Everyone’s seen, at least once, one of the oldest shticks in the book. The magician on stage asks for a volunteer from the crowd who truly makes the entire trick STICK. The crowd by now has figured out after it is used so frequently, that the ‘volunteer’ is actually employed by the magician. How about the comedian who hires his own hecklers? There are plenty of these ‘set ’em up and let ’em fall’ stories, likening the crowd to dominoes as they topple over.
The supporter in the crowd cements the message, whatever that message might be. Why does this work so well? Because the person in question is just like the rest of us, and are completely relatable in a way the famous magician or comedian is not. Most people cannot identify with a famous person, but they can certainly relate to ‘Joe Public’ who looks bewildered to be called upon to help with the trick, or the heckler who appears at first glance to dislike the comedian, feeding the comedian more to make material from – seemingly ad lib.
Within an online community forum, especially those used to find support from others going through something difficult – there are “Super Users”. These aren’t just ordinary users who are reading threads, they’re the ones offering help, advice, and sending people links to give them more information. At times, they’re also the same people who are standing up to defend the brand itself when another user has had a bad experience. A user in a forum group such as this is far more likely to share a bad experience with their peers than they would be to share it with the company or brand. It’s with good cause too, because most people don’t expect to get an answer from the ‘big brand’ but they know that their peers will be quick to offer help and to be the expert.
Social Media – The Engine
Social media is the engine across all channels, to INCLUDE Reddit and other giant forums, as well as brand specific forums such as the South Beach Diet group, or the groups dedicated to helping parents of autistic children, or even adults needing support for the recent death of a loved one. Running the gamut between dieting and exercise support to bereavement groups, these forums are ripe for marketers to stand in and just listen. The key is to find which engine is yours.
It wouldn’t make much sense for a marketer selling digital products to try and find leads from a weight loss group, but – that changes if those digital products are PDF books or downloads for a weight loss course or program. A marketer could even help the people who are mourning the loss of a loved one, by offering them a special price on a self-help book which can help them change the perspective on death to make it more acceptable, and a source of happy memories instead of sad ones.
Nobody wants to be the ‘slimy salesman’ who are taking advantage of the people in a forum who are there for support, so don’t push things on people in forums. Realizing how this sounds, it’ll soon make sense. You want to position yourself as first, a user – then the Super User, offering advice and support to the members of the group.
To earn trust, a marketer needs to give value and genuine advice free of ulterior motive to the members. This advice cannot be imaginary or created in the mind of the marketer either unless that marketer is famous or holds a doctorate degree – nobody can set themselves up as an expert. Calling oneself an expert is the height of pretentiousness.
How does one get sales then from this? It happens eventually, and a good marketer will know when their moment comes. It should not come as overly self-promotional and should ring true. If you’re not 100% behind what you’re selling, then you shouldn’t be selling it at all. If you KNOW that your product or service only survives by taking advantage of people’s ignorance or naivete then you’re hawking the wrong product, and your future in marketing may be short and ugly.