Community forum were the dominant online venue for consumer-to-consumer interaction before the rise of social media. Even though social media has taken over, millions of individuals are still using internet forums (like Reddit) to talk to other consumers and share opinions on a wide range of goods and services.
Forums are a great way for businesses to interact with their consumers and address any concerns they may have about a product or service. Customers who have similar issues, concerns, and interests may communicate with one other in an open and honest environment.
In this piece, we’ll discuss the steps you should take to launch your own company’s forum online. Then, we’ll go through some guidelines for making the most of this avenue for interacting with customers.
1. Find a suitable location for your forum
Your initial move should be to choose on a location for your forum. A page at the end of a URL, such as “example.com/forums,” qualifies. It might also be at the beginning of the URL, such as forums.example.com. Your existing web server and the structure you’ve created for your site should factor into your decision.
2. Decide on a forum software to use
After selecting a domain name, picking a forum software comes next. Use the software to construct the pages of your forum and organise the material in a way that suits your needs. Picking the correct software that fits well with your site’s aesthetic and functionality is crucial. When it comes to the default features and the variety of accessible extensions and skins, XenForo is unrivalled among forum software. When you need help, you can count on fantastic support.
3. Establish a systematised forum structure
Think about the structure of your site before you start making pages. Your forum’s navigation features should help its visitors locate what they’re searching for quickly and easily.
The first step is to decide what kinds of discussions you’d want to facilitate. These might be product or service-specific, or they can be more broad, covering ground such as consumer feedback and potential solutions. In addition to categories, you should have a search bar so that users can quickly get the information they need without having to go around your site. This is a good method to organise your forum so that visitors can easily locate the topics that interest them.
In the case of JoyFreak, a forum for gaming, the left navigation clearly delineates the many sections and subforums available. Even if you don’t know what you want to talk about, you may browse the topics that are currently being discussed.
You can see that JoyFreak has a “New posts” section with a list of new topics to choose from. Users may also filter the threads to narrow down their results by clicking this button in the forums page. In addition to helpful threads, articles, and content, JoyFreak forum is also quite easy to navigate.
No matter how you decide to structure your forum page’s content, it must include the following features:
- Search functionality
- Navigation menu
- Log in and registration
- Topics that are widely discussed in a certain community
- A customisable widget system
4. Create a theme for your forum
The forum’s design should be consistent with the rest of your site. If you don’t want your clients to be confused when they get on a new page, it has to have the same visual identity as the rest of your site.
The developers of any forum software community often provide a set of free themes that may be customised to fit a wide variety of different types of websites. We recommend this free PurpleFreak theme that’s available for the XenForo software.
5. Establish guidelines for forum participants
Each user who visits your forum should feel like they can make a meaningful contribution to the conversations taking place there. To achieve this goal, we must all agree to follow certain ground rules designed to provide a positive, educational environment. Following these guidelines can help keep conversations on track and make sure everyone feels welcome to share their thoughts.
As a starting point, consider the following rules:
- Maintain respect for one another even in the face of disagreement.
- No hateful or sexist remarks.
- You may not spam or promote your content.
- Do not post links to other businesses or websites.
- Nothing that wouldn’t be appropriate for work.
The standards established by our community guidelines are a good model for other communities to follow.
You can view our rules and guidelines, such as how to have positive, open discussion. These guidelines serve as an excellent foundation.
Our forum also has a complaint and reporting mechanism to let users know what to do if they see a violation of the code of conduct.
6. Use engaging conversation starters
On order to get people talking in your forum, you need create a few generic subjects first. When your forum is just being started off, this is a great way to introduce yourself to new members. After all, people are more likely to remark on an article than create their own content.
7. Put the forum up on your website
It is time to make your forum public. Launch your site and link the forum’s landing page to your main site. When users are looking for your brand, your forum should be one of the first things they see.
8. Advertise to your target market
Now that you know how to set up a forum, the next step is to foster an engaged user base. Getting people to talk to one other is easier said than done, much like starting a conversation at a tense middle school dance.
Begin by promoting to your most dedicated clientele. These individuals have a true passion for your product or service and will contribute actively to your forum. The more you engage them in discussion, the more probable it is that more guests will join in.
You may approach them with advertisements on social media or by emailing them directly. In addition, you may use search engine optimization to spread the word about your group. Create a marketing campaign for your forum by simply expanding upon the methods you already use to promote your business.
9. Use banners or badges to boost participation
Of course, enthusiasm is difficult to stimulate. Avoid forcing it, or else the dialogue will come out as forced. Offer rewards as a way to boost participation.
Badges are one kind of motivation that may be offered. Acknowledge frequent contributors to your forum by displaying their badges for everyone to see. Your most engaged users will develop a feeling of community pride by becoming “frequent contributors.”
10. Tend to client concerns and moderate user comments
Forums are dynamic online communities that need your participation to succeed after they are established. To get the most out of the forum as a constant supply of client feedback and debate starters, your company should take the lead.
Customer support agents should be responsible for moderating your community and fielding questions from users. They are responsible for monitoring the forum to ensure that members are following the rules and responding to inquiries from consumers. This will not only assist maintain forum activity, but will also result in a pleasant support experience for your users.
11. Solicit comments from users
Gathering user opinions is crucial as your forum expands. Inquire as to their satisfaction with the service and suggestions for enhancing their experience. Users will remain interested in your forum’s topics and interface if you follow this advice.
Starting a new topic in your forum is an excellent method to achieve this. You may share the survey’s URL in that discussion thread. On the other hand, you might send out an NPS survey or customer satisfaction survey through email to everyone in the community to get their input on the service you provide.
Forum participation and client feedback collection are two excellent benefits of community-based online discussion spaces. Customers that participate in your community will be more loyal and provide you with innovative suggestions.