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Using the usually unused Usenet

When it comes to promoting an ebusiness, there are many other components of the online world that can also help to effectively bring traffic to one's site -- and some that are often ignored by most marketers. Aside from the Internet, newsgroups are discussion-centered bulletin boards and part of what is called the Usenet, the predecessor of today's Internet.

According to the Internet FAQ at http://www.faqs.org, the Usenet is a "worldwide distributed discussion system." It consists of a set of groups with names that are classified hierarchically by subject. They are similar to discussion groups in that they deal with a wide variety of topics, from the specific to the obscure -- each group being dedicated to a particular theme.

Newsgroups are also wonderful places to get your message out effectively since you can easily participate in those that relate to your expertise, your locale, or your industry. More important, you should participate especially in those in which your target market congregates.

But here's a caveat. Many of these newsgroups are moderated (i.e., your post is filtered by a moderator), and others do not allow promotional messages of any kind. Always check the group's charter, FAQ, or guidelines before posting. In other words, if you wish to participate in any one of them, always ensure that your post is acceptable -- if not, it will be considered as spam and will entail the consequences that spam normally incurs.

Maintain a Consistent Presence

Some groups completely disallow commercial messages of any kind -- including long-winded signature files (the information attached at the end of each message) -- while others are strictly commercial. When participating in moderated discussions, your posts must be on-topic and your signature file may often be restricted to your email address and web site URL.

The flip-side to the conservative nature of such forums is the fact that non-commercial groups can become tremendously effective for developing pre-qualified traffic -- the more focused and specialized the group, the more qualified the participants. If you actively participate by posting at least once a day, you will become known as a credible expert in your field.

"Out of sight is out of mind" is certainly true here too. Since you are not overtly marketing your company or product, you must therefore maintain a consistent presence in order to spark interest. Non-commercial, moderated newsgroups are wonderful platforms through which you can build credibility let alone good, long-term prospect relationships.

On the other hand, commercial newsgroups exist for the sole purpose of advertising. And since your ad will be among a multitude of other ads, a great way to attract the attention of newsgroup readers is to post articles or "advertorials" instead of blatant advertisements.

If you produce your ad to read like an educational tool instead of a hyped-up promotional message, chances are that it will be read by more people more often. Posting some of the articles you've written, sample issues of your ezine(s), long copy special offers, news releases, media kits, and FAQs about your company or product are also potentially effective.

Here's a list of newsgroups to which you can post ads. At the time of writing, most of these groups are identified as commercial or non-moderated, and open to posts of that nature. But please keep this in mind: Some only appear as non-moderated or open to commercial posts, and many change their charters (posting guidelines) from time to time.

(However, please note: Some of these newsgroups may not or may no longer allow such posts. Always -- and I do mean ALWAYS -- check first before posting, either by reading the group's charter or FAQ, or by lurking for a while to get a flavor of what's being posted. Post at your own risk.)

Many groups also carry information that may be useful for your business. You could easily find helpful advice on starting a business, selling, marketing, promoting your product, the industry in which you operate, writing, publishing, public speaking, specific software and so on. You can even post topic-oriented questions to which others reply publicly.

Since the Usenet is actually the predecessor of the Internet, there are many participants who do not surf the web at all but remain fairly active in newsgroups. Therefore, by including the Usenet in your online marketing efforts you can reach a potentially larger target market.

Make The Most of Your Post

There are a wide variety of newsgroup topics on the Usenet, which include specific interests, industries, geographic locations, tastes, activities, themes, and so on. Your goal, therefore, is to pick those that are especially frequented by your target market. In other words, you want your post to be read by those that fit within your demographics as much as possible.

If you cater to car manufacturers for example, there are groups dedicated specifically to that very industry. Other groups also include car aficionados, auto mechanics, cities in which car manufacturers operate (e.g., Detroit), car parts suppliers, race cars, and so on. Basically, select appropriate groups for posting your messages so that they are targeted as well.

When posting to commercial (or non-moderated) newsgroups, your signature file should not be limited to your identification. It should also include descriptive information about your product, its special benefits, special offers, free offers (like a free catalog, a free report, or a free newsletter subscription), your physical address, any cross-promotion offers, and so on.

Moderated newsgroups, however, are a little more conservative. Avoid posting messages that appear self-serving or promotional, and use a signature file of no more than 5-7 lines. If these rules are not followed, your post may likely be considered as spam and you'll be banned from the group along with the possibility of losing your Internet connection altogether.

Nevertheless, one of the greatest ways to use targeted newsgroups is to conduct marketing research. Among others, you can obtain ideas for potential new products or services, or suggestions on how to improve your current ones. Ultimately, never underestimate the Usenet for gathering market intelligence let alone for marketing itself. Keep in mind that many potential clients (both Internet and non-Internet users alike) congregate there.

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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