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How Virtual Volunteer Communities Can Help Your Business

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Business Networking Virtual Volunteer

It might seem like an extravagant claim to say that being involved with virtual volunteer communities can actually help you and your business and that it can be an excellent networking tool.

Apart from anything else, you might wonder just what a virtual volunteer community is, exactly. Let’s say you have significant experience in something, perhaps in using a particular kind of software. Being available online, as a volunteer, to advise others who might be having problems using that software, makes you a “virtual volunteer,” and the place where you volunteer – through a website or a forum, for instance – is the community.

Obviously, you don’t have to be a software expert. It can be almost anything. But if the community is online in some way and you give your time freely, without remuneration for your expertise, then you’re part of a virtual volunteer community.

What You Can Do

Giving your time is a big part of the equation, but far more important is your expertise in a particular field. That’s what makes you stand out, and what you bring to all this – the knowledge that can take years to acquire. If you can help people, all well and good, and it’s fine to do so. But in return, the one thing you should insist on is that your name and company be given each time – for example “John Jones works for XYZ Company in London and is an expert on the XYZ super software package.” It is, after all, simply done, but in the long run can be excellent for you.

That not only establishes your credentials, but also acts as an ad for you, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. You might give your time and knowledge from the goodness of your heart, but if it allows people to think of you as the expert, the guru, then they’ll also come to your professionally, which makes for an excellent by-product.

If you know your subject very well – and you really should, since this isn’t an area where bluffing is going to work – then people will be coming to you with the difficult questions that have bamboozled even the tech support people. Give them workable answers and they’ll understand just how good you are.

The Effect

If people have someone they can turn to who really knows a product or service, it gives them far more confidence in buying from that person. A couple of hours each week can translate into extra sales. Someone might say to a friend, “You use XYZ software, don’t you? I’ve been having trouble with such-and-such a thing in there. Any ideas?” “Try John Jones. We had a problem and he fixed it in no time.”

Fix that problem and the chances are that you have a customer. It becomes both word of mouth and referral; the online effect can be viral as recommendations grow and in the long run that can only help you, for sales and also your stature associated with the product or service.

By itself, it won’t fill your sales quota. But it will increase your percentages, and you will build last, effective business relationships that stand you in good stead for the future.

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