23 September 2013, by A. Cedilla
Agora is the Greek word for a ‘gathering place’ or ‘marketplace.’ If you want to meet people and listed to them discuss news, politics and other important things, you went to the agora. If you wanted a place to sell your wares, you went to the agora. Now, if you want to do all of these and check your email, you go online: the world wide web is also a world wide forum-slash-marketplace. The trick is to finding our where the members of your target demographic gather, and getting their attention in a good way.
So…have you ever participated in the discussions that happen in newsgroups?
Now, you probably have your favorite blogs and forums that you visit regularly, and maybe leaving comments and questions behind. And you’re also likely to be a member of several mailing lists, where you get relevant data delivered to your inbox. In these cases, you’re the visitor/customer. Blogs and forums and mailing lists are ubiquitous, but newsgroups? Aren’t those, well, you know, old-fashioned?
If you’re turning down down the opportunity to meet potential customers because you think the place they frequent is ‘old fashioned,’ better shake up your mindset. “If you build it, they will come,”* is not likely to get people into visiting your website and start patronizing your business. You have to go after the members of your target market and make it easier for them to find you. Newsgroups are just another way of online communication.
The more ways you master communicating with your market, the more tools you have to keep your business going. News sites have their sections, bloggers and blogs have their special interests, mailing list owners have their targeted sign-up forms to deliver value-added service to their interested readers….why exclude newsgroups for another way to reach your people? They’re also another form of community.
Newsgroups are online communities that participate in specific discussions about particular topics. There are general topics, and specific subtopics that narrow down ever further — much like the long-tail phenomenon.
For example: cars can be classified under .rec, (‘recreational’ topics) under hobbies (automotive), then filter down to antique cars, antique luxury cars, antique Mercedes Benz, etc. There are newsgroups on every possible topic if you dig widely enough, and just as any other online community, there are active members, visitors, and lurkers. And it’s the community that you’ll want to connect with. Why?
You share the same niche, from different directions. The active members want to be there talking about the same stuff you’re invested in. The lurkers are lurking to get more information. You’re planning to go there because you want to meet both. You don’t have to filter masses of people out to get leads: the participants in those newsgroups, the ones related to your products and services, are primed to be interested in what you’re selling.
Participation is good for you and your business in the following ways:
- Again, you get the change to communicate with people primed to have an interest in your products. Like mailing lists, you can reach hundreds or thousands of potential patrons with one message post.
- You can point your existing customers to a forum where they can meet others who share the same interests — a value added service that helps build community at the same time.
- You get an insider’s view on trending topics and movements in your niche by knowing what’s the hot topic, and what problems in the current market haven’t been addressed yet (and which you can address in your offerings.)
- Branding and reputation matters. When you’re generous with providing helpful, accurate information, you establish yourself as someone people can rely on to give expert advice.
- More traffic — you can encourage readers to visit your website to get more information on the subject.
Find active, well managed newsgroups.
You can start by checking under what category your products and services can address. The closer you get to aligning the ‘long-tail’ description, and the specific sub-groups, to even sub-subgroups, with the issues your products are supposed to address, the better the fit, and the higher the possibility of making good connections.
There are thousands of newsgroups out there, with new ones being formed all the time, so you have to think like your customers. “If I wanted to learn something like X, where can I find other people already talking about X? What would I like to read about?” You can even ask your current customers or client list if they have any newsgroups they frequent that relates to your business.
Try downloading a newsreader client and doing a search with your keywords. Yahoo Groups and Google Groups are easy to use, and can give you plenty of ideas while conducting your search. You’ll need an account with their services, of course, but one advantage of using them is that you can post directly to the group (conditional upon approval of your membership application, if it’s a requirement) once you’re part of it.
Remember, you’re a professional, one with a business and a reputation to protect. You’re also planning on joining an online community. Don’t act in a way that would reflect badly on you or your business. That kind of stink will follow you around, because once it’s on the internet, you can’t scrub it out. Read the FAQ’s, lurk for a while to see the temperature of the discussion and to get a feel of the place. Think of it as market research:
- Can you offer anything relevant to the discussions?
- Are the people involved part of your target market?
- Are the newsgroups themselves attracting people most likely to want to be your customers?
Where Ads Are (Quite Probably) Welcome
Since there’s a newsgroup for every topic under the sun, you’re sure to find ones related to your business. Those groups may be prefaced with the category biz.* and cover business-related topics, many which can openly allows advertising. Other categories that allow this fall under: ‘classified’ (classified ads),’marketplace’ and ‘for sale.’
Tips to get you to a good start in any newsgroup:
- Just like in SEO practice, you got to get their attention with a good subject header (like in catchy headlines for blog posts).
- Stay on topic. People look for meaty posts, not fluff and padding, so get to the point as fast as you can.
- Write for readability. Walls of text are a visual turn-off, shorter paragraphs are easier on the eyes.
- Freshness counts. Quick, insightful replies to questions posted help engage the community’s interest and establishes your responsiveness and willingness to contribute.
- Read the FAQs. Outside the business-oriented newsgroups, advertising isn’t allowed. Use the opportunity instead to get to know the people you’re dealing with. Making connections and gathering insight is still a vital part of business.
* A quote from the movie “Field of Dreams” (1989) starring Kevin Costner.
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