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I believe in the power of online communities. And, contrary to popular belief, I know that businesses and business owners can successfully interact within these communities, getting their messages across without being shunned, ignored or worse…labeled a spammer or marked as abuse.

It’s a delicate balance, but it can be done. It takes time and commitment and I would discourage anyone without the time to invest, from jumping in head first. Perhaps micro-blogging on Twitter or Plurk would be a better option. Online community members expect more. They demand more. And trust me, it takes a pretty hefty time investment and a certain type of approach if you want to do it right.

If you are someone who wants to do it right, here are five things you shouldn’t do, unless of course your goal is to suffer irreversible consequences, in the form of a public hanging or worse, the scarlet letter “S” (spammer) posted on your profile page.

So, if you want to successfully engage members of an online community, do not…

  1. Post a link to your store or product in every single comment or post.
  2. Post all 750 images from your catalog or brochure in your image gallery.
  3. Make your profile name the name of your website (goldwatchesdotcom.)
  4. Post blogs without any relevant content other than your huge sale or grand opening.
  5. Fail to learn, disrespect or simply ignore the culture of the community.

Do any of the above, and you’ll soon be overlooked. It only takes one time to screw up and your chances of getting back in with that particularly community become pretty slim.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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