lot of search traffic for the forums, based on questions my posters ask – chances are good that if they are asking, somebody else is too and the way they phrase it will be naturally similar to how somebody would search on Google.

    That’s one of the reasons I do recommend you take the time to respond if there is a question you can answer on the thread. How many times have you searched for an answer and found it through search on a forum?

    Hi Vered – Ha! Yeah, I’m a linking fool!I see something I like I want to share it with everyone!
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Letters to my life coach =-.

  12. I have been linked to by forums, however, the four out of the five times it has happened, it has been to a closed forum, so I have no idea what is being said. On the other occasion, I just read what was said, and my post was just being used as further “proof” of a discussion, so I didn’t feel I should join in (I really didn’t have anything to add).

    In my day career, we do monitor what forums and other areas are saying about our organization, and similar to the Air Force, we decide when we need to enter the fray to maybe share some solid facts.
    .-= RC – Rambling Along…´s last blog ..Celebrating today =-.

  13. Lori HoeckNo Gravatar says:

    Any forum I’ve participated in seemed unwieldy on so many levels. I may try some again after reading this. Thanks!
    .-= Lori Hoeck´s last blog ..The Blame Game of emotional predators =-.

  14. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Tracy,

    What a joy it is to have you teaching today. Thank you!

    With regard to forums, I’ve been on a few, but never joined or participated. I was linked to yours when I interviewed you, but wasn’t sure what to do, so I did nothing – just read the comment.

    Over the past two years I contemplated having a forum on this blog, but like Blogger Dad, didn’t think it would draw enough interest. And, like the others mentioned, some forums are almost intimidating with all the rules and regulations. “Post your comment here – not there…blah, blah, blah”.

    Although I realize forums can be a great source of traffic, thus far I’ve avoided joining any. After rereading all you’ve written, I’m thinking I need to add forums to my list. Unfortunately, I don’t know when it will reach the top. 🙂

  15. Will have to store this information for a later date. Sounds very interesting. I would never have thought of a forum as being anything other than a forum. More learning for me.
    .-= Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)´s last blog ..Women =-.

  16. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    I am not ready to understand or use forums. I do not think anyone has come to my site from forums at this time. Oh something more to learn about, and I truly enjoyed reading your lesson today, because now I at least have an understanding of a forum that was not there before. Your lesson was clear and easy to follow. I loved the chart…yes indeedy!

    Barbara thank you for having Tracy teach this lesson today – good stuff once again.
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Thinking About My Dad =-.

  17. TumblemooseNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Teacher! (raises hand)

    Forums end up being something that I love spending time perusing. it is amazing to consider the sheer variety of people and the threads that get posted.

    They really can be a good source of traffic and information. Also, if you’re looking to get opinions about a matter you’ll not be disappointed!

    As one of the moderators over at Tracy’s forums, I’ll also add that it’s very interesting to get insight into the soft underbelly of managing a forum – which I think would be a great post topic – Tracy!


    .-= Tumblemoose´s last blog ..Father’s Day In Spain =-.

  18. janiceNo Gravatar says:

    This was really interesting, Tracy. Thank you. I’ve been on a few coaching forums – once as an owner, usually as a contributor – and hate that ghost town sensation Dave referred to. It takes effort from everyone to make a forum thrive but the dynamic doesn’t always work if visitors are simply spamming or expect the host to be there 24/7 to ‘teach’ them or answer questions while the host wants it to be community-run and self generating. I think it’s vital to lay the groundwork really clearly and have a keen moderator who’s obsessed with filing and organisation. Nothing worse han a forum you can’t find your way around.

    Dave and Barbara, judging from the wonderful comments and responses you generate on your blogs and on Twitter, I think there are folk who’d love you both to have forums. If they end up with tumbleweed blowing through, it’s no different from letting go of a blog that doesn’t work or updating a jaded theme. Nothing ventured!
    .-= janice´s last blog ..Connected and Encouraged =-.

  19. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara and Tracy. This sounds like helpful advice. I would like to experience forums more but time constraints prevent this. As a new blogger last year I started using support forums and although they can tend to be helpful, they can also be a jungle and I’ve found, very impersonal. I have had some traffic sent to my blog from posts I’ve made in forums in the past, but very small amounts.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..365 Days & Still Blogging =-.

  20. TracyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Bloggerdad! I know what you mean about some forums being too unwieldy. I’m not sure why sometimes the referral link will take me right to the thread and sometimes just to the index page.

    Forums can be wonderful places, but I think even on the nice ones people tend to say thinks more harshly than they would offline, because of the anonymity plus the author doesn’t seem quite “real” to them. It can be a shock to the system the first couple of times you experience this!

    I can understand your mixed feelings on starting a Collective Inkwell forum, it really takes a ton of effort to get and keep the ball rolling until you get enough active posters that it snowballs. You have to think, is that effort better spent doing other things? On the other hand, you know I’d join!

    Hi R C! I imagine it’s very important for companies and organizations to carefully weigh if, when and how they enter into these conversations.

    Hi Lori! Forums can be unwieldy but they also offer many benefits. Of course, they can be a massive time suck, too, so keep that in mind.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Letters to my life coach =-.

  21. peter m.No Gravatar says:

    I’ve found this to be true in my personal experiences.

    There are many forums out there that are discussing things YOU are an interested expert in. You should not be afraid to sign up and engage, both for your own enjoyment and for the subtle cross-promotion of your work elsewhere on the web. If you consistently add relevance and value to the ongoing discussion people will click through the links in your signature again and again. And, if your blog content is also relevant to the forum, you might be surprised by it getting posted by other members.

    “If it gets ugly, leave,” is the best piece of advice here. Forums are a regular home to spirited discussions that can devolve to flaming. That’s normal, but if you find your blog being drawn into the fray it’s up to you how much you can tolerate before the benefit evaporates.

    In one personal example, my respectful discussion on a certain board started to be rebutted by disgruntled users who gave up on debating and decided to make ad hominem attacks on my own writing and music instead (totally irrelevant to the discussion!). I’m all for critique of my work, but at this point putting my blog out there was (unreasonably) becoming a detriment to my credibility. It was tempting to trash talk back, but I took the higher road and removed my link. It was only days before I stopped posting – I realized that if it was too ugly to share my blog, it’s time to leave.

    All of the advice in this post is equally as valuable as the “ugly” truisum, and has served as my personal rules of engagement over the years. Thank you for summarizing it all in a simple, relatable way.

  22. TracyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara! Thanks so much again for having me, I really appreciate the opportunity.

    The great thing about running your own forum is that you can decide how many rules you’ll have. OTOH, like I told BD getting one up and running takes time you don’t always have. George-Tumblemoose and I have a writer’s forum on my boards that we’re still trying to gain momentum on, but with both of us being so busy, the time just hasn’t been there to promote & be active on it ourselves.

    And then there is dealing with spam, poster disputes, technical problems…hey wait, why do I do this again?

    On the other, other hand, I get to do a ton of neat things with mine, for example, I have a forum called “OFFS” (heh, it’s a bit of a naughty acronym) that I use to share little things that don’t warrant a full blog entry, cool sites, recipes I tried and like, odd thoughts. It’s something of the bridge between my blog and my forums.

    Probably far more information than you wanted!
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Letters to my life coach =-.

  23. TracyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Paisley! Yes, a lot of people participate in online forums and use them as a quick way to get information and socialize at the same time. It’s just one more place to consider when looking for ways to promote your blog.

    Hi George! Ha yeah, there is a soft underbelly when it comes to running a forum. Mostly I enjoy it, but it’s not a get rich quick with no worries proposition at all.

    Now, all we have to do is convince everyone to start posting on the IHMMB writer’s forum…

    Hi Janice, it’s true, traffic loves traffic on a forum and the opposite is true, people run from a forum where it looks like nobody will be there to answer their question or talk to them.

    Hi Davina, forums can feel impersonal and depending on your niche it might be a lot of effort for very little reward to make it a part of your promotion strategy.

    Hi Peter, it’s funny how ugly people can be when they aren’t really accountable for their words, isn’t it? I think there is also a natural tendency on forums (just like anywhere else) to separate “us” from “them” and treat “them” in ways we’d never dream of treating “us”.

    There’s no need to stay and let yourself be abused, ever. I think in general people understand that internet users can be ugly and take into account the tone and general credibility of the posters – I think not replying to an ugly thread will in no way damage your credibility, but replying could.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Letters to my life coach =-.

  24. Any forum I’ve participated in seemed unwieldy on so many levels. I may try some again after reading this

  25. TracyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi luke! The great thing about forum traffic is that you don’t necessarily have to post on forums yourself to benefit from it. If you create useful or extraordinarily engaging content (or photo grody food like I do) chances are good that people will link to it from all sorts of places, including forums.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Men’s Pocky =-.

  26. Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve got to admit, I’m not familiar with this at all. I don’t even know where to start. However, I agree with one comment you made (well, many, but this one hit home), “Don’t Trash Talk” I’ve often seen this and although I understand why it was done (usually to someone who left an anonymous comment) I don’t know if it accomplishes much. I’ve seen it turn ugly, too. As you said, if you are going to comment, wait until you calm down.
    .-= Debbie Yost´s last blog ..All A’Bloom =-.

  27. caprilizNo Gravatar says:

    You have brought up so many good points in this post. I never thought of linking back to a great forum post. I will certainly do that in the future!
    .-= Check out capriliz´s awesome post: Always Proofread Before You Publish! =-.