Alright, so your website has a forum. That is very good, it means you are thinking in social terms about your audience and you are recognizing the importance of communication and interaction. Having a message board is a great way to foster a community of people centered around a brand, an idea or a certain type of products, among a multitude of other things.
The reason why people flock to forums is that they want to meet and interact with other like-minded individuals, but also because, and I think this might be an underappreciated factor, there is a strong craving for the sense of belonging among human beings.
What I am trying to say here is that, when looking from the business perspective, you need to make your clients or other type of audience feel like they are a part of your business, by creating a strong brand that they will want to associate with and delivering excellent customer experience on many levels.
Having forum software installed is one of the ways of drawing people to your website, which in turn creates a number of advantages for site owners. We have already touched on the social aspect, but how about the business pros of a message board? Well, increased traffic means more potential clients (I will come back to increasing the conversion rate later in the post) and more revenue from ad banners.
Depending on the type of business you are in, you may also consider collecting membership fees in exchange for access to exclusive information or deals. Another way to harness the power of a forum is to have undercover agents operate in your online community, who can take up the mission of running buzz marketing for your company or organization. Beware though, they need to blend in perfectly with regular users and be well-trained to not raise any suspicions, or the whole operation may backfire on you.
One of the major points of message boards is to compel people to come back and see what has changed since the last time they visited your website. Of great value to any marketer will also be the opportunity to collect email addresses of the members, in order to be able to send them commercial information they may be interested in.
OK, so I have discussed a number (not all, by any means) of advantages stemming from implementation of forum software. But is it a perfect tool? Does it have any downside to it?
Let me start by saying I do not think there are many arguments against running a message board. Some of the obvious cons may include things like spamming or rogue posters, but these are nothing that cannot be dealt with pretty easily by moderators. I would, however, prefer to focus on ways, in which you can improve your forum to stay ahead of the pack.
Ideas for improving a forum
Apart from improving the graphic design of your forum and adding functionalities, like enabling video embedding and the use of emojis, you can also go for an extension in the form of a shoutbox, also known as chatbox. Adding such a plugin will certainly expand the user experience, but I consider it to be rather a half measure. I believe there is a better option available and let me tell you what it is and why do I think so.
Benefits of adding live social chat to a forum software
The solution for making your forum a more user-friendly place I would like to suggest is the installation of a live social chat like Chatwee. Now, this is not your run-of-the-mill live chat for simple exchange of text messages between a site admin and a visitor. This chat software allows user to not only interact with others publicly, but also hold private conversations and send multimedia directly to each other. There is a number of options for moderating available too, all this in real time. Let us take a closer look at what exactly does Chatwee bring to the table.
Live social chat saves space on your servers
Like I said earlier, some forum users tend to spam boards with too many petty or unnecessary topics regarding issues that could otherwise be resolved using a chat. By installing Chatwee you can avoid devoting server space or moderation time because we keep all the sessions in a cloud.
Live social chat saves user’s time
Now, instead of having to jump around forum threads to interact with others, users can hold multiple direct conversations at the same time. This feature should be especially valued by the more active posters.
If things get hot in a discussion, people may prefer to switch to a private conversation, using a live chat, to clean up certain issues, instead of airing their dirty laundry in public threads.
Business-related perks of a live chat
Let us assume that you are running a message board centered around your brand or some products. Obviously, people will talk about you, and no matter how high your level of service is, it will not always be good things. Enter admin-sales assistant! Your organization can delegate people, who will be browsing the forum in search of problematic situations. Think of them as store clerks who can either keep a customer at the store, or let them leave. The task of these employees of yours will be to provide the right kind of information, dispel doubts and influence sales by, for example, providing discount codes. Being able to assist your potential or existing customers live in a timely fashion will certainly improve the conversion rate.
Live social chat is easy to use
It is not rocket science and will require no extra effort on the part of your users, especially with the SIngle Sign-On functionality we have implemented recently. Basically, your message board members are ready to use Chatwee right after they login to the forum. Same name, same account, more options!
We strive to make our product as admin-friendly as possible too. Take a quick look at what forum software does Chatwee support:
If you have come this far, I hope I have managed to convince you that there is an affordable an effcient way to improve your forum, that not only provides a richer experience to the users, but also creates opportunities to increase your revenues.
Live social chat gives you an advantage over competition, which is understood and utilized by smaller companies and bigger brands like Apple. It is also a natural step forward with websites becoming more interactive and the real world blending with the virtual one increasingly fast.
I cannot stress how crucial for any business it is to make customers come back. And what better way to do that, than by building communities, becoming accessible and interactive on many levels? At the end of the day, I think you cannot really loose by enhancing your message board with a live social chat.
Let me know what you think in the comments and what experiences do you have in using forums and live chats.