A key part of Internet marketing is participating in online forum discussions. From time to time, a controversial subject may come up and a heated debate erupts often leading to a lot of clashing of opinions. So, what is the ultimate price you pay for letting your heart lead the way into battle while ignoring your brains attempts to reign you in. You may be surprised.
Depending on the type of online business you are running, the stakes may be high.
There are several subjects that tend to bring out the best and worst in us. Topics such as Politics and Religion are two of them worst though certainly not the only two. I’ve seen some of these debates end with people despising each other, I’ve seen people I thought were sensible, intelligent people resort to insults and hostility.
While there may only be a limited number of people involved in the debate, you can be sure there are many others who are reading along and forming opinions about people based on the way they represent themselves. Usually they will side with some people and become firmly against others vowing to never do business with them in any way.
These are the unknown costs of the debates.
Now,if you’re not in these forums to recommend products, sell services or conduct any business whatsoever, then it may not matter to you… today. You may at some point want to further develop your business and expand into markets which would benefit from your active participation in certain forums, this won’t be easy if you’ve already alienated half of the community forum members.
There’s a reason why Coca-Cola didn’t come out with a line of Obama For President coke cans and you didn’t see any McCain For President Pepsi cans. If either company had made their political stance known and come out with one of those line of cans, they would have alienated almost half their customers. They’re too smart to run off their customers like that, they’re a business,they must remain neutral.
In the online community forums, you are your own product, you are your own business. Every post you make represents your business and your product. It either solidifies your position in the community or it doesn’t. It either helps, hurts or has a neutral effect.
You must think about this every time your emotional button gets pushed and question the impact this will have. Will your post solidify your position in the community with all members, will it remain neutral or will it reflect in a negative way. I’ve made decisions about who I would do business with based on how they came across in forums. How they handle themselves in a public forum, especially when faced with adversity, tells me a lot about their personality and leads me to form an opinion of how they will respond to issues when dealing directly with them in a business relationship.
Are they easily angered?
Do they lash out?
Are they condescending?
Are they in control of their emotions?
Do they resort to insults or name calling?
Do they respond politely and professionally?
Do they treat everyone with respect?
Do they keep their calm even when confronted?
Do they leave you feeling like you would like to do business with them?
Remember, you are there to build an online presence, not to use as your personal soap box. You will not change the world by vehemently defending your positions.
Even if you succeed at changing one or two peoples minds, what have you really accomplished?
How many people have you alienated in the process?
How much time and energy did you waste that could have been put to better use?
I know it’s hard to avoid jumping in with both feet when someones makes an obviously wrong statement such as pumpkin pie is better than pecan pie as a Thanksgiving desert. Everyone knows a warm slice of pecan pie is better but I’m sure there is one or two confused souls out there who may feel differently and if they do, I”m fine with that and while I may want to enlighten them, it’s one debate I’m going to stay far away from because I know that while there could only possibly be very few misguided pumpkin pie lovers out there, the ones that are out there will take up arms to defend their beloved pie.
So When Should You Involve Yourself In A Debate?
I hope I’ve made it clear that nobody wins and argument on the Internet and more often than not, everybody involved loses with the loss of respect and possible business dealing in the future from other active participants and those in the bleachers with their popcorn watching the drama unfold.
There may, however, be times when it is in your best interest to become involved. But before doing so, ask yourself these two questions.
Will becoming involved hurt my business?
Will becoming involved help my business?
An example of when it may be beneficial to your business may be if a heated debate broke out where it was being argued that Forum Marketing was a waste of time and your main product was a Forum Marketing package consisting of ebooks, videos, audio, software, etc…, Your whole point of being in the forum community is to establish yourself as an expert at forum marketing and provide a product to those wishing to pursue that avenue of marketing so of course you must respond… but respond with intelligence.
In the real world, salesmen (and saleswomen!) are constantly met with resistance, usually in the form of an objection or preset belief. Salesmen must see these objections as an opportunity to provide more information and overcome these objections. There is no difference when meeting resistance on a forum as there is when meeting it face to face except that people tend to come across different on a faceless forum than they would when discussing in person.
In a forum, you only have the written word and the occasional use of a smiley icon to determine the meaning behind those words. You lack many of the senses you use every day to determine someones meaning or intentions such as tone, inflection and body language. It’s not uncommon for written words to be interpreted differently by different readers.
Generally, your minds interpretation will depend upon your current feelings. Are you feeling cheerful? You may interpret someones statement as being “tongue in cheek”. Are you feeling attacked? You may see their words as being biting and respond defensively. Add to that the cultural diversity of the online communities and there is even a larger margin of error that may come into play with the way we interpret the meanings, the “reading between the lines”.
Use these situations as an opportunity to further build your status as expert. Keep calm and rational. Address any direct statements in a non-confrontational way. If you do this correctly, you will not only win the respect of others, you will win more customers.
SomeGuy47: “Posting on forums for the purpose of getting signature views is nothing better than spam. People that do this are a disgrace to other Internet marketers who use legitimate ways to build their businesses.”
The thing to do here is remember when addressing this statement is that you are not only addressing him, you are addressing the dozens, hundreds or thousands of others who are following along quietly. It is them you want to reach. Responding with clarity of mind, professionalism, courtesy and respect will solidify your position.
Time to educate the readers
You: “SomeGuy47, I can certainly understand how someone might feel that way and I agree that blatant forum spamming is a bad thing. I would never condone that type of activity. I firmly believe that what constitutes a productive forum member is what they bring to the community. People coming together and sharing information and discussing common interest is what helps build a forum. Without people actively engaged in communication, forums wouldn’t exist. The income forum owners enjoy wouldn’t exist. Most forums have rules regarding signatures, product promotion, etc.., as long as the community rules are followed there is nothing spammy about utilizing your signature and other avenues the different forums offer. After all, they want to you be involved in their forums and having signatures is one way they “pay” you to help build their business.”
So now, I’ve hopefully helped the thousands of viewers who were on the fence or leaning towards forum marketing being a bad thing, to see things differently. I’ve shown them another point of view but without any animosity or hostility. I didn’t take the posters statement personally and I directly addressed his concern which I did without being directly confrontational by letting him know that I can understand how he may feel that way.
Maybe there are hundreds of watchers now clicking my signature to check out my forum marketing package where they will be greeted by even more benefits of forum marketing and how it could help grow their business.
SomeGuy47 will probably come back with another response, maybe even a snide remark or two and again, we will use this as an opportunity to further position ourselves as an expert on the subject and draw in prospective customers by showing we are not only knowledgeable but also professional in the way we present ourselves and deal with adversity.
What Should I Do If I Can’t Resist?
If you find yourself so emotionally distraught that you just can not refrain from responding. Type it out, get it all out of your system, just don’t hit send or better yet, type it into a text editor like notepad.
If you’ll save these posts in a “Rant” file, you can go back through it later and maybe put it to use by using the information there to spark other controversial threads, but in a neutral way as in asking a question you know will bring heated debate but while remaining removed from choosing a side yourself.
Obviously you would want to give a little time for the dust to settle from the last brawl before bringing it up. But when the time is right, you could pose an “innocent” question such as… “Which goes better with a scoop of ice cream, pumpkin or pecan pie and why?” . This question would have to be phrased differently from the original thread while basically asking the same question.
So why would you want to start a controversial thread like that? For the signature views. By asking the question, your post is the only post that is almost guaranteed to be read. Many will read the first few posts, get themselves all worked up and scroll straight to the bottom to reply. Think about how many long threads you yourself have seen where posts half way down the first page all start with “I didn’t read every post, but…”. That’s possibly thousands of views to your forum signature.
By the same token, while I recommended that you avoid getting emotionaly vested in heated forum topics, that doesn’t stop you from being the second poster in what you believe may become a heated debate. You can do this in a neutral way. If you were to see a thread titled… “Were you more impressed by Obama’s or McCains economic plan and why?“, you could jump right in and say something like… “I’ve heard a lot of interesting views on this. I’m interested to see what everybody here thinks about this as well“. You would want to add a bit more to your post than that so you don’t look like you are “signature parking”, just so long as you keep it neutral.
I could go on for another few pages but I guess I should wrap this post up before it becomes a novel.
Remember, forum marketing can be very profitable when done properly and properly is the operative word. If you would like to learn more about forum marketing, have a look at these Highly Effective Forum Marketing Video Tutorials, they can help you launch a successful online forum marketing campaign that you can use to build your business while significantly increasing your cash flow.
Til next time,