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Forums, groups, boards, and loops; they’re all synonymous for online locations facilitating online networking. Some are entirely public, where everyone and anyone can click to the URL, read the messages and if they have no interest in contributing, they can just lurk. Some require active participation and others require registration before members can participate. These online forums, groups, boards or loops are different from paid membership sites in that there is no cost to network at these websites.

Some are active, some are sleepy. Some are strictly for online business related topics; some allow more OT (Off Topics) and social interaction. There are forums for every imaginable topic: Entrepreneurs, International online business, Health related fields, Technology, Copywriters, Web Designers, Work at Home Moms, Programmers, Finance, Ebay, Job Seekers, Internet Marketing, Writers, Inventors and Virtual Assistants, just to barely scratch the surface of what’s out there on the World Wide Web.

Time management skills need to be paramount when participating in online forums. You can very easily get swallowed up and spend hours and hours online networking with others who have online businesses, yet you miss real opportunities to get some productive work done!

From a online business standpoint, there are two areas you should consider before participating in a loop. It’s always good to have a network of like-minded online business people. If you’re a web designer, hang out with other designers. You can help and support each other. If you’re just starting out, you can learn from the pros.

Don’t get stuck though, just hanging out with your own kind. You’re not going to be very successful trying to promote your design services to other designers. This is where balance comes in. Pop into the boards, check new posts of interest, ask or answer questions, then get out. Then move onto groups who need your services or products. Who is your target market and where do they hang out? Go there. Word of caution: Do not go to these forums with the sole purpose of SPAMMING the group. You’ll be tossed out on your ear quicker than you can blink if that is your sole purpose. People like to do business with people they know and trust – or at the very minimum have at least heard of.

If you’re trying to sell your curriculum to a group of home school parents and you just pop in, spew your sales rap all over the boards then expect any sort of return, you’re missing the point of online networking. It’s networking – not advertising. You need to build a rapport with your other “loopies”. Then if a need arises and they know one of their own fellow networkers has that special skill or product, guess who they’ll call first? You hope it’s YOU.

For starters check MSN, Google, Yahoo, AOL, and Ryze. Inside there are literally hundreds and thousands of groups just waiting for you. Start networking your way to online business success today!

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