No of course you don’t. You can’t, you don’t know who they all are. And that means they don’t know you either.
The first point of contact with your potential customers is often your website. This then is your opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what you do, and your level of expertise. A well-managed forum can help you with this.
Although it takes time, allowing visitors to your site to ask technical questions to which you provide useful and knowledgeable answers is an excellent means of showing off your skills. You can also build empathy with your site visitors, becoming a “real” person with whom they can have a “real” conversation. You’re no longer just a name on the internet somewhere.
That’s on your own site. Of course another useful way to build credibility is by being a lurking expert on other people’s forums. This may additionally give you an opportunity of driving traffic to your own site, if you are able to put your web address in your signature or post.
Look for interest groups related to your work. Maybe there is a particular software you use which has an enthusiastic user community. Or is there a local networking group with a forum sharing experiences of trading in your area.
Whether it is your own or someone else’s forum to which you are contributing, the golden rules are the same:
1. Contribute regularly
2. Make your contributions relevant, useful, factual and courteous
3. Never disparage someone else’s contribution, even if it’s on your own site and you disagree. If you have to respond to someone breaking the rules of your own forum, explain that they are out of line but do so politely.