James and I have plenty of forum experience. We’ve been contributors, we’ve helped maintain a few forums, we’ve been admins and moderators and we’ve created our own forum as well. We still actively use forums, and some are thriving with success.
In fact, if it wasn’t for forums, James and I would never have met.
But it’s true. Forum communities do sometimes go sour. Some become nasty. Some people take advantage of what they find there, soaking up the info without giving any of their own knowledge or experience back.
Plus, it takes a good deal of work on the part of the administrators to create a successful forum that thrives. A forum truly is a labor of love, because the return on investment for administrators and moderators is often next to nothing.
But there are positives to forums. What got to me about the post on Freelance Writing Gigs was that someone could only see the negatives in using a forum or group environment to get ahead in business.
So we’d like to list a few pluses for the people considering creating a forum or joining in one:
Writers and artists can be a rather self-conscious and insecure lot. Mind you, not everyone is like that, but we’ve seen many creative types that hide their work in the closet. These people write but are too afraid to let their words see the light of day for fear of rejection.
A forum provides a safe haven of support, full of good people who want to encourage your success and your efforts, as well as help you understand what they perceive from your work. A good group tells you when you’re off track or how to better your technique.
They also often know where you’re coming from and can help share experiences that make your life easier.
A good forum has its share of cheerleaders willing to spur others on. By the same token, forums have their share of ass-kickers too. You know the ones; they tell it like it is and get your butt in gear (*glances at James*).
Both cheerleaders and ass-kickers help you find motivation and reach for more. Passion breeds passion; it’s contagious. All it takes is for one person to get excited and before you know it, the whole crowd is fired up, spurring you on.
I liked working in an office because of the constant flow of discussion between peers. The people in the departments I worked had a wide range of skill levels. I learned a great deal about graphics, animation and design from my co-workers. I like to think they learned a few things from me, too.
Forums are the virtual equivalent of offices, and they’re full of knowledge you can tap into and learn from. All you have to do is start a topic, ask a question or put up a comment, and I can guarantee that you you’ll get answers from people who love to share what they know.
Forums are great places to harvest ideas. Keep in mind that getting ideas from forum discussions is not the same as stealing ideas from others. Forums are thinktanks and giant brainstorming session.
You get ideas from other businesses, articles, magazines and more. Why not let yourself be inspired by topics and discussion from forum members? Forums take interaction to a new level when you start a conversation and explore it for all it’s worth with a group.
As I mentioned above, James and I met via a forum. Forums allow you to get to know people and become friends or partners. You can have all sorts of relationships with others, and you can improve your business, make your life richer, extend your peer group, benefit from the skills of others… anything at all.
Blogs are the places where you might discover a kindred spirit. Forums are the places where you can sit down together with a cup of coffee and have an intimate, continued conversation with each other.
A forum is what you make of it. It’s yet another resource that can lead you down some rather remarkable paths if you take the time to use it to its fullest. Community is never a bad thing; isolation definitely can be.
Our Escaping Reality is proof of how a forum can become a fantastic community resource. Ask any of the members there what the forum has done for them – you might be surprised at the answers you receive.
We hope to do the same with our forum right here.