What is an online forum / discussion board?
An online discussion board (we’ll refer to it as a ‘forum’ from this point in) is a part of your website for discussion. Think of it as an online village square, where visitors can register for an account and discuss topics. Forums allow users to post ‘threads’, which are topics involving questions where other members can respond with posts, creating a discussion. Since the inception of the internet, forums have been popular ways of engaging people online. Websites such as Reddit are effectively forums with sub sections for every topic under the sun. There are many more niche forums specialising on topics across the web. You’ll often find one for car manufacturers or hobbies.
How can running an online forum / discussion board benefit me?
Forums are highly effective for creating an online community for general discussion or for help. Support communities are a great way to allow your customers to discuss their problems and help each other with solutions. You may even be able to leverage this as a way to offer official support for the problems they face. Engaging with your customers is what takes your online presence from basic to exceptional. It can offer insight into what customers think, how they use your product and gather valuable marketing insights. Think of the potential value this could provide your business: feedback on your product, areas to focus on, what customers hope to see next. This first-hand information could help you find direction and deliver to your customers exactly what they want.
Why would I prefer this to social media comments and groups?
Whilst you could create a company group on Facebook, there are some key drawbacks to this. Unlike on your own in-house forum you do not have control over your data on Facebook. Facebook can change, withdraw or force you to use new features at any time. Furthermore, they can remove and restrict discussion, topics, posts etc. according to their own rules and automatic algorithms which often remove content incorrectly. Social media is essential, but should only act to point your users to your website. Facebook will also promote other competitors in your area, particularly if they are paying more money in Facebook ads. The drawbacks discussed here apply to other social media networks too.
Your website’s online discussion forum gives you control over discussion surrounding your business. It’s important that you get the most from the running of you online community. That means not handing over your valuable data to social media companies.
What could my online forum / discussion board look like? (Try it!)
If you want to try an exact live demo of the Online Discussion Board / Online Forum feature – click here. This uses the same technology that I would be building for you on your website, if you decided to opt for this feature. This powerful WP Discussion Board plugin is maintained and designed by experts who package it up and make it easy to run going forward for you business.
How can I get this feature?
This feature is available on my Intermediate and Advanced Website packages. Read more about Packages by clicking here. You’ll also see the latest fixed pricing for my websites.
How much effort does it take to run?
Once setup, you can elect a member of staff to moderate or administrate the forum. You may only need to do this until it builds enough of a community where visitors elect to fulfil these duties. The ongoing cost is nil for this feature, as once it’s bought and setup on your website that’s it, it does not require any subscription to maintain from a third party. You will need to decide how to structure your forum, which we can work on together on your website. This means deciding which sections and some ground rules to list for users to follow. This can all be managed by you down the line. Think about whether your community will be aimed at help and support or any other purpose, which could help determine its layout.