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How to Promote Your Online Community without Spamming

As an online community manager, beware not to fall into the trap of spam. A lot of the people who spam online have no idea they’re spamming. They either think they’re sharing something very cool or that it’s okay because they’re being paid to do it by someone else who knows all the rules.

Of course, some unsavory people spam, know they spam, and don’t care that they do so, but some people are a little green and not sure how this whole online promotion thing works.

Here’s a good rule: If you’re jumping from network to network, community to community, blog to blog and dropping links and not doing much else, you’re spamming, not promoting.

It’s spamming when

  • You set up a Twitter search to ping you when certain words or keywords are mentioned so that you can immediately send a link to a sales page.

  • You send out mass e-mails that sell, without getting permission from each and every one on your mailing list.

  • You comment on a blog with a sales pitch and a link.

  • You stop in to a forum and say, “Hey! Check out my stuff!” with a link.

  • Your Twitter stream or Facebook status page is nothing but links.

  • You give a sales pitch to people without their permission.

On the other hand, it’s promoting when

  • You send your customers or community members a newsletter they have opted in to receive.

  • You have an active Twitter stream filled with conversations with friends and community members, and every now and then you share a link to a promotion or blog post — either yours or someone else’s.

  • You offer a discount code on your Facebook page.

  • You comment on blogs or forums without selling and use a link in the appropriate signature line.

  • You take the time to have a conversation with people, build up relationships, and every now and then invite those people to take part in a conversation or promotion within your community.

  • You give a public address and talk about what you do in a very brief bio synopsis or during the last PowerPoint slide.

Can you see the difference now? Spamming is when you’re pitching or selling to people without their permission. It’s when you make a pest of yourself and drop links at other communities without asking the host if it’s ok.

Promotion is when you have something to sell or share with others, but you do so in a way that’s not invasive or annoying.

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