Angry Birds
Creative Commons License photo credit: VikramDeep

You don’t want to mess around with forum owners. And when I say mess around, I mean that you don’t want to anger them by doing something disrespectful or by trying to take advantage of their community.

If there is one thing that forum owners and managers don’t like, it is when someone tries to spam their community. Or scrape the community content. Or otherwise try to abuse their members or what they’ve built. You should assume spam is you referencing a work or organization that you are associated with.

If it is not abundantly clear that it is OK for you to do something, then you should never do so without asking a staff member. And yet, so many do. But that isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that people who want to be taken seriously do it. That’s the crazy part. I find that most people who do it fall into three categories:

  • They assume they are relevant. This community is talking about fishing, so obviously they want to know about my new lures. That isn’t relevant content.
  • They assume they can use a forum like they can use their own personal Twitter profile or Facebook page. On those platforms, someone has to opt-in to see what you are saying. On a forum, that isn’t the case. It’s a shared space and requires a different strategy.
  • They just don’t care.

The way to engage with forums isn’t that difficult and a simple way to start is to just reach out to the forum owner and see how you can help them.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the average forum owner has a much wider platform than the average Twitter user. They have their community, for one, and a lot of forum owners talk to other forum owners. They know where the bodies are buried.

I don’t want to frighten people from engaging with forums. In fact, forums represent a tremendous, untapped opportunity for most businesses. Forums are great and the reason forums are great is the people. The people the forum owner regularly interacts with. The community they care about and protect. Don’t try to cheaply take advantage of it.