By Sharon Housley The Internet has become a highly interactive medium. In order to participate in discussion forums and newsgroups, it is important to be familiar with standard and accepted Internet forum etiquette. Here are some tips to help make your forum participation more productive and beneficial... 1. Terms-Of-Service Read the forum rules and terms-of-service before you begin posting. This way, you can avoid having your "introduction" to the forum being an accidental breaking of a rule or other misconduct. 2. Worthy Comments Don't simply post "I agree" in response to something already posted. If you are going to participate, make the effort to add something extra to the conversation. Provide details, and know what you are talking about. Other participants will welcome posts that contain additional and valuable information. 3. Notification If you participate in a conversation, make an effort to follow the conversation through. If you don't plan to monitor the group regularly, try to use an email notification feature if available, or subscribe to an RSS feed of the group. It will seem rude if someone asks a question about something you posted, and you are not around to respond with an answer. Follow any threads that you have posted to. 4. Signature Include a signature on all your posts. If you include links in your signature, take advantage of controlling the anchor text for those links. This is particularly important in forums that provide "dofollow" links. This will help your overall search marketing strategy. 5. Avoid Spam Participants will not welcome forum spam. Provide valuable, respectful comments, and avoid the temptation to post blatant commercial messages that simply hype and promote your products and services. 6. Post In The Proper Forums Most discussion groups are organized by specific topics or subjects, so make the effort to post in the forum most appropriate for your subject. Moderators may become frustrated if you consistently open threads in the wrong forum. If you are unsure of where a certain topic might belong, contact the forum moderator and ask which forum would be most appropriate. 7. Apologize For Mistakes If a post is perceived as spam and deleted, or posted in the wrong forum and moved, you should apologize to the moderator right away. Believe it or not, an apology for an accidental inappropriate post can go a long way in getting back into the moderator's good graces. 8. Regular Participation Try to post in forums on a regular basis. Create a routine for the forums you monitor, so that participation is regular and routine instead of sporadic and random. 9. Proper Grammar And Punctuation Forums are not nearly the same as instant messaging systems! It is important that forum messages contain proper capitalization, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. 10. Understand The Culture Understand the culture of the forum before you begin posting. It is often best to observe the forum for a short while, in order to gain an understanding of the forums unwritten rules, and what the community will allow and not allow. 11. Humor Does Not Always Translate Keep in mind that, like email, forums are a flat medium, and communication can often be misconstrued. Humor may not always go over well because it may not be understood, or even be clear that it is humor. Forums often have an international audience, and you will not want to alienate fellow posters by posting something that may be funny to you, but insulting or indecent in another culture. 12. Avoid Sensitive Subjects If you are posting in a professional business forum, avoid subjects that are controversial. The Internet is global in scope, and there will likely be forum participants that have a differing view point or perspective than yours. Stick to safe subjects, so that your personal opinions on controversial or sensitive subjects don't alienate your potential customers. Forum participation can help establish you within an industry. Follow the above guidelines to make the most of your forum participation. About the Author: Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll http://www.recordforall.com audio recording and editing software.