Community Forum: Do you Really Need One for Your Business?

Retaining customers is as difficult as creating new clients.  This is why most companies focus on customer experience.

Fact: According to research, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience (source)

A good customer experience can be the difference between a successful or a mediocre business. That is why companies focus on support to solve problems. Community forum is one of the tools where customers can ask questions and look for solutions.

But often, communities become a hassle instead of a help. Let us explain in detail for your ease.

What is a Community Forum?

A community forum is where customers can interact with others, ask a query and create a place of common interest.

You can create your organization’s blog and a community forum, but think about your goal first and decide what type of community forum you need.

  1. Internal Community Forum

    The internal community forum is for members only. This is for internal use of your organization, where employees can interact with each other, look for answers, create technical topics, and show their work.

    Internal forums are most beneficial when multiple teams are working on the same project or if teams are in the same organization. These forums build bonds between employees and help avoid wastage of time.

  2. External Community Forum

    An external community forum is where anyone can access your forum, including your employees and customers, and discuss any topic they want to.  These forums are useful to the organization and their customers, as customers can inquire:

    ●  When is the new release coming?

    ●  How to solve this issue?

    ●  Share their feedback on the product.

    ●  Look for answers

    On the other hand, the company can:

    ●  Post help articles

    ●  See what are the common issues and solve them.

    ●  Get genuine user opinion.

    ●  Post solutions to most common problems

    ●  Engage community members in a healthy way

3 Examples of Great Community Forums: What are Common Elements in them?

  1. OnePlus

    Oneplus community is a great example of an external community forum. OnePlus is a mobile company famous for adding functionalities based on community feedback. Their online forum has thousands of registered community users, who talk about related subjects, look for problems and their solutions, and support each other, all in one place.

    OnePlus also finds it useful and communicates with the members freely. They add discussion boards, ask users interest in the latest features and get information from the participants about their next feature. They really listen to the community and engage with them; that is why OnePlus has a huge fanbase who believe their opinion matters.

  2. Realself

    Realself is an online community for cosmetic procedures and discussing cosmetic surgeons. Although not owned by a single product owner or a surgeon, it serves the purpose of explaining what great communities can do if handled correctly.

    Realself has become a go-to place to discuss different cosmetic procedures, discuss ideas, share your experience, and reply to community members. The public comes to the forum to share reviews of different doctors and reduce confusion about technical stuff. The authentic reviews and doctor’s posts to answer community members makes it a great forum.

  3. GoDaddy

    Godaddy is one of the largest website hosting providers at the moment. They have a huge number of clients, and that shows in their support efforts. Often support agents are a little slow and not fully guided. Thankfully, their community forum is quite active. If you ask a question there, community participants often reply before the agents, and you get your issue resolved.

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Common elements of a successful community forum

Let’s study the three forums mentioned above and figure out common elements that make them a success.

  • Engagement:

    One of the main reasons these blogs are a success is the engagement factor. These organizations become a part of the discussion. More importantly, they encourage participants to share their feedback and ideas, which they act upon.

  • Good search engine:

    Good community forums need to have a good search engine. As thousands of posts are made every month, community website users need to search for relevant topics. What good a forum can be if users cannot find the required information.

  • Categorize:

    Dividing the forum into fewer categories and groups helps find the right results quickly. Good community forums always have proper categories, tags, and clear hierarchy applied to make sure ideas and problems are easy to find.

  • SEO Optimized:

    Good forums are also properly SEO optimized. That way, if anyone is looking for help on search engines, your community posts appear on the top. This helps solve customers’ issues without the need for them to submit a ticket. Also, it helps build your brand and lets you analyze common searches about your products.

Benefits of Having a Community Forum

benefits of of community forum

Now that we know what good community forums have in common, let’s look at the benefits of having a community forum in your support arsenal.

  1. Better customer service

    Community forums are always a source of better customer service. Instead of waiting for a customer service representative to come online and reply to the query, customers tend to open up the forum and look for answers. This helps solve the issue without the need for any human interaction.

  2. Get new ideas:

    Forums are a perfect space to get customer feedback and new ideas. Forums are where genuine customers come and interact with each other. Listening to their ideas and feedback gives you an idea of what your customer base is interested in. Develop on the basis of these ideas. A blog specifically asking for new ideas also helps.

  3. Analytics:

    Analyze your customer base and market’s interest level in your organization. Community forums are a great space to analyze the statistics and see:

    ●  Satisfaction level of your customers

    ●  Market’s interest in your product/company

    ●  Latest trends

    ● And much more

    You can also look for satisfied users and get testimonials, and case studies.

  4. Authentic news source:

    The internet has become the source of fake news at the moment. There are hundreds of ways fake news about you or your organization can be spread.

    Community forums can be the source of clarifying if there is any fake news, or it becomes an authentic place where you can add news, and the public can come in and get the latest news directly from you. You can create a news section on your forum for this purpose.

  5. Take control:

    In today’s fast-paced internet savvy world, the Chances of a group created on multiple social media platforms is very likely. There might be a group already created about your product on Facebook, Reddit, or other social media platforms.

    While it is a good thing that people are talking about you, having no control over the narrative or even allowed to post is a bad thing.

    By creating your own community forum, you will be able to control and manage what subjects you want a discussion on, what users have to say about you, and what needs to be stopped from the public eye.

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Alternatives to a Community Forum

Community forums are a good practice to follow, but they can bite back and haunt you if not properly handled, i.e., it is not a good fit for all.

You can only control or monitor the forum to a specific degree, which can lead to a lack of control over what is being posted and what people are saying about your brand.

Similarly, a lot of misinformation can be spread on your forum if it goes unchecked, which means you need to have resources to monitor and maintain the forum, which will add to extra cost. Lack of control over the forum can also start to damage your brand.

A knowledge base can be a good alternative to a community forum. With a knowledge base tool like CloudTutorial, you can easily manage to get all the community forum advantages and avoid the negatives.

With CloudTutorial, you can post helpful articles and get the community talking in the comments. Just like a community forum, you can categorize your knowledge base for a better search. With TCT’s advanced search engine, users will be able to find the relevant information with ease.

Since you are the one posting the articles, questions, and reviews (and not the public), you will have better control over what needs to be displayed and what needs modification. Analytics can also help see what are the current hot topics users are searching for and which section is more popular and has more views than any other section.

CloudTutorial has all the community forum advantages and equal to no disadvantages.

Instead of hiring a big team to manage the community forum, companies often get a few enthusiasts and make them the moderator, saving a lot of cost and effort at the company’s end.
Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. The knowledge base has better control over what needs to be written, while the community forum has more engagement levels than the knowledge base.

Community forums are a good resource to have in your customer support arsenal. This gives you a platform to engage with your customers, understand their concerns, and helps you find new ideas.

But having a lack of control over the community forum can become a little dangerous as it can damage your brand instead of being a help, it can also drive up the cost. We recommend using a knowledge base like CloudTutorial as an alternative if you want to avoid the hassle of managing a community forum.

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