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I've built a piece of software. It is for a small niche hobby. There are a few communities, outside of the one I usually frequent, that appear active in this area and I've seen complaints in a couple of them about the usual recommended software. These complaints are similar to issues I had, which is why I built this product. The existing software is not a free product and I was not planning on releasing my product for free either.

I believe I had a product that would be very helpful to these communities. However, I'm not sure how to approach each community and suggest my product. Obviously I don't want to come off as a spammer, but the second I mention that it costs anything (even if it's very modest), I'd be branded a spammer. I understand completely. We have the same reaction in our own community.

How do I approach a community to make my suggestion for this new software? Does it make sense to approach the administrators of each community first or would it make more sense to approach the community at large?

11

Etiquette varies between communities, but generally speaking, you need to be a member of the community first and a vendor second.

Your priority is to get known as a helpful member of the community. Be a normal participant. Use a human user name like John Smith, not a name associated with your product. Answer people's questions, take part in discussions that have nothing to do with your product. Only post messages that mention your product if someone else has already mentioned it and you have something to add. In particular, getting known for providing good support is good publicity. After a while, you'll get a feeling for when you can spontaneously volunteer your product in a discussion, and when you shouldn't. Keep in mind that your presence should be dominated by messages that aren't related to your product.

Always be honest. No need to lay it on thick, but never try to hide that you're a product vendor, neither when mentioning your product nor when mentioning a competing product. Don't slam the competition, don't systematically jump up when the competition is unable to do something. Providing support for the competition is a gallant move, but you might want to save it for when it'll be noticed, and when you do this, always strive not to be critical.

Many communities allow a place where you can put whatever you want that isn't offensive, such as signatures or profile pages. That will let some people know about your product passively.

If you do it right, then after a while other people will start mentioning your product and defending it against the competition. Let the genuine satisfied customers speak for you — and the non-customers who appreciate you for your community involvement in general.

9

Definitely approach the admins / owners of the community. Ask for their permissions to advertise your software. It will help if you're a member of the community.

But you have other options available to you. Do you have a website? SEO, get yourself listed on Google for relevant search terms. Advertising on the communities will help, as will getting people talking about your software.

Are there important people in relevant fields who have blogs who might use your software? Send them free copies and ask them to review it. Get them to blog about it to their followers. A few free copies in exchange for that advertising will do you wonders.

Blog about it yourself. Make sure you keep an up-to-date blog on your website on the progress of your software. Blog about other relevant things too, get a community going on your site around your software.

Social media is your friend. Get a Facebook page / Twitter account. Make sure you use them. Make sure people know about them. Build up a following by posting material that's relevant and interesting to people who will also be interested in your software.

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