Audience & Engagement

Be a Firestarter: How To Use Forums to Jump-Start Your Engagement
Be a Firestarter: How To Use Forums to Jump-Start Your Engagement

candleThey’re out there… in the world wide woods. searching, seeking, desperate for help and guidance. All they want is a little light in the darkness, answers to an ever-growing list of questions and a little mentoring throughout the vast online-unknown.

Who am I describing? The overwhelming majority of beginner forum-members.
Who is the light in the darkness? The Firestarters of these forums.
Who is a Firestarter? The moderators, advice-givers, wisdom-revealers and light-bearers; The Knights of the Square Table!

We pay tribute to these valiant & honorable warriors, who expect nothing in return for their leadership, bestowing a wealth of knowledge upon the masses who sorely need guidance.

Firestarters are good shepherds, amongst a battlefield sometimes littered with shallow tips that often end in endorsement-laden solutions.

Advice-seekers sift through IM forums, sometimes frantically digging for solutions to a major issue that is causing them stress and unrest. They have probably already spent some money on guides & tools that got them nowhere, they need real advice, they need someone to stay with them for a while. They need you.

Get Ready To Stoke A Fire – Become A Master of Forum Engagement

Time to start sparking some forum conversations that burn bright! It isn’t easy to ram down the gates of a stranger’s conditioned mental-stronghold and offer them digestible, candid advice they will accept and embrace.

So, carving out a common ground is the first step in learning how to use forums. They are ready to cross the bridge, just get to know them and provide the necessary nudge & lifeline, defined in these FOUR action steps:

  1. Build a concrete relation point. The bridge over the troubled waters
  2. Give a free, specific ‘how-to’ to their first, emotional ‘I want’
  3. Explain why you do what you do, not what you do and sell
  4. Deliver an S.O.S. – A simple, obtainable, singular message of how you can offer help

Step #1: The Bridge Over Troubled Waters: A Concrete Relation Point

Maybe the person likes sports? Maybe he/she is from a place you’ve been to? Perhaps, they enjoy the same type of music. This is the time to get personal, share something about yourself, relate with a story and find common threads.

Attributes that people share in a common passion are the bricks of the bridge. Applying those passions together via brainstorming, collaboration, and consistent communication is the hardening mortar of a concrete foundation.

Spend a bit of quality time, reminiscing on war stories around the campfire via a few private messages or forum thread replies. Vent, rant and get over it, then start talking shop. Share the following with each person after firing up the initial conversation thread:

  • An Agreement – validate their issue, problem or concern using your experience
  • A Tear – don’t worry, be happy, we found each other and I know how to help you
  • A Laugh – “A Penguin, A Panda and Larry Page walk into a bar….”, laughter trumps despair
  • A Hug – Reassurance that they are not ALONE and have your full positive support. This is the blue base of the flame on the Firestarter’s torch
  • An Answer – Now, as a friend, segue to the point, drill down to that #1 issue & move to step #2 naturally

Step #2: Give A ‘How-To’ To Their First Emotional ‘I Want’

Now it is time to be the answer, Not the endorsement. This is when you stay focused on that top problem the person is describing in a thread at any given moment and dive into delivering the answer.

Maybe they can’t set up permalinks in WordPress, or they can’t set up their Gmail account to run their business email address.

Whatever the case may be, you are on point. The first one to provide them the direct, finite answer in a format they like. Maybe it’s a link to the answer on one of your channels, a one-minute screen cast video, a one-page outlined PDF or a video call via Skype.

Deliver your first reply quickly, while they are most emotionally vulnerable and watch them rally and bask in your light, Firestarter. They will be so shocked and appreciative by the extra leap you took to help them, beyond simply replying to their thread. You must act with great haste because inspiration is perishable and needs to be renewed.

Step #3: Answer Why It Is You Do What You Do

Naturally, as a person flocks away from the forum towards your shadow, they are going to want to start validating your expertise. How big is your shadow? Are you everywhere all the time?

They are seeking out why it is you do what you do. They will be visiting your website, following your tweets, subscribing to your channel and liking your FB page.

The message they receive on every channel you run must be consistent, clear and concise. “Our mission is to help you…” covers the what, but be sure that your why resonates with them in every breath they take and every move they make under your wing via your writing, teaching and outreaches.

As Simon Sinek said so well, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it“. When somebody is clear on your Why and it never changes, they will let you into their stronghold completely, with a learning cap on and a pencil sharpened.

Now, as they are prepared to take some notes, you start to formulate an offer of help that won’t cost them anything.

Step #4: Deliver An S.O.S. – A Simple Obtainable Singular Message In A Bottle

“You are not alone on an Entrepreneur island.” – Believe me, when they see the bottles washing ashore containing your notes, they are more hungry then they have ever been at that moment. Simply starving for an easy step by step plan, they can digest, from somebody with more experience than them.

When you show them how to make fire, their eyes will grow bright with a sensation of empowerment, ready to achieve.

You can then build the boat that will leave the island together, teaching them how to fish along the way. They know from that moment, they will never be alone, because a like-minded entrepreneur responded to them positively every time, with action-oriented, simple & achievable advice.

This can be done via a quick call, a personal email note, or a direct message in the forum – “hey there, have you had a chance to try out the steps in that video I made for you? -Matt”

In your S.O.S. notes, ask only one question and send as a friend. For now, you represent their follow-through and conviction; don’t expect them to come to you.

Chivalrous Self-Promotion knights-of-square-table-forum-marketing

First, let me throw a quick definition of Chivalry out there for everyone who may not be as medieval as I am:

Chivalry: originally conceived of as an aristocratic warrior code — the term derives from the French term for horseman — involving honor, gallantry, individual training and service to others.

Along the path, you will outfit them with the weapons they need, train them for battle, show them how the experts use words as swords and eventually knight them.

Always teach them in a way they can comprehend. Always deliver answers in the format they want them in, not the way you expect them to accept it.

Moving at their pace, start to chivalrously self-promote in these spots:

  1. Sell in your on-going answers – Naturally, your flock will constantly come back to you for advice as new challenges arise. In these correspondences, you’ll start to see that most topics will typically drill down to a patterned solution you have already crafted or need to hit the drawing board on. It’s only natural for people to purchase from an expert they now know, believe in and trust. Also, you may have noticed a golden nugget here; you will start building products based directly on each advice-seeker’s feedback. This ultimately establishes universal, dynamic & finely-tuned structure for your products.
  2. Sell in your signature – When you are leading more and more out of the darkness, the mark of your victories builds a legend. You can harness this legacy by keeping your signature line potent to the offerings that are helping the most forum users. Be sure the links in your signature send them to a page to learn and opt-in on your ‘why’, do not send them to squeeze pages or sales funnels. It’s abrasive and the sign of a snake-oil salesman. When they opt-in, they have joined your tribe, and will soon find comfort in the warmth of your embrace. We all know the difference of selling to a cold lead versus a warm lead, right? Your forum signature is the ever-growing footnote of your legacy.
  3. Sell in your profile – This is a perfect place to ‘sell yourself’. Make sure your profile picture is clear and reflects your passion. Your bio and all other personal details should be your colors. Fly your banners with pride; be quirky, nerdy, funny, throw in a couple “kick asses” to make it fun. Your profile is your virtual handshake in the relationship-building process, and a portal to your social channels and opt-in funnels. Their first peek of who you are.
  4. Sell in your teachings – Webinars, podcasts, Facebook groups, as you wean the person off the forum into your channels, they will start attending all of your classes, especially the ones you offer for free. This is a perfect venue to finish your talk with Q&A first, then product endorsements last. Always do Q&A before selling anything. Why? Because certain questions may be answered in the form of your valuable solutions they won’t mind buying, it’s natural. Sell by being the answer, and you never come across as a salesman.

The ‘Knights Of The Square Table’ Approach To Forum Firestarting

Here it is, your homework assignment. I implore you to complete the following task list, even if you’ve never used a forum before, and see if by the end of the first week, you don’t have a new qualified lead or customer moving towards your fires. Does it take more time at first while you are slating replies? Sure, but will you notice need-patterns and build on your snippets quickly? Of course you will.

Scale is the magic behind every strategy carried out, but first you have to perfect your wand. Your threads and replies archive forever, developing authority by simply helping a person and those beyond who need the same advice.

Follow this step by step approach to get an advice-seeker following you

  • Choose 3 forum sites you are most knowledgeable in and will focus on
  • Choose 3 forum threads within that you will focus on more finitely
  • Make 3 brilliant, how-to based replies to those your expertise can help, be sure to address them by name. People who share your expertise or like your advice will relate & reply.
  • Start 3 educational forum threads in your expertise under proper categories  (Remember they archive and remain available for good. A person just found us this past weekend on a Warrior Forum thread that was archived on page 20! )
  • Find 3 like-minded moderators in those forums to build relationships with. These could be your future partners down the road, once you prove your valor and worth. (You never know when a joint venture opportunity is right around the corner. Look for our “Zero To Hero Overnight” post on joint venture relationships soon)
  • Lead 3 people out of the darkness with your passionate fire and light

How long does it take to complete these steps and create a rock-solid relationship with a virtual stranger? Days? Weeks? Months? Not really, it takes about 2-5 hours and 4-5 conversations.

You can change lives in a few motivational, momentous moments; what takes a lifetime is the journey that begins right after the paradigm shift. The advice-seeker will set the pace. The answer to why they are emotional & vulnerable at that moment, will set the table.

If you only take one piece of advice, let it be this: Replying promptly and impulsively is the chicken soup for the advice-seeker’s soul. You will have their attention and their curiosity if you stick to that approach.

When you see an advice-seeker’s thread and nothing but tumbleweeds are blowing through their reply stream, be the first sheriff to step into this no-horse town and lay down the law for them!

So, go out there and become a Forum Firestarter. This is the best way to use forums I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tried many. I bet you’ll get a follower or two within only a couple weeks of helping people out of the woods and in to their web.

“You can’t start a fire without a spark” – The Boss

Do you have what it takes to become a Square Knight?

Are you already knighted in the ways of the virtual Samaritan? Tell us your good tidings.