It has always been human nature for us to converse, listen and discuss. Our daily lives have always been filled with discussions, discussions, and discussions...
And as technology advances, these discussions now take place online... in the form of online forums.
So, what are online forums?
Online forums are popular platforms for people to get together and discuss. It's always nice to have a place where you can interact... and talk about anything. I mean everything under the sun.
That's probably the reason why participating in forums became a great way of engaging and getting useful information.
No wonder, a lot of business owners use online forum marketing to promote their businesses.
That's why in this blog, I will cover all things related to online forums. Such as:
- What are business online forums, online customer forums?
- The benefits of online forums
And how you can use online forums for your online business...
Now, lemme start by first talking about...
The Two Types of Online Forums
1. Business Online Forums
These forums are online communities for seasoned and new business owners.
Forums like these provide a great platform... It's where business owners share ideas and experiences.
You can talk about starting and growing your business... the pain points of having a business like yours.
And even solutions to business challenges.
It's a place where you may share and compare notes. And it's definitely a place to learn new business strategies for free. How great, right? 🙂
Now, I'd like to share the top business online forums on my list...
It's the best platform to discuss business. This is where you can find the best tools for your business, Shopify apps, and themes. Or to learn more about ecommerce marketing, and a lot more.
It's a perfect place for Shopify store owners, partners, and even app developers. The best part- It’s also multilingual. They offer 8 different languages: English, Dutch, Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese German, and Italian.
This is an online community for entrepreneurs devoted to helping one another come up with the best solutions to business challenges.
It's a good place for forum members to ask questions, find information, and share your own experiences. Reddit is a great source for real-world experiences. And anyone can start a thread about any topic.
This forum values honesty so much that you can find people who are willing to help.
Forum users can really benefit from this platform.
Startups.com provides small business owners with a forum to share business challenges and get help from each other.
There is an interesting way in which the site grows communities. They form groups of 8 founders with common goals. And then they coordinate monthly meetings via video calls. There's no time wasted because they are structured meetings so all interesting topics are covered.
It offers information on a wide range of topics related to business... from business challenges to ways to relax after a hard day. Truly informative, at the same time, helpful to the online community of business owners.
Quora is mostly a place for people to ask and answer questions. What makes Quora so great is that users can upvote answers that they feel are the best. Also, they can provide valuable information for any business.
With these, you can start incorporating forum marketing with your business efforts.
The second type of forum is...
2. Online Customer Forums
These are online forums built for customers.
You see, when customers need support, they usually turn to your website... or your social media channels. And yes, your website and social channels may provide answers to visitors' queries.
I got you. But...
When you repeatedly answer questions on the same subject matter... it can drain your resources.
This is where forums come in handy. Your forum will enable you to address all the queries in a single thread or conversation.
Customer online forums can lessen the customer support team's workload. When customers need assistance, they can turn to forums... instead of contacting your support team.
A good example of this is Apple Support Communities. This is the place where Apple can interact with its customers. And they also allow forum users to post questions and concerns about their products.
They engage customers to learn something about their products. And they get to know customers' feedback too. As a result, customer engagements turn into worthwhile discussions. Plus, drive traffic to their website.
There is no doubt that Apple excels in this area. They make sure the process is simple and streamlined... which creates a solid customer base.
And this is how customer conversations produce valuable audience insights.
I'll have more to say about this in the next few minutes...
But let me first tackle...
The Benefits of Online Forum
A Sense of Community is Formed
Online forums provide an avenue for your customers to connect. This is where people feel a sense of belongingness... where they can interact freely in a safe environment.
If you haven't already, you can try to use business online forums on your website. So, you can encourage customers to create a sense of community... an active community where members are kept informed and nurtured.
Welcome Feedback and Suggestions
We call this an online feedback forum. In most cases, conversations here revolve around products, services, or company processes. It allows users to give feedback, share ideas, initiate discussions, post feature requests, and report issues.
This is where you can talk to your customers about their experiences of doing business with you. It's a great way to improve your business and create engagement with customers. This is where feedback and positive criticism are encouraged. But judgment... sorry, it's discouraged.
Getting Questions Answered Is Easy
Your customers feel that an online forum on your website offers them a safe space. They are free to air their opinions and concerns. You allow them to be transparent.
When an issue occurs, they are more likely to contact you via your online forum. They can easily reach you rather than filing a complaint. Or ranting on social media.
As a result, you will be able to deliver the best possible customer service experience.
Customers Feel Valued and Appreciated
It is always good to be heard and listened to. Make sure your customers know how much you appreciate their opinions.
Online forums are a great way to gain customer loyalty. You will then find out, your customers don't just like your products...
They also enjoy being part of your online community!
As a result, if another business would offer them what you offer, they would be less inclined to switch. Since they are glued to your community. That goes to show you have formed a strong tie with them.
The next benefit is...
Provides Support System
You can allow your customers to share their insights and opinions. And they can share valuable experiences and lessons learned.
They can help one another through your online forum. And it can boost their confidence in a great way.
Because, as humans, we all like to help and receive help.
Truly, a wonderful thing.
The next one is vital...
You Can Show That You Are An Expert
With forums, you can showcase your expertise in your industry. Just allow your audience to ask questions.
And if you give good answers and share valuable insights, you will earn likes and votes.
Sounds good, right?
Imagine, anyone who interacts with you will see this on your profile. This will give the impression that you're active and trustworthy.
As a result, they will regard you as an authority in your field. And I'm sure you'll like that!
You Can Turn Questions Into Relevant Content
When you see that they are all asking the same questions, you can use these as market research...
You can use your blog posts and other content to answer their questions.
Another good advantage...
You Can Drive Traffic
Using forums to increase traffic to your website is a great idea.
Send your reply or comments along with a relevant link. But make sure it supports your answer, and the link should direct them to quality content.
You Can Network With Potential Customers
You may not be aware... but this is an opportunity for you to get in touch with people who look like your ideal customers. You never know... but you might already be interacting with one.
Now you know the benefits... but you won't get all those benefits by simply adding a forum to your website.
Your forum has to be built into an engaging community with real value for its forum members.
Lemme give you the works...
5 Best Ways to Use Online Forums To Grow Your Business
1. Develop a Forum Strategy
Be clear about what you want an online forum to achieve before setting it up. And think about what you intend to achieve with it.
By having a clear vision and goals, you'll be able to create a plan to help you reach those goals.
Creating an online forum takes time. So, think through what tactics you'll use to attract members and keep them around.
At first, it may be insignificant, especially if your forum is small. But as it grows, you will be faced with a lot of challenges. Be ready to face them.
You don't have to do those problems alone. That's why you need to learn to delegate tasks to your forum admin.
So, you have to decide who will manage and moderate the community.
2. Ensure That Your Forum Has Clear Guidelines
Take a moment to think about what issues, conversations, or language you don't want to see in your forum.
You may find ideas in the forums you're already involved with. Or, forums that are similar to the one you're creating.
To help you consider some good community rules, here are some ideas:
- Spamming or self-promotion is not allowed.
- Discussing illegal activities is prohibited.
- Sexist, racist or racial slurs are not tolerated.
Make sure you know how you will handle people who violate the rules.
- How many warnings will they get before they are banned?
- What will you do with offensive posts and comments?
Always remember, a set of guidelines is only useful if they are implemented.
3. Start The Discussion And Plan The Topics
I know, it's not easy for people to start a discussion, especially for new users. So, make sure you initiate the conversation yourself.
Perhaps, you can come up with questions to get people talking.
This is a good practice when your forum is just starting. And, it may be something you should continue to do moving forward... a very useful way to keep engagement high.
4. Organize Events and Hold Live Discussions
Organizing regular events within the community is also a great way to keep engagement high.
A forum is an open discussion... and it can last for hours or even days whenever members have the time to join.
But you can add value by scheduling conversations in real-time.
It is a great way to keep community members feeling energized. It motivates them to show up and spend time with other members at specific times.
Last, but not least...
5. It's a No-No to Post Marketing Stuff Right Away
It's okay to answer questions about your products or services. That is, in a helpful manner that's not purely promotional.
I'm sure you don't want to appear pushy. Because nobody wants hard sales tactics.
Just let the discussion flow naturally. And who knows?
This could even lead to an opportunity for you to become an expert... known and trusted by many. Or might even open up more business opportunities. 🙂
So that's all for today...
Start Creating Online Forums And Grow Your Online Reach!
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