Alas, Investor Village isn't free. Only registered, paying members can view individual message board threads and respond to postings on the site. As of June 2009, the cost of membership is $8.99 a month, or $71.88 for the entire year. If you're interested but not ready to make a commitment, Investor Village offers a seven-day no-obligation trial as well.
Every new member chooses an "alias," the username by which he or she will be known on the site. Members are also encouraged to fill out their user profile, which includes information like age, sex, location, education, occupation and favorite stocks. There is no official place to enter your name, so most members keep their identities anonymous.
The Investor Village Web site is organized into three main sections: message boards, groups and a personalized member area called MyIV. If you click on the "Message Board" link in the top navigation menu, you'll be brought to the Message Board Directory. Each message board is named after a publicly traded company and is listed by the company's name and stock ticker symbol. At the top of the Message Board Directory are search fields where you can locate a message board by company name, ticker symbol or keyword.
Below the search area, you'll find a list of the top five most active message boards for eight different categories, including large cap, mid cap and small cap stocks, as well as community boards and Investor Village Groups.
Investor Village Groups look a lot like normal message boards, but there are some key differences. Groups are started by members and can be built around any topic, not just an individual company. Also, participation on group message boards is limited to members of the group. Any registered user can apply to join a group and some are more exclusive than others.
In the MyIV section, members can view their inbox of "private messages," Investor Village's internal messaging system. MyIV is also where members can save and track their favorite message board threads, build a list of favorite members, share their investment portfolios and set notification preferences.
In notification preferences, you can choose to be e-mailed every time another member comments on one of your board postings or sends you a private message. As June 2009, the Blog section of the Web site is still in development.
On the next page, we'll examine how safe it is to use a social network like Investor Village.