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Taking part in conversations about your company is a core concept behind word of mouth marketing. The more you invest in being a part of what people say about your stuff, the better you can understand your audience, develop relationships, and convert critics into happy customers.

But with limitless options to connect with your fans, it can be hard to determine where you actually belong in the customer conversation. Here are some key questions to ask before you decide where to jump in:

1. Are your fans there?
2. Can you add value?
3. Can you participate ethically and honestly?

1. Are your fans there?

One good indication of where you should be taking part in word of mouth is if your fans are already talking about you there. These are great places to step in and say thanks for their support or to answer their questions. Your advocates will be glad to see you’re acknowledging their love and giving it back. On some of the obvious channels like Facebook and Twitter, you can show appreciation with a simple share or retweet. But that’s not the only place to look, you can also try digging into niche forums to make an even bigger impact.

2. Can you add value?

If you come into a dialogue without anything helpful to contribute, it will look like a thinly-veiled attempt to sell. Find the places where people are asking questions you can answer — not with one of your products or services — but with your expertise and advice. The more helpful, candid advice you give, the more these talkers will see you as a trustworthy expert. Then when they’re ready to buy something, the people you helped will know where to go.

3. Can you participate ethically and honestly?

Disclosure should be the first thing on your mind before taking part in any discussion about your company’s stuff. Making it clear who you work for and what you really believe is not only good for your reputation, it’s required by law. The new FTC Guidelines for digital marketing say that no matter where your brand is engaging with customers, you must include clear and conspicuous disclosure. And there’s no special loopholes for certain platforms. The FTC makes it clear that lack of space isn’t an excuse for a weak disclosures like #spon or a tiny URL pointing to the actual disclosure.

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