Using Surveys & Beta Tests For Market Research

When it comes to Usenet newsgroups, everyone tells you what you can’t do, but there are very few suggestions offered for what you can do. The reason for this is pretty simple. Usenet is one of the last remaining bastions of the “old school” Internet users, and netiquette is more important here than it might be in other places. There are ways to harvest traffic from newsgroups, though.


One of the best ways to draw traffic from a discussion group is to solicit feedback from other subscribers, or inviting them to participate in beta testing of a new product or service. We’ve seen web sites receive thousands of hits from newsgroup readers attempting to sign up for a beta test of new software, for example . The important thing is to make sure that your product or service is really relevant, and really likely to be of interest to the other readers of the newsgroup.

If you’re going to use a beta test to generate interest in a new product or service, start your campaign by describing the product or service you have in mind, or have developed, and let it be known that you’ll be looking for beta testers. You’ll probably get several replies in the newsgroup or by email. Reply to all of them by giving the URL for a sign-up form on your site. It’s okay to be selective in picking beta testers, but it’s considered polite to let everyone who inquires know whether they’ve been selected.

A Warning About Netiquette

A lot of “traditional” marketing wisdom falls flat on the ‘net. For example, direct mail. In the real world, you can buy a mailing list, mail off a bunch of postcards, catalogs, or whatever, get some business back from it, and repeat as needed. On the internet, you can buy mailing lists all right? but if you actually send out a mass mailing, you may find that you can’t send email any more.

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There are a lot of things that might sound like a good idea ? but before you try them, test the idea against these simple guidelines:

Will your marketing or advertising be unwelcome?
For example, if you send email to everyone on the Internet, many of them will not want to receive it, no matter how wonderful you think the offer is . Many people get hundreds of emails a day, and unsolicited commercial email (also known as SPAM) is a major waste of their time. Some of these people will take the time to have your mail server “black holed” (your mail will no longer be routed by most ISPs), while others may decide to hack in and crash your web server, burn down your house, etc. There’s no telling what people will do if you annoy them. “Road rage” was big news in 1999, will “email rage” be the big story of 2000? Don’t become a statistic. Don’t send SPAM.