Newsgroups where people post and reply to messages about particular topics are one of the hidden treasures of the Internet. You can exploit them in two ways: by having your own to support your product (dealt with in Chapter 17 on support) and by posting messages about your product in relevant public groups. Be circumspect about this though.
♦ Select newsgroups relevant to your product.
♦ Ignore newsgroups for competitive products. It is unprofessional to advertise in someone else's group.
♦ Gauge the etiquette of each group. If they appear receptive, put a tentative oar in the water. If borderline, e-mail one of the brighter contributors and ask his or her opinion. If it seems acceptable, post a short statement explaining your product, bullet point the benefits, and supply a Web address where they can get further information, if relevant. Try to restrict this to 10 lines or 100 words.
♦ Replying to messages in a newsgroup and subtly saying how your product solves the problem that a user has posed is acceptable. Replies, however, carry more weight when they come from disinterested third parties who have no connection with the developers.
♦ If appropriate, you can send a follow up e-mail to any member of the newsgroup personally who appears to have a requirement for the product you are offering. Try starting with something along the lines of, "I saw the message you posted last night. I had the same problem so many months ago and decided to do something about it . . . "
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