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They’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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.