It’s easy for community forums to become a victim of their own success. Businesses want customers and leads to interact as much as possible. But the open and collaborative characteristics that make forums such excellent customer support channels can quickly become unmanageable. This is why proper forum curation is so important.
One of the biggest issues facing a growing business as more people make regular use its forums is how to manage topics and discussions.
Customers open these ‘threads’ because they have questions or observations which tend to be of interest to many in the community. Over time, a thread may disappear from the front page — but the topic it addressed is only lying dormant. Eventually, a new customer will come along with the same question or discussion topic.
Duplicate threads are fraught with pitfalls because community forum managers must balance the optics and implications of bumping the old one or allowing the new one to continue. Having a plan to handle them is important, but what does a plan look like? Every business needs to make its own determination.
Below, we look at the pros and cons of both sides of the argument.
1. Why Community Forum Managers Should Bump Old Topics and Threads
Bumping Threads Creates a Better UX
Community forums are searchable by topic so having duplicate threads for a single topic — instead of bumping old ones — results in a poor UX. For starters, it creates confusion because people will not be sure which of the two threads is the ‘correct’ one. By extension, it makes them feel like they need to take more steps to be sure they received all the relevant information. Again, poor UX. Having everything in one place by bumping old threads is the simplest option.
Access to Great Answers From Currently Inactive Members
An excellent response to a currently relevant question is an asset to the community at all times. If an old thread has great information that’s still useful, the community will benefit from it. Bumping an old thread with this sort of insight is much better than forcing the community to reinvent the wheel.
Legitimacy Through Longevity
Bumping old threads from months or even years ago demonstrates the longstanding nature of a brand. This shows a brand has deep experience in what they do and are still providing help for customers. By extension, this longevity gives existing and potential customers confidence in a businesses’ expertise and trust over time.
2. Why Community Forum Managers Should NOT Bump Old Topics and Threads
Customers come to community forums for help solving a problem. The information in old threads may now be obsolete. There may have been a product update, a terms of service change or myriad situational changes that make old information irrelevant, if not harmful.
Bumping old threads risks giving customers incorrect information that might harm them.
A Stagnant-Looking Community
Customers will often look at the date a thread was open and make a snap decision about its relevance. True or not, having forums filled with threads that were started weeks, months or years ago presents the image of an inactive forum.
An offshoot of this is the idea that community managers should reward community members for posting by allowing their threads to take hold. Closing too many ‘duplicate’ threads in favor of older topics disincentives people from cultivating an active forum culture.
The effectiveness of community forums depends on their being properly curated. Constantly checking new threads to ensure they aren’t redundant or merging them with old ones is time-consuming. It also risks things falling through the cracks, resulting in inconsistent moderation. If customers notice that some old topics are being bumped while others aren’t, the optics of a perceived bias or lack of care in curation can harm the UX.
Every Brand Is Unique
The decision to bump or not bump forum threads is industry and business dependent. Industries with tech-savvy audiences and products undergoing constant change may find that bumping threads isn’t worth the potential for old information to disrupt the UX. Other industries may find that a gaggle of redundant threads about a single topic creates a poor UX for their community.
Ultimately, there is no correct answer. It’s up to the community forum manager to evaluate their individual situation and decide what the best course of action is for them..