Working The Boards

Stephen Yagielowicz

Do you have a unique product or service that you need to expose adult Webmasters to? Posting to Message Boards is a free, easy, and effective means of doing just that, and they can deliver impressive results – if you play by the rules...

They spring up almost daily (or so it seems): Message Boards designed to encourage the free exchange of ideas and information between those like-minded individuals who share a common interest; in our case, adult Webmasters. Beyond the continuing educational opportunities, community, and camaraderie that Message Boards encourage, they also provide a steady, high-quality source of targeted traffic for those who make use of them.

Posters, Lurkers, Spammers, Admins, and Bots
There are four distinct types of people you will encounter on the boards: first, "Posters" or those who make a habit of visiting, reading, and then participating in the board's various threads, are the productive visitors who make the board process worthwhile. "Lurkers" on the other hand, will frequently form the majority of a board's visitor base. These people visit and read the threads that interest them, but seldom if ever contribute to the discussion. While they may benefit from the exchange of ideas, they do not add their own, which is a shame, since everyone has useful ideas and opinions, and no one should feel "unworthy" to post. Newbies aren't the only ones to lurk, however. Sometimes the industry's most notable and experienced individuals lurk, rarely posting for fear of being engulfed in a frenzy of newbie questions and pleas for help, and if they do have something to share, it is often done under an assumed alias...

"Spammers" are those who rather than "helpfully suggest" a product or service, try to force it upon you with "in your face" posts that are nothing but blatant advertisements, and the worse offenders, "hit and run" spammers, will only stop by the board for that one bit of spam, working their way around to every board they can find with the same bit of copy-n-paste garbage. There are both "classifieds" and "spam" boards specifically for this type of promotion, yet the spamming persists. "Admins" (or Moderators) on the other hand are charged with keeping the message board, and its visitors, operating within the community guidelines. They "police" the threads to one degree or another, removing spam and off-topic posts, mediating disputes, and providing a sense of balance (when needed) to keep things on track. Good Admins will typically "work" with a group of frequent posters, developing relationships, and keeping the board active, healthy, and vibrant.

The final category of "personalities" you will find on the board are "Bots." These are not people at all, but automated scripts that often actually disguise themselves as real people, and the best of them can carry on a conversation with you that will convince you that they're really human! CDawg's "Aion" chat bot comes to mind, and was one of the best (and most entertaining) mIRC "entities" I've ever encountered... While Aion was benign, some bots are responsible for "drive-by" spamming, and some will even work together, having bogus conversations that attempt to disguise their spam as a legitimate thread. The current rage over Yahoo! ChatBots is a great example. Ahhh, the wonders of Artificial Intelligence...

Do's and Don'ts
Promotion, and especially self-promotion, requires an often delicate balance along a slippery slope, and it's easy to go overboard – or to be perceived as going overboard... The established "personalities" and board sponsors are usually given more leeway than newbies to the board, or those who lurk often, but post little. This is only fair, as those who "work the boards" are the ones responsible for the tone and quality of content, while sponsors are the ones who pay the bills, and they deserve to be rewarded for their time and effort in helping to build the community. If a newbie did the same things, folks can come down on them like a ton of bricks (and rightfully so). With this in mind, here are a few common sense tips for maximizing your advertising effectiveness through message board posting:

  • DO introduce yourself when visiting a new board.
  • DON'T introduce yourself with a giant post about "how wonderful" your company, product, or service is.
  • DO lurk around for awhile to get the "feel" of the community before posting inappropriately.
  • DON'T "flame," or complain about sponsors or other Webmasters. The boards should be about exchanging ideas, not personal vendettas.
  • DO participate in the ongoing discussions, or start new ones as needed.
  • DON'T just post (spam) to say "Click Here to Make Big Bucks!" or some such.
  • DO include your URL(s) and contact info in your "sig" (signature) line. This is the correct way to promote your product or service.
  • DON'T include your URL in your thread title.
  • DO abide by our image posting policies.

As with most things in life, there is a right - and wrong - way of doing things, and posting to the boards is no exception. While I personally feel that it's unfortunate, the truth of the matter is that in life, as on the boards, WHAT you say is often less important then HOW you say it. Style will often win over substance; heck, it's the American way – just ask E!

With that being said, how you tailor your message will go a long way towards gaining its acceptance by your target audience. For instance, a talented designer may respond to the questions posted about design trends and techniques, establishing him or herself as an "expert" in the field, and branding their name to the point where "professional Web page design" and the designer's name are synonymous. There is a fine line between giving away all of your best secrets, and helping others in the way in which you likely received help, way back when you were a newbie. One way puts you out of business, the other keeps you so busy that you're turning down job offers: It's up to you to find the balance.

Working the boards is a great way to get added exposure for your product or service, however, misusing the boards is a great way to kill your product or service. The choice between the two is yours to make. Why not start here, at XBiz? You'll find a warm welcome if you play, and post, by the rules...