Free Internet advertising is sought after by most Internet marketers and one readily available source of free Internet advertising is the Internet forum. For Internet marketing novices, I'll briefly explain how free Internet advertising is obtained from Internet forums.
Basically, Internet forums are message boards where members can exchange information, obtain advice or just chat. There are Internet forums to cater for every topic you would care to imagine (and a few you would probably prefer not to dwell on). The Internet marketer advertises his product simply by posting messages on the forums. There are some Internet forums that forbid the posting of advertisements but, on many of these forums, it is still possible to obtain free Internet advertising by use of a signature file. The signature file is a short piece of text which can contain a link to a website and which can be annexed to every posting a member makes on a forum message board.
If you have never tried forums as a source of free Internet advertising, you should bear in mind that there is an unwritten code of etiquette which need to be observed. The following are some of the unwritten rules which need to be followed if you intend to use forums for free Internet advertising for your business.
Read the Forum Rules
You need to read the rules of any Internet forum before you try to post a message there. I know this sounds obvious but it is clear that many forum users don't bother to read the rules, despite the fact that the forum registration process inevitably includes a requirement for the applicant to check a box indicating that the forum rules have been read and will be adhered to. Don't just sign up with the idea of getting as much free Internet advertising as possible from the forum. Many forums prohibit the posting of affiliate urls anywhere apart from in the members' forum signature file. If you become a member of one of these forums without reading the rules and start posting your affiliate urls in messages, you will quickly find yourself labelled a "spammer". In case you didn't know, spammers are considered to be the lowest of the low on the Internet. If there was a virtual prison for Internet crime, Internet advertising spammers would have to be kept in solitary confinement for their own protection.
Lurk Before You Leap
Internet forum etiquette demands that you spend a little time "lurking" ie logging in at the forum and reading previous and current threads before you even think of starting to use the forum for free Internet advertising. Although lurking is not an official rule of Internet forums, it is largely accepted as an essential part of the unwritten code of behaviour. The practice is very useful. Lurking will enable you to get the feel of how a forum works, you will be able to ascertain the tone of the messages, the type of subject matter which is welcomed and the level of expertise of other forum members. You might even find that a particular forum is not for you and this could save you the embarrassment of posting an inappropriate message on the forum.
You know that you are visiting the forum merely for the free Internet advertising for your website but it is better not to make this obvious if you want other members to react well to your advertising. Forums are rather like private clubs where members strike up friendships and make business deals. If you rush in waving your "FREE INTERNET ADVERTISING" placard you will not become popular, other members will consider you to be an abuser of their "club". You will do much better if you quietly introduce yourself and keep the free Internet advertising down to a whisper in your signature file.
Remember Your Manners
How hard is it to say "thank you"? If you visit a forum and receive valuable advice which helps you in some way, take a moment to post a brief message of thanks to your advisor. If someone helped you out of a spot in the bricks and mortar world you would thank them. Remember that people who post on Internet forums are real too and they are under no obligation to help you. It is as easy to make a friend with a warm word as it is to create an enemy with a harsh word and you never know when you might meet these people again.
Help Whenever You Can
Help other people whenever you can. Even if you don't have any specialist knowledge, you will find occasions when you can pass on good advice. If you received advice that took you to a solution, post a message to say how the advice helped and what steps you followed to sort things out, this will act as a signpost for other people who might find themselves in similar difficulties. Even though you joined the forum with the idea of using it merely as a form of free Internet advertising, make time to give something back. People will be more inclined to take an interest in your advertising if you become known as a helpful type. What goes around comes around and, in any event, the reputation of being a problem-solver is a bit of free Internet advertising in its own right.
The majority of Internet forums have moderators to ensure that members stick to the rules. The job of a forum moderator is to keep the content of the forum appropriate. Remember, it is not just a place where you can indulge in free Internet advertising, so keep your messages within the forum rules. Any graffiti posted by members will be cleaned up by the moderators so that the forum environment is preserved for all members to enjoy. If you wish to retain the respect of your fellow forum members, make sure your posts never need to be cleaned up, be your own moderator. As well as sticking to the forum rules on content, you should also keep your messages moderate in tone. The Chambers dictionary includes the following definitions of "moderate": kept within measure or bounds; not excessive or extreme; temperate. If you avoid drama and pathos in your forum posting and keep your messages moderate, you will not attract "flamers" and you can quietly enjoy your free Internet advertising.
Ration Your Reading
Internet forums can be addictive. There is a serious danger that you might log in to a forum with the idea of posting a message or two in order to get your daily ration of free Internet advertising but, the next thing you know is that half an hour has passed by while you have been engrossed in reading. There is nothing inherently wrong with spending time reading posts made by other forum members, it's free entertainment and that's fine. The problem is that, if you are trying to run an Internet marketing business and you lose yourself on forums for half an hour every day, you will be wasting something like half a day during the course of each week for the sake of posting a couple of links back to your website. That is not an economical use of your time. In fact, if you account for the value of your time, you will find you are actually paying a high price for your free Internet advertising on forums.