[Community] The Future of Online Forums

Posted by Alok Chowdhury on Jun 21, 2017 8:00:21 AM

3 minute read

Technically speaking, a forum is defined as “an assembly, meeting place, etc., for the discussion of questions of public interest.” Certainly, there’s no argument that the internet is THE place to talk and ask questions about any topic of interest you might dream up. 

But in reality, a forum is so much more than that. It’s a community, a school of learning. It can be a warm and welcoming family, or a cruel and exclusive club.

Whatever the experience is for you, it’s undeniable that, as the Internet grows and changes around us, internet users are still harkening back to mankind’s initial jaunt into the world of forums To make it in the forum community means that you must be stronger than ever, and likewise evolve to keep up with the times.

So where do we go from here? The future of internet forums is a hot topic debate amongst the internet’s finest minds. They’re asking themselves: are forums on their way out, like so many other internet trends; or are they the way of the future? Shouldn’t you be asking yourself the same question?

Relatable, Real-World Content

It seems almost counterintuitive to revisit technology developed decades ago, but today people are all about streamlining content. Most of the time, doing a quick internet search of a few key words and having the answer at your fingertips is all that people desire. That’s exactly what the forums of the past gave us, and that’s exactly why we’re turning back to them today. Simplicity.

Does a question have you stumped? There’s no better way to find the answer than to locate a forum about that specific topic. From cooking to tech-help, plumbing to customer service, there’s a forum for practically anything you can imagine. And within those forums are communities of people who are either eager to help you out, or have already encountered that question themselves and have lined out step-by-step instructions on how to go about resolving your issues.

We’ve discussed this type of self-service support in the past, and it’s becoming increasingly relied upon by brands of all sizes. Take it from the e commerce logistics giant, ShipStation, that has benefitted greatly from this type of use, reducing the strain on their ticketing system while creating a bustling community:

“Our clients don’t have to go through our ticketing system, they can help each other out, especially the easy or opinion questions like ‘What kind of label printers do you use?’, which is actually one of our most popular threads right now!"  Erika Jarvi, Social Media and Content Manager, ShipStation, mentions.

Of course, it isn’t just about the business’ bottom line. It’s about giving your customers what they want. A whopping 67% of consumers say they’d rather use this type of self-service forum support rather than contact a company directly via phone or email. Wouldn’t you?

Public or Private?

Social media may have a monopoly on online communities, but more and more brands and organizations are turning to forum software for their own internal usage.

Organizational, internal communities have been used by companies such as Royal Caribbean to coordinate multiple departments, improve communication and streamline other areas of their business.

Clothing giant Patagonia has also created a private forum for employees and brand ambassadors to communicate with their product testers in the field. According to field testing leader, Walker Ferguson, “Everyone from advanced product development to sales benefit from the feedback gathered. It gives everyone the ability to stand behind what they are making and selling.”

The Future looks Bright

Like all things on the internet, forums have undergone both a revolution and an evolution. As the global push towards mobile devices continues, forum platforms have also made changes to deliver a truly great mobile experience.

Some workflow and efficiency apps have tried to incorporate a forum-like atmosphere to their platforms. But while there are many things to love about such platforms, it’s important to know that collaboration software ultimately fails as a community tool. That’s just not what it was made to do.

Let there be no doubt: internet forums will continue to evolve. More brands are building internal communities to bring an organized, streamlined approach to their business. Likewise, external communities are popping up everywhere to connect consumers with the brands they love.

In many ways, it’s simply a matter of using the right tool for the right job. When it comes to building a community, whether of employees or fans and followers, internet forums are still the best tool to have.

Topics: Community, Marketing, News

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