This series focused on forums has really begun to shape up.
First we took a look at the value forums had to offer (along with a few suggestions on which ones to join). Then we went into what it takes to create great threads and engage forum users with content and discussions.
Now we’re going deeper by looking at how we can forge relationships.
Forums need a different approach to relationship building – it’s not exactly like other social media sites where a lot of people use their real names and have a ton of other private information for you to dig through. There’s a certain challenge you’ll find because so few people fill out their available information when signing up to a forum but we can still get through to them, so …
Building relationships (the forum way)
Since forums may be somewhat different from what you normally use I wanted to provide a few tasks that will naturally lead to building relationships.
Task #1: Understanding the habits
Your first task should really be about trying to understand the habits of the community (as a whole) and individuals (you deem the ones that could make for a great relationship). Their habits will show you what type of content they prefer, their tone and authority on the topic, and ultimately reveal what they’re trying to do with their work (intentions).
A person, for example, that posts each day with a short thread listing various techniques they’re using on their site may not actually be as good of a contender as someone who does so just once a month but with a lot more detail. This is because you can tell that they’re actually spending time working on their projects rather than trying to appeal to the forum. It’s the people that are somewhat conservative that may be your best bet in building relationships.
However, don’t let the last statement dissuade you from contacting those that are highly active. These people are always good to be around because they bring a lot of energy.
In all – pay attention to what they post, when they post, and how they’re using the post for their gain. This will reveal the intentions the person has which can help you qualify a pursuit in a relationship.
Task #2: Deciphering the (limited) profile
The profile you are given on most forums are generally very limited in terms of information. Outside of writing a small blurb about yourself, placing a few links, and adding a bit of private information it’s infinitely sparser than what you can on other social networks like Facebook.
This, obviously, poses a hurdle when you want to know someone.
The good thing is that at least you are given two bits of information that can help:
- The byline
- The profile link
Sometimes the byline won’t be for their website (if they’re promoting) but chances are that it is so you can click through that link, land on their site, look at the about me page, and use that as a starting point to contact the individual.
The same is done if they list their personal site on their forum profile.
This action is the same as if you landed on a new site for the first time. You dig around, find out what they’re about, and then get in touch (maybe not right away but at least you know the info).
The main thing you’ll probably want to do with this information is to simply get to know the person (research) so that when they’re active on the forum you can say the right things to catch their attention and open that chance opportunity that you’ll begin messaging one another.
Task #3: Creating rapport
With that research out of the way you should now have the information needed to talk and create a rapport with these individuals. The longer you can discuss a topic the greater chances you’ll have at connecting on some level or another.
What you may want to do is:
- Find the RSS feeds for their posts so you can see when they’re participating
- Try to make an effort to always comment on what they’re talking about in a post
- Quote them and then expand on the topic (sort of a small thumbs up/boost to the ego)
Depending on the forum you may also be able to create this rapport on their profile page which allows for comments. Here it would be worth your while to triumph the individual – stating what you like about them – so you catch their attention and gain an audience. Once they see you share similar beliefs, skills, or competitiveness in the market it’s likely they’ll start conversing through the forum or on external channels like email or Facebook/Twitter.
Task #4: Just ask
The last thing you can do is the easiest which is just asking if they’d like to talk one-on-one rather than going through the forum. This works because it cuts to the chase. If you’re doing it like a cold call you can expect everyone to respond which is why you want to warm up with the other tasks/actions but generally you’ll get to them.
And it’s with these five tasks you should be able to reach out to those you deem authoritative on the forum. Certain individuals may be harder to capture their attention but keep at it.
The relationship building process is almost the same as what you’d do with other social sites or by getting in touch with site owners through email but with a small twist in that there isn’t always a good deal of information and a lot of people don’t want to leave the proximity of the forum (it’s their home).
But, if you do enough of your research on the person, really get to know their posting habits and interests, and put in the time to add value to their work then you’re going to build some awesome connections on the forums you use.
These relationships can be quite powerful in the business sense. The two of you can work together to promote big projects, start communities, and come together in business. The forum may have been where the two of you have met but it’s only the beginning of the possibilities.