There is an entire world of people that nearly nobody bothers with, and that’s the people who frequent support forums for specific reasons. People looking to lose weight frequent groups like Weight Watchers. Alcoholics in recovery? Alcoholics Anonymous. Where is YOUR niche hanging out?


The Magician

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.

Super Users

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.

The Salesman

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.

GDPR

With new laws in place like the GDPR marketers all over the world are being held to stricter standards. With the recent distrust of ALL social media, the public could do with a lot more honesty in marketing, and certainly transparency.
Read About GDPR

Be Honest

If joining a forum support group, or even one hosted on Facebook, be sure that everything said is honest, and comes from a good place. Remember that these people are on the page or site for a reason, and at the core of that reason is the need to have support. Don’t take advantage of their weaknesses, instead – help to build them up and make them stronger.

In doing so, the savvy marketer shows real care and compassion, and when it is time to leverage the sale against all that good advice, and the real desire to help – those members are far more likely to buy. But beware – while posting the sales page, or the landing page, or whatever it is that takes a person to a sales funnel – tell them who it belongs to. If it is yours, say so.

Marketers can name-drop to give the product or service more weight, but again – be careful not to overdo it or it becomes something known as ‘humblebragging’ which NOBODY likes.

Google It!

Google is easily the best place to search for these forums. Just type in the keywords associated with your niche and the word ‘forum’ or ‘support group’ and then tune in and listen. Really listening will give a marketer a feel for the pulse of the group and the chemistry of its members who were long established before the marketer ever got there. The worst thing to do is jump right in as the expert and make a pest of oneself.

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