When you find a forum that you'd like to start working with, set up an account. Reputation systems are often based in part on account age, so you'll want to create yours as soon as possible—but don't start posting right away.

Before you even think about contributing to a new forum, spend some time lurking to learn about the forum's culture and community. Some forums don't allow members to post links to their own sites, and some forbid promotion or marketing of any kind. Read the rules and get to know which members are well known and trusted. Forums can be a minefield of unspoken rules and social taboos, and one wrong step by a marketer can be crippling to her reputation (see Figure 8-7).

There are a bunch of "forum marketing" services that the lazy marketer may be tempted to hire; resist these. Outsourcing your forum marketing is an easy way to wreck your reputation, as the vast majority of these services will be creating hundreds of accounts on as many different sites, only to post blatant advertisements devoid of any value to you or the forums.

Once you've gotten to know the lay of the land, you'll know if and when an introductory post is acceptable. If it is, do it and do it well. Be transparent about what company you work for and what your role is; if you're a marketing person, admit it. Highlight your unique skills and knowledge that will be useful to the community, and make a commitment to never spam or blatantly promote your wares. Make sure other members know you're ...

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