What can you gain from becoming a bastion of the Vodafone eForum? Here, Community Expert JeffKin reveals that, despite the odd argument, the community's therapeutic qualities make it worth his time.
Like all of the Community Experts in the Vodafone eForum, Jeffery Kinn (AKA JeffKinn) first delved into the service when he had a problem with his phone. But what made him stay? And what does it take to keep your cool in an often tumultuous community? We’ve spoken to Jeff to find out…
“I became involved with the eForum when I purchased my first smartphone, which was a BlackBerry Storm, back in 2009,” Jeff explains. “I started looking at the forum to get some advice, and found that I enjoyed participating – both receiving information and passing some of that knowledge back to other people.”
From there, Jeff’s interest only grew and grew: “I was interested to read that Nabs says he spends about two hours a day on the forum,” he says. “I probably spend at least as much as that, if not more. But why? Well, Jeff’s in it to help him relax: “I find it therapeutic. It’s very satisfying,” he explains.
“The only reason for doing it is to help people,” says Jeff. “I’ve always been very good with technology and mobile phones. I’m interested in them personally, but because of the job I do, I’ve always been involved in sourcing and running mobile phone contracts. That means I’ve got a lot of knowledge on how networks like Vodafone work. So when someone comes to the eForum and asks things that seem simple to me but aren’t simple for them, it’s nice to be able to pass that knowledge on and provide a quick answer.”
The good, the bad and the angry
Of course, as with any forum, Vodafone’s online community can often find itself playing host to the odd row, or becoming a mouth-piece for frustrated customers…
“On the odd occasion, users can get a bit abusive and refuse to believe that we don’t work for Vodafone, and that we’re not secret spies!” says Jeff. “And you think sometimes, ‘why I do I need to come back here?’ There are plenty of places I can go online to get shouted at!”
It obviously helps to keep a cool head in those kinds of situations, but how does Jeff manage to do so when he’s so far ingrained in the forum’s day-to-day activity? “You have to handle it as professionally as you can, despite the fact that it’s not a job.”
“If one person does start to get insulted, then the others will jump in and support.”
Luckily, these incidents are pretty rare. But if things do get shirty, both the community managers at Vodafone and the other Community Experts are usually on hand to help calm things down. Jeff tells us there’s “no rivalry between the Community Experts at all.” In fact, more often than not, they’ve all got each other’s backs covered…
“I’ve never met any of them or spoken to them on the phone, but I think there’s a bit of a camaraderie there. If one person does start to get insulted, then the others will jump in and support.”
Not choosing sides
Wherever you go on the internet, forums have a habit of dividing opinion, and those opinions tend to be strong – almost tribal. “What I find is that people sometimes get very entrenched in separate camps,” says Jeff. “For example, there are people on the forum who will champion Apple products over all others, just as there are ardent Android fans. Sometimes those conversations can get pretty heated, because people feel passionately about this stuff!
“What I like to do is bring a balanced view to those discussions.”
“I don’t agree with it at all,” he insists. “What I like to do is bring a balanced view to those discussions.” A very commendable attitude, but Jeff believes that’s the only one that makes sense. “I’ve got an Android, my two children have got iPhones, my wife’s got a BlackBerry so we cover off almost the whole range.”
The benefit of that balance is that Jeff’s a dab hand at nearly every platform going, which only makes fixing other peoples’ problems easier. And that’s why he continues to return, even without any obvious gains. “Helping others,” Jeff adds, “is a reward in and of itself.”
If you can keep a level head amid the occasional tense discussion and are tempted to wade into the eForum yourself, Jeff’s got a couple of top tips:
“Be careful what you write, read more than you post, and – primarily – make sure that you’re there to help people and not tell them that they’re stupid. And,” he adds, “don’t be too forceful about anything. Whether we’re there officially or unofficially doesn’t matter; we’re providing a service.”
“I think Tim [TheSoupDragon] puts it best,” Jeff adds, wrapping up. “He says ‘don’t get involved in the rows, just go find somebody else who needs help and help them’. And I agree with that.
“At the end of the day, we don’t work for Vodafone, we’ve got no axe to grind; we’ve got nothing controversial to say one way or the other. And we can say the things that Vodafone can’t, which we do all the time.”
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