Discussion sites tend to have three main structures: chats, forums, or threads. Each works a little differently, but they can all be valid ways to demonstrate your expertise within a community that has value to you.
Chats occur in real time, similar to instant messaging or cell phone texts, but in a chat room.
Everyone logged into the room can read the conversation. People either meet up spontaneously or agree to meet for a pre scheduled event, and then discuss a topic.
Questions and answers happen live, and a record of the chat conversation can be saved or printed for archiving. Forums are the most common, and they consist of a posted question and then answers contributed by any member who chooses to reply.
Forums are an online circle where someone can seek the insight of the larger group,
usually to solve a problem or find a particular resource. There can be a time lag of hours or days between when the question posts and when answers appear, and some forum conversations can go on indefinitely.
Forum posts can also be archived, saved, or printed.
Threads are more like e-mails with a long history of replies and forwards.
Often, they begin as emails that are publicly readable, with many people
jumping in to add their input. They can stay focused on the original topic, or veer onto tangential matters.
Comment sections on blogs fall into the threads category. As with chats and forums, thread content lasts essentially forever and can be printed or saved.
The benefit of responding to chats, forums, and threads is that you can achieve global visibility for the price of some good answers. Most questions
take only about 15 minutes for a thoughtful reply. If you sign your posts
with a signature block that includes your name, Website and company,
readers who like what you have to say can find you outside of the site for
further conversation. (Avoid including an e-mail address to keep robot-spammers from harvesting your information.)
The reality is that only about 10 percent of a site’s members participate
actively in creating or maintaining content. Most members just browse a
site, or drop in from time to time. If you’re willing to be consistent with your posts and you share good information, you can gain a reputation as a go-to expert within a few months.
Make Comments Work Harder for You
You can re-purpose the great content you share in chats, threads, comments, and forums in several ways so that you write once and reap the benefit over and over. If the site offers social bookmarking, use those links to let the world know about the exciting conversation you’re having. (Many membership sites are password protected and don’t offer this feature, but some public sites do.) Additionally, many membership sites have “badges” with the site logo and a link to your profile, which may include your recent posts.
Use this to connect your other Websites and social media pages and invite others to join in the discussion.
Save a copy of your posts and reuse them in your blog with a re-stated question, or use the short forum answer as the jumping off point for a longer article, blog post, Twitter series, or as fodder for a future book. Spot trends and hot topics by watching the most lively discussions, and then maximize that trendiness by talking about that topic at more length on your Twitter or blog, or by inviting your social media friends/followers to a whole new discussion on your own sites.
You can also post questions of your own on chat/forum/thread sites, and invite feedback, case studies, and the perspective of other site members.
This can be very valuable for developing material for articles and speeches, or for tweaking presentations with real-life examples.
Words to the Wise: Be Careful Out There As with anything else on the Internet, what you post on a chat, forum, comment, or thread lasts forever and is potentially searchable.
It’s advisable to think before you post, and to avoid commenting when you’re angry or in a bad mood. Remember that a topic about which you feel passionate today might seem unimportant next year, but your comments, if intemperate, can dog you forever. Make sure everything you post shows you in your best light as a credible, even-tempered, level-headed expert people who would trust with their business.
Remember that slander and libel laws still pertain to online copy, and avoid posting information to harm anyone’s reputation. Likewise, plagiarism and copyright infringement rules also apply to forum/chat/thread
posts, so make sure that your content is original or that you attribute quotes
from others appropriately. It’s considered a breech of etiquette to quote
someone outside of the forum discussion without their permission (and on some sites, doing so will terminate your account). If tempers flare, take the
high road and maintain professional decorum.
Always read over your post before submitting to check for tone and
spelling. Make sure that your post can’t be easily misconstrued or taken out of context, and that your tone remains friendly. Avoid sarcasm, as it doesn’t translate well for non-native speakers and can lead to misunderstandings.
Most sites have a zero-tolerance policy for spamming other members or making hard-sell sales pitches, so know and respect the rules for the community.
You can make a good start at becoming an expert in a chat/ forum/thread in 30 days, but realize that relationships require time to deepen, and your continued, consistent participation will be what ultimately leads to business