Since the rise of social media, Internet forums have been relegated to basement and are now seen by many as the forgotten stepchild of the web.
They are basically the Egors of the internet.
However, during its time in solitude the internet forum got time to work out, and with platforms like Reddit and Quora it is now back and better than ever. Forums are now a treasure trove of information that can be immensely valuable to both online business owners and people who want to start an online business.
You just need to know how to use them.
If you are currently operating an online business, you should strongly consider taking another look in the basement.
Start "taking care" of Egor.
Build A Hardcore Customer Community
Due to their nerdy esoteric nature, Internet forums tend to attract the most hardcore brand supporters. These individuals are far more engaged than your typical social media follower and are an invaluable resource for “checking the temperature" of your most staunch product/brand supporters. Their passion leads them to be early adopters for new products/services and they will willingly serve as unpaid ambassadors for your brand.
Gain Insight on Current or New Products and Services
One of the main benefits of managing a customer message board (i.e., aka a forum) is that it gives you access to a goldmine information. Reading and responding to issues will illuminate ways in which your products and services can be improved to better suit the needs of your best customers.
Additionally, from time to time you will also stumble upon new products and services you can now offer. This is because forum participants will quite literally tell you what they want, as well as what price they are willing to pay for it. Nowhere else can you get this kind of information from a willing participant.
Free Customer Support
Forums are also a great way to get free customers support for your products and services. Forum participants love to help out other buyers, and will gladly solve issues and provide advice to other customers on the behalf of your company. In fact, in many cases they are in the best position to do so as they experience your product in a way that you and your team never will.
Help You Come up with Ideas for New Online Business
If you are willing to put on your rubber gloves and conduct a little spy work, you can actually forums to come up with ideas for entirely new businesses. Just as forums are treasure troves of information for the owners, they can also be the same for you.
Forums, if used correctly, can allow you to figure out the “gaps” in a particular service offering, allowing you to create a business dedicated to filling these gaps. The passionate individuals who partake in forums will not be shy about vocalizing their issues, and sometimes it is just not feasible for the company to provide a solution. This is where you can step in and create a brand-new service/product that directly addresses the issue vocalized by the forum participants.
The best thing is that once you developed the business you can then go back to that same forum and advertise it. This an extremely effective form of advertising as it is directed at curated group who are extremely likely to be interested in what you are providing.
How to Create and Manage your own Forums
When it comes to making use of these powerful tools, you basically have two options.
- Make use of pre-existing online forums like Reddit and Quora.
- Make your own dedicated customer forum.
Option 1 is good for those who do not have a website, or do not have the resources to have a dedicated customer forum created. Both Reddit and Quora are great platforms that I actually use on a weekly basis. I highly recommend them.
Setting up a forum on Reddit or Quora
On Reddit, you have the ability to create what is called a subreddit. This subreddit is your own dedicated micro community on the reddit platform and gives you most of the features you would need to manage a forum. On Quora the same concept applies with the difference being that their “forums” are called “spaces”.
Both of these platforms are great to be honest, however they have two notable downsides. Ads are displayed on every forum thread by the parent platform (i.e., Reddit and Quora) and you will not receive any of the revenue generated from these ads.
The second is that these platforms will be heavily promoting their other forums on your pages, meaning that you will have to compete for the attention of your members. This is the tradeoff you will have to make when using the free options.
Creating Your Own Forum
If you are currently operating an online business and have the resources to create your own dedicated customer forum, there are a few key advantages to taking this approach.
The first is that you will have ultimate control over the forum, being able to customize it to your particular needs, set your own rules, and not have to adhere to some of the restrictions enforced on you by Reddit and Quora.
The second is that your users will stay in your ecosystem, so you will not have to compete for attention with other potentially more interesting forums.
And then there is the icing on the cake.
If you so choose, you can also monetize your forum in the same way that platforms like Reddit and Quora do. Essentially, you will be getting all the benefits outlined earlier while simultaneously earning revenue.
Online forums are far from dead, they have just been re-branded
If you currently have an online business keep in mind that the layout, features and management style you apply to your forum is very important and will play a role in its effectiveness. This can be drastically different depending on your audience.
If would like to start fostering your own hardcore customer community, scroll down and get in touch with me.