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					Forums, discussion groups, and social sites

An even easier way to get your content on the Web is to post it yourself
-- in public, private, or semi-private forums.

Online forums are places where people who share common interests can
gather to exchange ideas. With hundreds of thousands of forums to choose
from -- and millions of people reading and participating in these
worldwide discussions every day -- it's pretty safe to assume that you
will find forums related to your business or industry.

And this means that forums can be a great place to...

Kick-start your sales campaign when you're first getting your business
off the ground by getting your name and your URL in front of targeted
potential customers.

Develop your reputation as an industry expert by making yourself
available to answer questions and providing participants with valuable
information.

To find a forum that attracts your target market, do a search for your
top keywords (one at a time) and add the word "forum." You can also visit
a forum directory, which categorizes online forums according to topic.
Here are a few good ones:

www.big-boards.com
www.forumvirus.com
You can also reach your target market by posting in online groups:

http://groups.google.com
http://groups.yahoo.com
http://multiply.com
In Module 8, we'll talk more about how to use online networking for your
business. If you're going to socialize online, you better know the rules


Eleven tips for promoting your business in forums

Tip#1: Focus on "relationship selling"

Promoting your e-business through forums is not an overnight moneymaker.
This marketing technique takes a serious commitment to the long-term
success of your business.

This is because forum promotions are ultimately about selling yourself as
an industry expert with a wealth of knowledge to share. Gimmicky sales
tactics and hype do NOT work!

If you want to enrage forum participants, post blatant "buy my product"
advertisements. People participate in these online communities because
they want to share information -- not because they want to be "sold"
something.
This means you should be looking for opportunities to respond to
questions with the exact information the "poster" is looking for in order
to gain the community's respect.

The trick is to sit back, listen, and wait for legitimate opportunities
to share your expertise. If you are professional in your approach and
post consistently, you will begin to develop a solid relationship with
the community.

And this means that when you do happen to casually mention your product
or service as a solution to someone's problem, or refer a reader to your
website for more information, people will take you seriously (and won't
be angry or offended) because you have...

established your credibility
created relationships
proven your expertise
... and legitimately positioned yourself as the solution to their
problems without resorting to hype or cheesy sales tactics.

Tip #2: Lurk before you leap

Before you start wading in with your opinions and advice, we strongly
suggest you monitor some forums and get to know the "flavor" of posts
that are considered acceptable.

Every forum is different, so what might be considered humorous in one
could be offensive in another. Learn who the "regulars" are, what
questions are typically asked, and what responses are given.

Tip #3: Focus your energy on posting in forums that don't accept
advertising

You'll notice that there are two types of forums -- those that accept
advertising and those that do not. Stick to posting in forums that do NOT
accept advertising, because this is where you'll get the best response.

Tip #4: Attach your "sig file" to your posts

An electronic signature -- also referred to as a "sig file" -- is a
three- to six-line footer that you can attach to the bottom of your email
messages and newsgroup postings.

While forums notoriously frown on blatant advertisements, placing your
sig file at the bottom of a legitimate posting that contains quality
information is considered perfectly acceptable.

For example, you could design a sig file that contains your email
address, phone number, URL, AND a link to an informative article or
newsletter subscription offer.

Your sig file might look something like this:
All the best,
John Smith
=====================================
FREE REPORT: "10 Cheap And Easy Tricks For Increasing The Value Of Your
Home By $10,000 In Less Than One Week." To claim your free copy, visit:
Maximum Value Real Estate at http://www.maximumvaluerealestate.com
=====================================

Tip #5: Gather feedback for your website

Another way to generate traffic for your site is by inviting people to
visit your website and give feedback on it. But here's the catch: you
don't want to come across as a new Internet user or a new business owner.

You need to position yourself as a fairly successful site looking to make
improvements. This is what most people do (wrong):

Subject: Help

We have just launched our new site and wanted to get some feedback on
what you think. Please check it out at http://www.xyz.com

I look forward to receiving your comments.

Sincerely,
Jane Doe

A post like this won't work because there are no specifics, and it looks
like you're just trying to get people to visit your website so you can
sell them something.

Instead, try getting people more involved by asking specific, sincere
questions. The following is an example of what you might say:

Subject: Feedback on Widget site

We'd like your help!

The XYZ website has just been redesigned. We have just updated it to
include some great new tips and it now has an entirely new look.

I think that I'm "too involved" in the design to evaluate it objectively,
so if some of you would look it over and give some solid input, it would
be most appreciated.

My questions are:

When you first arrived, was the subject clear?
Does it sound like a good idea? Does it motivate you?
What didn't you understand? What other info do you need?
Was it user-friendly? Could you navigate around the site easily?
Any recommendations on improving it to grab your attention even more?
Thank you in advance for your help. Please contact me directly with any
feedback at jdoe@xyz.com This e-mail address is being protected from
spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Jane Doe
jdoe@xyz.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You
need JavaScript enabled to view it

Done correctly, this can be a great way to get some free publicity for
your site, as well as some constructive feedback that you can use to
tweak your sales process.

Tip #6: Offer to do the footwork

If someone asks a question and you don't know the answer, consider
posting another message saying that you would like to know the answer to
his or her question, too.

Tell the person that you will get back to them when you find the answer.
This is a good way to present yourself as someone who is willing to "go
the extra mile" for your customers.

Of course, if you post a message like this, it's imperative that you
follow through and get the information!

Tip #7: Post informative articles

Article posting is one of our favorite forum promotion techniques -- it's
one of the fastest ways to get instant sales from forums.

The trick is to write an informative article that directly relates to the
product or service you're selling.

The article needs to be chock-full of valuable information that your
target market is going to be really excited to get their hands on,
because this is how you'll establish your credibility and develop a
rapport with the reader.

Then, at the end of your article, you can include a short biography that
plugs your product. Here's an example:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chuck Anderson is a mentor and search marketing
specialist at the Internet Marketing Center. He is part of a team of
experts who have trained hundreds of real people to build and grow
profitable online businesses. To find out more about the IMC's training
services, visit www.internetmarketing.com.

Many people hesitate to educate their customers because they don't want
to "give away" valuable information. You need to remember, though, that
people are more inclined to trust companies that are willing to help and
educate them, rather than just sell to them.
Write articles that contain information your target market is looking
for, gain their trust and respect, and then offer your product or service
as the solution to their problems.

This is a very simple technique that just about any business can use to
take profits to an entirely new level.

Tip #8: Offer a free article via autoresponder

This is the most profitable way of using articles in forums. Rather than
post the article, you post an announcement telling people how they can
get it via autoresponder.

Your posting may look something like this:

Subject: Interesting article on fertilizers

I just wrote an article called "How a fertilizer can grow your plants
twice as large in half the time." It has tips on different types of
fertilizer, fertilizer content, how it works, what works best, and much
more.

Because the article is over 10 pages long, I didn't want to post it here.
Instead, I have put a copy in my autoresponder so that you can get it
emailed to you and read it at your own convenience.

To get a copy of the article emailed to you within a few minutes, send a
blank email to abc@xyz.com This e-mail address is being protected from
spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Thanks,
Jane Doe

The beauty of this technique is that in order to get a copy of your
article, the person must give you their email address.

Once you have their email address, you can follow up with them to find
out what they thought of the article and promote your product or service
to them. If your article contains valuable information, a follow-up email
can be an easy way to capitalize on the relationship that you have
developed with the reader.

And the best part of this approach is that if you use an email service
provider (ESP) like iContact you don't have to spend an extra second
sending out your article or the follow-up email.

When someone sends their initial email request for your free article,
your ESP can automatically send them a copy of the article immediately.
Then it can automatically send the follow-up email after any interval you
choose -- the next day, the next week, the next month...

And that's just a tiny fraction of how the right ESP can automate all of
these time-consuming but very important tasks. To learn more about
setting up an autoresponder, read Module 5.
Tip #9: Announce changes to your website

When you add something interesting to your site (like a new article or a
holiday edition of your service), you can announce it in the appropriate
forums. Just post a short note about changes that would interest readers
and invite them to visit your website.

Tip #10: Post issues of your newsletter that include invitations to
subscribe

A good way to promote your newsletter is by posting a portion of it in
related forums. Mention that the information is from your newsletter and
let people know how they can subscribe at the end.

If you like, you could also simply post an invitation to subscribe to
your free newsletter on the appropriate forums. If you do this once every
three weeks to a month, you can really start to increase your subscriber
base.

Remember, it's not your goal to sell anything right away! You want people
to subscribe to your newsletter, get to know you, and eventually buy from
you.

Tip #11: Know your etiquette

You should be aware that different forums will have different standards
of what is acceptable. This means that what you say and how you promote
your business in one group may not be suitable in another.

Some general rules are:

Avoid profanity. In some forums, it's acceptable, but the bottom line is
that it's not professional and you may offend potential customers.

Ignore flames. If someone responds to your post with a nasty message or
email, just ignore them.

Don't post messages in capital letters. Capital letters are like
"YELLING" in text -- and that's not a great way to keep a conversation
going!

Don't post off-topic. People will get annoyed if you jump in with
unrelated comments or questions... and you'll look ridiculous!

Keep sarcastic remarks to yourself. If someone asks a stupid question or
makes an inappropriate comment, leave it to others to ridicule them.
Don't become one of the infamous "trolls" who badger posters and create a
hostile environment.

Be respectful of your fellow forum dwellers. You will encounter all kinds
of people, from all walks of life, with a wide range of opinions. Respect
people's right to their own point of view.
Avoid the "I'm a Superior Being" approach. If you feel that you can
contribute to a discussion, do so in a way that doesn't make you seem
arrogant.

Format your post correctly. Use short sentences and short paragraphs --
it makes your post easier to read and keeps people interested.

Don't spam! Do not bombard hundreds of forums with the same post or
advertisement. This is a waste of time and can get you into a LOT of
trouble.

 To post or not to post?

Because some forums have a lot of activity and others don't, your posting
frequency should vary. You can answer and respond to as many posts as you
like.

However, when posting a new message or when starting a new "thread," you
should post about every two weeks or after every 150 posts, whichever
comes first.



Final thoughts

While giving away content might not sound like a shrewd business idea at
first, keep in mind that most people come online to look for information
-- so sites that can provide it stand the best chance of securing their
business!

And forums, when used properly, can be a valuable addition to your
marketing campaign, particularly when you're just getting started online.

Getting your articles posted on one or more content syndication sites,
discussion boards, and forums are excellent ways to expose your expertise
(and your business) to your target audience.

It's also a wise idea to roll up your sleeves and do a little online
research to find more sites that might be interested in publishing your
content.

When contacting website owners directly, make sure you keep the emphasis
on how their business will benefit from adding your article on their
site. And don't be afraid to pick up the phone! A phone call is almost
always more effective than an email when it comes to forging
relationships and getting your article posted.

Regardless of how you   choose to get your name and links out there, be
sure to add an "About   the Author" blurb to the bottom that includes your
URL. That way, you'll   be able to piggyback on any credibility the site or
forum has established   with its visitors and drive them back to your own
site.
Develop relationships with targeted potential customers in forums by
providing valuable information that establishes your credibility as an
industry expert. These relationships can later translate into sales!

Just make sure you're marketing your products or services to forums in a
responsible manner. Because people see forums as a place for exchanging
ideas rather than reading advertisements, you can do some serious damage
to your business by ignoring the information in this lesson.

Remember, once you've gained people's trust by showing them that you know
what you're talking about and that you share their interests, they'll be
far more receptive to any offers you present them with! Your Action Plan:

Brainstorm a list of at least five topics related to your business and
research articles on those topics.
Write a short article on each topic you researched. Focus on providing
rare, valuable, or hard-to-find information. Keep your articles between
300 and 500 words and include an "About the Author" blurb with a link to
your site at the end.
Find five relevant sites and contact them to find out if they would be
interested in publishing your content on their site. (Use the free Alexa
Toolbar or visit www.domaintools.com if you need help finding site
owners' contact information.) Explain the benefits to them of posting
your articles.
Post your articles on at least three relevant article syndication sites.
Go to the online groups listed in Step 6 of this lesson and post free
content in relevant groups.

				
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