I work for a company that produces video game tournaments. It’s important to promote these tournaments, so we can get lots of gamers involved and make the tournament sponsors (our clients) happy.
Unfortunately, the company I work for is allergic to spending money, so we really don’t advertise much. The guys who run things believe we can make do with guerrilla marketing — in my case, posting about our tournaments on video game forums.
I have plenty of experience moderating forums. And I understand that forums get spammed all the time, with useless and disruptive ads for penis extenders and Nigerian princes. This blog gets fake posts and trackbacks every day, which I have to remove.
But when I posted on your forum about one of our tournaments, Mr. Forum Admin, this wasn’t spam. The tournament I mentioned was precisely germane to the conversation. It’s a tournament for the game you profess to love so much. So who am I hurting by posting a brief note about it?
Your answer is probably this: if you want to advertise on my site, buy ad space. And that’s fair. But mention of our tournament in your forum does not rise to the same level as a paid advertisement. It’s a simple post in one thread (I never do multiple threads — that’s annoying as hell); it’s not a static ad on your front page. You created a public forum. As long as posts don’t disrupt the community, it shouldn’t matter that a user mentions a commercial site — as long as it’s on topic. And I’m always on topic.
Yes, yes, I know your next objection — it’s your site, and you can do what you want with it. That’s the law. But that’s not what’s ethical. What’s ethical is to do whatever creates the best community experience for your users. And your members are better off knowing about our tournament.
I’m sure there are people out in the world who want to make money unfairly off of your labor of love, your gaming forum. But I’m not one of those people. It’s actually quite fair — I’m giving you content, you’re letting me promote our tournament. There’s no need to be so rabid.
Maybe you can create a topic area in your forum just for posts like mine. Then they won’t clutter up the conversations, and people can choose to read them or not.
Think about it, won’t you?