“I’d never used a forum before in my life. I didn’t really know what one was,” says Tim Jones, perhaps best known by his alter ego TheSoupDragon (TSD). If you’ve ever visited the Vodafone eForum, that’s a moniker you’ll probably recognise; since joining in 2010 he’s risen to the ranks of Community Expert, holding over 2,428 virtual ‘kudos points’ over 4,000 posts, and qualifying for such perks as the Vodafone Device Loan Programme. So how do you go from forum virgin to the king of the hill? That’s exactly what we wanted to find out.
The lay of the land
“It was October 2010,” says Tim, reminiscing about his first foray into the addictive world of forums. So what was it that lured him in to the Vodafone eForum? “Same as most people, really,” he explains. “I had a problem with the phone I had at the time, which was a Samsung Galaxy S. “I can’t remember what the problem was, but I remember being not very happy about it.
“I was doing lots of Google searches to try and find out how to resolve the problem, and that’s how I found the forum. I landed there and got a lot of help from the community. There weren’t really Community Experts on the forum then, but it was a long-standing member that helped me with my problem.
“I spent a couple of days reading through and finding out what the lay of the land was, really. I discovered the fix for my problem and I noticed that someone else had posted a question that I knew the answer to. I answered it, they said ‘thanks very much’ and then it just progressed from there.
“That’s how the forum works.” adds Tim. “You get drawn in!” It also helps that there’s a big enough community to ensure you won’t be waiting weeks for a response. In Tim’s experience, “replies can be almost instantaneous. As soon as someone responds to a thread, you get an email notification. And that can often be a matter of minutes. You can have almost a realtime conversation with people.”
The student becomes the master
So Tim was in, and fast became an active member of the community. “It’s nice to be appreciated,” he says. “It means a lot when someone clicks on your post and gives you kudos (the eForum’s virtual pat-on-the-back). It says they appreciate that someone’s taken time out of their day to fix a problem. People like to feel appreciated; I think that’s a big part of forums.”
“There’s a lot of people prepared to give up their time and help other people for free.”
But that mutual appreciation is just one of the factors why it’s become a big part of Tim’s life. “You get a lot of personal satisfaction from helping people,” Tim explains, “but I go there a lot to find out what other people know, too. It’s a good way of finding out things from people who actually own the phone.
“Elsewhere, you can go online and you can search, but you don’t know if what you’ll find is an actual resolution to your problem. But on the eForum, if you can strike up a conversation with someone who’s holding the device in their hand and can come back to you with a definitive ‘yes, this will definitely sort out your problem’, that gives you a lot of confidence.” That combination of appreciation, learning, and confidence that you’re getting the right solution to the right problem is what’s seen Tim stick around and rise in rank, and it’s something he’s proud to do of his own accord.
“There’s a really good community base with a lot of knowledge and a lot of people prepared to give up their time and help other people for free. I tend to spend a couple of hours per evening. “You can end up spending a couple of hours in an evening helping one person. Or you spend hours reading through and learning. It becomes almost an obsession!”
TSD’s top tips
Tempted to wade into the eForum? If you’ve got a problem you think the community can help you with, Tim’s got some instructions to make your experience as smooth as possible, adding that “these five points will greatly help us to help you…”
2. Ask your question in the Board that covers your device
3. Give as much detail about your phone as possible:
- Phone Model, with model number if possible
- Firmware version
- Contract or PAYG
- Purchased from Vodafone directly, or from a 3rd party Retailer
4. Describe the Fault/issue in as much detail as you can. Don’t worry about being technical.
5. Be polite and respect other members.