Last week, we discussed why E-mail and Website are not the only tools for business promotion and learnt the basics of Newsgroups and Mailing Lists. This week we discuss practical tips on how to participate in Newsgroups and Mailing Lists for best result.
Newsgroup and Mailing Lists are great networking tools for establishing and developing contacts with professionals, important for your profession or business. However, these are not advertising platforms (like Bulletin Boards) - special care is necessary for using this powerful tool.
Find the right forum
There are tens of thousands of Newsgroups and Mailing List - so one gets easily tempted to join as many of them as time permits. However, prudence demands that you choose groups and lists carefully. Look for ones that your customers are likely to frequent. If you are manufacturing furniture, then joining a group on Interior Decoration or Garden Furniture will be more fruitful than your own profession of export and import.
A group dedicated to export import issues would allow you to access your professional colleagues and this certainly is a good way of learning more about your profession, but won't help you market your product or service. Also, limit yourself to 2-3 groups and lists that you can participate in actively. Otherwise, you may be spreading yourself too thin
Share your Expertise
This is the whole point of marketing through newsgroups and mailing lists. Answer questions that demonstrate your expertise. As people on the groups and lists get to know you and your business, your presence may generate customers. For example, you might be a copywriter who frequents a newsgroup dedicated to small business marketing issues. You can answer someone's posting about writing a direct mail piece by providing some tips on what makes a successful direct mail package. This will show your expertise on the subject, that you have something compelling to contribute, and that you are the kind of person they might hire to do this kind of thing. You're building your reputation without blatantly hyping your business.
Respond on- and off-line
Respond to postings directly to the group or list if you believe the information you're providing will benefit everyone in the group. Respond one-to-one (off-line) if your response is very specific and does not warrant others' attention. For example, you might find that a person's question or problem can be solved by your product or service. In that case, send him/her an email/fax introducing yourself and giving a brief description of your product or service ("Hi, I saw your posting about designer door frames, and thought you might be interested in the line my company produces..."). Send this e-mail/fax to the person who posted in a one-to-one communication, do not post to the newsgroup or list.
The general rule of thumb is advertisements are never appropriate for newsgroups or mailing lists. If you're too pushy with a sales pitch, people will see right through it and your are likely to get negative response (what is commonly called flame) than customers. Some groups and lists allow limited types of advertising, but you should be totally sure it is appropriate before posting it. Posting a job listing in an appropriate newsgroup is probably okay; posting an ad for your business to a hundred groups is not.
Some other postings that fall into the "must-to-avoid" category: surveys (the results rarely benefit anyone but the guy who posts); personal requests that don't pertain to the group's charter; and chain letters.
Look before you Leap
Sometimes, It is difficult to understand the real subject of a newsgroup or mailing list at first glance - you need to spend some time reading it first. When you first join a group or list, avoid the urge to post your opinion immediately. Instead, read it over for a week or so to get a feel of how people communicate, and what issues are important to them. Groups and lists often have a strong sense of community and speaking out of turn on an irrelevant topic may not be liked by group members. So, learn the ropes before speaking up. If you're unsure about the right way to participate, consider writing (via email, not through the group or list) to an experienced, friendly contributor in the group and asking for tips. In a moderated list, the moderator may help you.
Use a Signature File
Many newsgroups and mailing lists allow you to promote your business in your signature file at the end of your posting. Your signature file should include who you are, what you do, and where people can reach you. This way, if someone wants to contact you off-line, they have a way of doing it.
**(for more information on Signature File, please see earlier issue on e-mail tips)
Watch your style
Observe basic netiquette rules. Use punctuation in your postings, which makes them easier to read and understand. Never post a note in all capital letters; this is considered the online equivalent of screaming at someone, not to mention it's much harder to read. Additionally, proofread your postings -- one that's full of typos or grammatical errors will reflect poorly on your business.
- Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad
Vol II, Issue 14; September 5' 2001