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