Participating in Forums Newsgroups and IVcb Communities

Companies may decide to participate in or sponsor Internet forums, newsgroups and bulletin boards that appeal to specific special interest groups. Such activities may be organized for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Forums are discussion groups located on commercial online services. A forum may operate a library, a 'chat room' for real-time message exchanges and even a classified ad directory. For example, America Online boasts some 14,000 chat rooms, which account for a third of its members' online time. It recently introduced 'buddy lists', which alert members when friends are online, allowing them to exchange instant messages.33 Most forums are sponsored by interest groups. Thus, as a major musical instruments manufacturer. Yamaha might start a forum on classical music.

ffew^roups are the InterneL version of tbruins. Unlike commercial forums, newsgroups are made up of groups of people posting and reading messages on a specified topic of interest to them, rather than managing libraries or conferencing. Internet users can participate in newsgroups without subscribing. The discussions are like a telephone conference call, only everything is typed onscreen and people can come and go at any time over a period of days and might not even 'say' anything at all. There are thousands of newsgroups dealing with every imaginable topie, from healthy eating, home repairs and caring for your Bonsai tree to collecting antique cars or exchanging views on the latest soap opera happenings. For example, one newsgroup, rec.autos.vw, on a section of the Internet called usenet, hosted a discussion about the reliability of different versions of one model of Volkswagen car. Newsgroups earry a lot of information about customers, and companies can take advantage of the chance to 'meet' potential customers by participating in the discussions. However, firms must beware when joining the forum. People organizing newsgroups have a distinct aversion to the hard sell of businesses - after all, they set up their groups deliberately outside the normal arenas of commercial influence.M'

Bulletin board systems (BBSs) are specialized online services that centre on a specific topic or group. These deal with a wide range of topics, from holidays find health to computer games and property. Marketers might want to identify and participate in newsgroups and BB.Ss that attract subscribers who fit their target markets. However, like newsgroups, BBS users often resent commercial intrusions on their Net space, so the marketer must tread carefully, participating in subtle ways that provide real value to participants.

The popularity of forums and newgronps has resulted in a rash of commercially sponsored Web sites called Web communities. Such sites provide a place where members can congregate online and exchange views on issues of common interest. They are 'the cyberspace equivalent to the bar, where everybody knows your e-mail add?-ess'.-i7 For example. Women's Wire is a Web community where career-oriented women can engage in discussion forums and celebrity chats on women's issues. Tripod is an online hangout for twenty-somethings, offering chat rooms and free home pages for posting curriculum vitae. And Parent Soup is an online community of more than 200,000 parents who spend time online gathering parenting information, chatting with other parents about kid-related issues and linking with other related sites.

Visitors to these Net neighbourhoods or cyherhoodH develop a strong sense of community. Such communities are attractive to advertisers because they draw-consumers with common interests and well-defined demographics. For example. Parent Soup provides an ideal environment for the Web ads of Johnson & Johnson and other makers of children's products. Moreover, eyberhood consumers visit frequently and stay online longer, increasing the chance of meaningful exposure to the advertiser's message.

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Corporate Domination Tactics

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