According to one of the entries found at dictionary.com the definition of the word network is as follows: Something resembling an openwork fabric or structure in form or concept, especially: An extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.
The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary at http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary gives the following definition for networking: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions.
Successful networking occurs when the exchange of information or services is amongst people with similar interests or concerns. Maintaining the network of connections provides a networking opportunity when one has new information to exchange with others in this group of individuals.
Recently I decided to put a theory to the test that one of the best ways to develop networking relationships was through the use of online forums. My target audience of response was forums aimed at people involved in affiliate programs, network marketing, or internet marketing of some type. I mostly wanted to see who would respond if anyone and see how much of a response I would get.
I used a piece of software that has both a browser and a way to watch one's forum posts for responses. In addition to seeing how many people would answer my questions another goal is to get my self-known among forum communities. No one wants to do business with a stranger.
Here is something that I discovered. The small forums that are part of groups such as Delphi Forums and Ezboards have very few posts and when someone does post, the posts are mainly advertising in nature. I would suggest that you are wasting your time if you post to these forums. Is all forum posting a waste of time? Definitely not, as there is much value in it, as you will see by what I write next.
I decided to go to some of the forums of well-known websites or well-known internet marketers and posting there. In creating an account I set up a signature file so that in every post that I made my URL would be shown. I was very careful for the most part to ask questions or give answers. Never once did I post what could be seen as an ad. And guess what the result was.
In the settings of the forums where it was allowed I set the choice so that I would be emailed when I had a response. I was very happy to get emails announcing that people had responded to my various posts in not one but several of these professional forums.
The forums I posted to all had to do with a subject that I am interested in namely affiliate and network marketing on the Internet. The people who responded were very knowledgeable and helpful and I hope that in situations where I answered someone's question(s) that my answer(s) were of help to them.
What did my experience in the forums prove? By the fact that I shared information with people interested in the same topics as myself and that they shared their information with me it proved that forums are a very important part of networking on the Internet.
In researching to write this article I have also discovered an incredible online tool, basically a website that keeps track of posts to e-commerce websites. It is found at http://www.mikes-ecommerce-software.com/ecommerce-forum/ Mike also has a page for watching posts to marketing forums discussing internet marketing and search engines. The link for this is at http://www.mikes-marketing-tools.com/marketing-forum/ Although this tool doesn't watch for replies to your post it can keep you aware of what discussions are going on in these forums. Then if you have questions about the particular subject or answers to someone's question you can jump into that forum and network with the people in that forum.
Keith P. Stieneke is a network and affiliate marketer with a background in psychology and direct sales. You can view his ever-changing website the Opportunity Assistance Business Resource Center at http://www.opportunityassistance.com and participate in his newly opened forums at http://www.opportunityassistance.com/forums. He has also built the blog resource website Blog Smart Resources at http://www.blogsmart-resources.com for those interested in learning more about blogging.