So you want to be a better writer and reach out to a particular audience? The solution is simple. Join an online forum. Believe it or not, joining a forum can be very helpful for getting to know more about your target audience. It offers assistance by doing three things:
1. Allows you to see what members of a particular demographic care about and have an interest in
2. Enables interaction and conversation on in-depth subjects
3. Helps to keep on top of news-worthy topics in the community
There seems to be a trend in which people in forums tend to feel a sense of camaraderie with other forum members. Therefore, it should be no surprise when members are experiencing personal issues and can’t discuss with “real life” friends or family, they go ahead and vent in their online forum of choice. This helps you in three ways. You get to see what makes people of a certain demographic tick, recognize what resources are not available to help them with the problem, and you can write or pitch a story about it. This way, you know exactly how to cater to their needs. Because I’d like to write for publications the reach out to middle-class Arican American women, I belong to a forum called Long Hair Care Forum. If you want to reach gay right advocates, join an equality rights forum. If you want to reach hairstylists, join a beauty forum, etc. I can’t even begin to tell you how many pitches and stories have been inspired by forum topic discussions that help me get inside my potential audience’s mind.
What I love about forums is the ability to connect with the potential “client” or demographic in a personal but intellectual level. (Kind of like Facebook but 100x better!) Unlike Facebook, it seems chances of actually having a conversation of substance is much greater and there are much less passive-aggressive comments (depending on the forum you join). On my forum of choice, I’ve had discussions about education, entertainment, careers, financial planning, parenting etc – things you might see on a host of other forums. The only difference is it was written to and from the perspective of the African American woman. Once you see how audience writes and how they like things written, you have a better idea of what tone and point of view to use in your own writing.
Other than great communication and meaningful interaction, online forums keep you in the know. I was surprised how much I knew about trends and breaking news thanks to the forum I belong to. Sometimes these forums give the ability to learn the news as it’s unfolding. This is good for journalists since its always in your favor to be on top of timely topics.
And of course, I can’t forget that forums allow you to read. You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Sure, it’s probably better to read a book, but a forum is better than nothing.
In what ways has belonging to an online forum helped you?