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Starting and Running a Business on the Internet
by Tim Ireland and Alex Kiam
Starting and Running a Business on the Internet is a straightforward guide for those who either wish to adapt their business to the Internet, or start a new one. It's realistic, jargon-free and budget-conscious.
Many basic questions are answered, such as:
No matter how little you know about computers, this book will take you from the very basics, such as getting a domain name, through to 'going live' with a brand new Internet business, and the possibilty of taking orders from around the world.
Why This Chapter?
Starting and Running a Business on the Internet is essentially a primer for the Internet virgin. It not only shows you the main benefits of doing business online, it also warns you of the most common pitfalls.
One of the most common mistakes involves new business users 'discovering' Usenet, barrelling in to the newsgroup they consider most relevant to their product or service, and immediately posting a message plugging their site or service. Unfortunately, such commercialism is widely frowned upon in Usenet and can draw some quite unsavoury responses (that will be archived for all to see). This chapter extract outlines the right way to make Usenet work for you.
Depending on the nature of the community you choose and your own ability to communicate, Usenet can be a rich marketing ground for those who do so with an honest desire to contribute to the discussion.
You must keep in mind at all times that any given group is a community made up of individuals who have been interacting for quite some time. In most cases, there will not only be an established community spirit, but also separate ‘cliques’ within this group and possibly even some ongoing animosity between these sub-groups and/or individual members. Sometimes there are even different camps that get along quite happily until a certain subject comes up. This is why the most important aspect of newsgroup participation is research and ‘lurking’.
Research is quite simple. You should begin with the regularly posted charter and/or FAQ for the group. Some groups even have a supporting web site that includes a history of the group, and even profiles of some of the more regular participants.
You should also make yourself aware of what has happened with the group in the past, and you can do so by reading the archives at the new incarnation of DejaNews, Google Groups (http://groups.google.com/). This can be time consuming, but if you follow your nose you will find yourself knowing a lot more about the most active members within the group and how they behave as a unit. You will also get a much clearer idea of what is and isn’t tolerated in terms of ‘Netiquette’ (such as overly promotional posts), and how harshly the group treat someone who breaks these rules.
Armed with this information, you are more than ready to begin ‘lurking’. This simply involves subscribing to the group and monitoring the discussion without posting. You will discover that, once armed with the basics of the group, watching them behave ‘live’ is incredibly educational.
It sounds like a lot of work – and yes, it is. You may even find after getting to the research or lurking stage that the group is of very little use to you and that you have to look elsewhere, but once you find the right group and feel confident that your contribution will be mutually beneficial, then you are onto a very good thing indeed.
By this stage, you know what value the group presents, and what you can bring to the group in return. In some purely ‘social’ groups, merely participating in the discussion is all that is required. Other groups exist to discuss a particular topic. You probably will have chosen such a group on the strength of this topic and how it relates to your business, in which case the best thing you can bring to the party is your knowledge and/or expertise.
Either way, an individual that makes a regular and valuable contribution to the group will be welcomed with open arms. You will note that many who do so include a ‘signature’ (often kept to a maximum of 4 lines) in each post that includes their name and a link to their web site.
This is where most of the benefits of your participation are likely to come from, though some group members (and even a few lurkers) might be sufficiently impressed with your expertise to contact you directly.
Above all, you must remember that everything you post on Usenet is made public (including the return email address you choose, another good reason to get yourself a web based email account). Try to keep in mind that you are an ambassador for your company and as such, you should behave yourself.
© Tim Ireland 2001
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© 2001 Tim Ireland