Sep 182015
 

forums

Previously we looked at “What is a Forum?“.  We learned that forums serve a very broad range of purposes for companies, organizations and advocacy groups.  If you are still undecided whether a forum is right for you, let’s take a look at some of the most common types of forums and perhaps one of these usages might fit with what you’re trying to accomplish with your website.

Service, Support, FAQ and Knowledge Base Forums

Does your business have a customer support department?  Do you want to offer your customers any self-service capabilities so they can get service and support answers from your website?  Does your customer service or help desk keep answering the same questions over and over again?  Do you have a lot of information about your products and services that you want to share with your customers (product specifications, how-to guides, service documentation, etc.)?

If you have answered YES to one or more of these questions then you will certainly benefit from having a forum on your website that can provide visitors to your site with service, support, FAQ or to information in your knowledge base.  For the most part, these types of forums have a lot of static data that gets added to over time by your customer service and support staff (such as the Support, FAQ and Knowledge Base forums).

For the other types forums, such as the Service Forum and perhaps even the Support forum, you might give visitors the ability to join the forum so they can ask questions or contribute their experience & knowledge so that others (including your organisation) can benefit.

Some examples of the top technical support sites and forums can be found here.

Community Forums

If your organisation has a social mission or even if it is a business, but you want to build a ‘community’ of persons that want to share and exchange information then perhaps a Community forum might be worthwhile.  For example, there are community forums for groups such as Microsoft Community, Linux enthusiasts, vintage motor collectors, teddy bear collectors, etc.

Maybe your company sells solar or energy products then you might want to start a community forum for people (including current and potential customers) to discuss things like climate change, advances in solar energy, etc. such as what the Northern Arizona Wind & Sun Online Store has done.

Other examples are photographer forums, bird watcher forums, etc.

Advocacy and Information

Advocacy groups (political activists and parties, UN groups, privacy protection, etc) are great users of forums to help spread their message and promote their cause.  Health groups are also big users of forums – see the MedHelp forum and Multiple Sclerosis World as examples.

Companies that Provide Forum Services

If you are looking for companies that can help you set-up and run a forum, the Top Ten Forum Service Companies are examples of companies that provide the best forum services that would be appropriate for large enterprises.  Much simpler (and more economical) forum services can be provided by speaking with a local web developer or with Rapidpage.ca.

written by RapidPage

Sep 172015
 

Forum

I have been in the IT (Information Technology) business for more years than I care to remember, and over the years I have seen ‘new’ technology or services appear that, in a number of cases, is a rework of an old idea.  Forums are one such example.  In the 70’s there were BBSs such as CompuServe and Prodigy (and later AOL came along) that had abilities for users to get together and share ideas as a group about a wide variety of topics by ‘posting’ messages on a bulletin or message board. These forums were sometimes called RoundTables in their day (click here to see more history of social media) or bulletin boards or message boards.

The Internet and the World Wide Web (click here to see the differences between the Internet and the World Wide Web) provided the scope (the network) and the tools (via the Web & a browser) to broaden how we could interact with one another and, as a consequence, the old tools we used for sharing and having debates and discussions, also had to evolve – and thus we now have a whole new breed of forums that have sprouted up.

The most common type of forums are probably “support forums” that companies set up so that their customer support staff can provide a place for questions and answers (also known as FAQ’s or Frequently Asked Questions) for customers.  The biggest users of support forums are companies like Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and IBM to name a few.

Other types of forums include those for “special interest groups”, “advocacy groups ” and “community-based groups”.  The International Whale Protaction Organization (IWPO), for example, have a number of forums (click here to see the IWPO Forum) that allow members to talk about a broad range of topics of interest that relate to the cause and mission of IWPO and it’s members.

Travel businesses have forums so that travelers can share their experiences from their trips – an example would be the Tripadvisor Toronto Travel Forum.  Political parties have forums, foodies have forums (see Beer Guide for Toronto, Ontario, Ottawa Foodies Forums, etc), expectant mothers have forums and even weight watchers® have forums (they call their community sharing services, groups and message boards).

I hope that this gives you a brief glimpse into better understanding what a forum is?  In a future blog we will talk about how a forum might benefit your business.

written by RapidPage