Communities The New Forum of the Social Age


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In this ebook, we’re going to walk you through the differences between the old forums of
yesteryear and the forums of the social media era: forums 2.0. The new forums are faster,
smarter, and leave your colleagues and customers more satisfied than the simple forums
of days past. After reading this ebook, we’re confident you’ll agree that your company
needs a community. So let’s not waste a minute and dive right into why.

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Communities The New Forum of the Social Age

  1. 1. CommunitiesThe New Forum of the Social Age a publication of
  2. 2. Communities  The New Forum of the Social Age How Communities Are Transforming the Way Companies Engage with Their CustomersINTRODUCTIONMany of you probably remember forums from back in the 1990’s. You would get to theforum homepage and see a long list of topic forums. You scrolled down to find the forumyou needed, and then found the relevant subforum within that forum. Once inside the Contentssubforum, you would see a long list of topics, with the most recently updated at the top. INTRODUCTION............................................... 1Tired yet? 1 THE ENGAGEMENT FACTOR................... 4If you were lucky, there was a search bar at the top of the subforum. Otherwise, you wereforced to scroll and click through dozens or even hundreds of pages of topic threads. 2 LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION......... 6And then maybe, just maybe, you would find the information you were looking for. LET RELEVANT CONTENT SEE THE 3Or, alternatively, you would post a new thread without looking around first, only to be LIGHT OF DAY............................................... 9chastised in the comment thread for asking a question that had already been asked and CONVERSATIONS WITHOUT 4thoroughly discussed. OUTCOMES ARE JUST CHATTER...... 12But let’s remember the positive aspects of forums, too. Forums were and are a place 5 SEARCH ORIENTATION, FTW!............ 15where people can connect on topics of common interest. The Internet is lauded as a 6 ANALYZE ALL OF THE THINGS........... 17unifying force in the world: a channel through which people from all walks of life can learn, CONCLUSION.............................................. 18share, and connect with each other. Static web pages aren’t where that kind of connectionhappens; forums are. Whether you’re interested in cars generally or just 1967 Mustangs, COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 1
  3. 3. the Internet has a place where you can find other people who want to learn, debate, anddiscuss that shared passion all day long. And that in itself is a wonderful thing.Today, there is a new breed of forum. Forums 2.0, or communities, as we like to call them,harness the connective power of forums but leverage social features to provide a betterexperience for the end user. The new forums have social logins, social sharing, and feelmore like the most popular social networks of today. Think of them as the social media eraequivalent of a forum.In this ebook, we’re going to walk you through the differences between the old forums ofyesteryear and the forums of the social media era: forums 2.0. The new forums are faster,smarter, and leave your colleagues and customers more satisfied than the simple forumsof days past. After reading this ebook, we’re confident you’ll agree that your companyneeds a community. So let’s not waste a minute and dive right into why: COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 2
  4. 4. FORUMS COMMUNITIES1 Structured, hierarchical around a company’s needs 1 Engagement: Drive engagement with intuitive, easy to use, designed for end user’s needs2 Single Location 2 Anywhere Location: Drive conversations anywhere customers want to be: Web, Social Media, a Mobile device, or simply search3 Difficult to find relevant content that is more than a 3 Relevance: Expose relevant content in context and few days old. help the customer find exactly what they need.4 Talk to others with similar interest, but not easy to 4 Outcome Oriented: If it’s a question, provide an find the answers customers need answer. If it’s a problem, give a solution. If it’s an idea, let them know it’s being considered or will be implemented. If it’s praise, let them know you appreciate it.5 Answered topics are buried and hard to find 5 Search before posting a topic: Provides faster answers6 No Reporting or Limited Reports 6 Analytics Dashboard: Easily view the number of new topics and comments, traffic sources to your community, most active users in the community, and most active topics. COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 3
  5. 5. 1   THE ENGAGEMENT FACTORThe word engagement is thrown around a lot these days. Most simply, engagement canbe defined as an action that inspires individuals to become involved, and to someextent, a state of involvement 1 . There are different levels of engagement. Some peoplevote, some comment, a smaller portion actually start new conversations, and even fewerstill will come back again and again to participate in conversations. Those are your powerusers. The vast majority are “lurkers” – they read but do not actively participate in anyway.You might ask: why is engagement important? If your company is selling wheat crackers,do you really care how many people are engaged with your product? Don’t you really justcare about selling as many crackers as possible? The truth is, conversion is a long-termprocess. And with social media “You’re reaching a customer early in the sales process,meaning that you’ve likely reached them before your competitors. The earlier youreach them, the more history they’ll have with you when it’s time to make a purchasingdecision. 2” Participating in social media is essential for reaching customers at an earlystage, and engagement is a key part of social media because it’s an indication of howmany people are actually listening.Maria Ogneva, Community Manager at Yammer, put it this way: “listening is only thebeginning stage of what you should be doing as part of your social media approach;engagement will make or break your efforts – after all, if no one talks to you online, thewhole thing is a failed attempt. 3” In summary: if you don’t have engagement, you’re talkingto yourself.1 2 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 4
  6. 6. The new forums of today encourage engagement by providing a modern, friendly userinterface. The primitive forums of the 1990s, as you might recall, consist of text-heavy,paginated threads of discussion. Modern communities look and feel more like the popularsocial networks of today. They have buttons that allow you to “Like” a post or share itwith friends on other social networks. They let you login with your credentials from othernetworks such as Google, Facebook or Twitter. Above all, they have a clean, intuitiveinterface that was designed with the end user in mind.With over 900 million active users, Facebook has a good portion of the world populationin its user base already. By utilizing the features that Facebook users are already familiarwith, the modern forum makes it easy for your customers to like, comment, or start newtopics. That ease of use increases engagement, which increases your bottom line. COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 5
  7. 7. 2   LOCATION LOCATION LOCATIONForums of the past resided in a single location. So if Judy wanted to discuss her love ofElizabethan art, she would need to go to the Elizabethan art forum in order to participate.Now, Judy might be OK with that, and a decade ago she was probably spending most ofher time on AOL Instant Messenger and her Inbox anyway, but the playing field has shifteddramatically. In January 2012, the average Facebook users spent 405 minutes per monthon the site 4 . That’s the average, which means that many users are spending more than7 hours per month on Facebook. Internet users are spending more and more times onsocial sites, and you need to meet them there. Here’s how Wayne Denman, Webtrends’Technical Support Manager, explains the importance of social media: “Companies thatdon’t embrace social channels are limiting themselves. If you want to be competitive, youhave to be able to meet your customers where they are. 5” It used to be enough to haveyour community on the Internet. Now, however, your community needs to be everywhereyour customers are.4 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 6
  8. 8. While forums of the past were available in a single location, the forums of today are nolonger siloed off. The modern forum can extend into your website, your Facebook brandpage, your Twitter account, or anywhere else your customers are. StumbleUpon, forexample, switched from old fashioned forums to a modern Get Satisfaction communityand found that including this content on both their website and on Facebook increasedcustomer participation. “Our old forums were populated entirely by power users,” saysMonica Semergiu, StumbleUpon Community Manager. “Get Satisfaction’s UI and widgetsare more accessible and make it easier for our entire user-base to participate.6”Other companies, such as Koodo Mobile, advertise the fact that they provide supportvia Facebook, 7 in their Timeline banner, and they also show relevant conversations abouteach product from their community, in their product page next to each product.6 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 7
  9. 9. Offerpop, a social media campaign platform, felt it was important to bring their supportforums into Facebook because that is where their customers already are. “I guaranteeevery one of our clients is on Facebook already,” says Prakash Mishra, Offerpop co-founder and co-CEO “Facebook and the Facebook interface are familiar to them, so beingable to bring the support experience in there makes it as easy as possible for them to gethelp. 8”Offerpop, Koodo, and StumbleUpon aren’t just providing a place where their customerscan connect with each other; they’re providing a way for customers to connect whereverthey are. That is the power of forums 2.0.8 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 8
  10. 10. 3   LET RELEVANT CONTENT SEE THE LIGHT OF DAYIn forums, old threads are like bad memories: buried. In some cases, this makes sense:a thread from four years ago might be about a product or feature that no longer exists.Other times, however, you want to expose particular threads that provide relevantinformation for your customers. With the modern forum, you can do this with the click of afew buttons.Let’s begin with an example: say you’re a new mother, searching online for a new carseat. Through a Google search, you find your way to, the UK’s largest babysupplier (you’re a proper London mom, got it?). You notice they carry the Britax car seat,which is a brand a friend recommended to you. But there are two Britax Duo car seats.One is £20 more than the other. You want your baby to have the best, safest car seatpossible. But you also wouldn’t mind saving £20. How do you decide which to buy? COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 9
  11. 11. Lucky for you, Kiddicare uses a customizable widget on the side of each product thatexposes relevant forum topics. You see that the top question asked is “Britax Duo PlusCar Seat Differences?” It turns out you aren’t the first person with this question! You clickon the question and see that a car seat specialist from Kiddicare answered the questiontwo months ago: “The main differences between the seats are the fabrics. The £169.99 car seat is called your jet. This is a breathable material so will adapt to the weather so will keep your child nice and cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The £149.99 is called your Max. This material would be easier to clean and would make your every day life a lot better by being able to sponge the seat clean.”In a matter of minutes, you’ve gotten the answer to your question without even having tosearch for it. This also benefits the company, since you didn’t need to email or call themto ask the question. What’s more, it’s an opportunity for the company to give you moreinformation about the product that might lead to an upsell.The story we just outlined is a real one from Kiddicare’s customer community.9 In hisreply, the car seat specialist, Matt, informs the customer, Arlene, that the car seat mayrequire a top tether. By providing this helpful information, Matt is able to help Arlene geteverything she needs at once while also selling her one more product. He also increasesher trust of the company by providing her with timely, relevant information.9 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 10
  12. 12. What has the Kiddicare story taught us? First of all, that the modern forums allowscompanies to expose relevant content in context. Second, that providing relevantinformation helps the customer find exactly what they need, when they need it. Andfinally, that exposing relevant content helps companies by decreasing support costs andproviding upsell opportunities. It’s a win-win and a major differentiator from the siloed,chronologically ordered forums of the past. COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 11
  13. 13. 4   CONVERSATIONS WITHOUT OUTCOMES ARE JUST CHATTERThe forums of old and forums of new have one major thing in common: they’re a place forpeople to talk. If I love playing Draw Something and you love playing Draw Something, wecan meet in the Draw Something forum to talk about how much easier it is to play on aniPad and which three coin words are hardest to sketch out. But what if I have a question?Say, I want to change my username from HappyKitty22 to HappyPuppy44 but can’t figureout how?It turns out that the majority of customers enter a community because they have aquestion, problem, or idea they want addressed by the company or other knowledgeablecustomers. While asking a question, reporting a problem, and suggesting an idea areall things you can do in the forums of the 1990’s, the modern forum uses topic typesand topic statuses to ensure that both company and customer understand the actionsrequired to resolve a topic.Let’s continue with the Draw Something example. I am playing Draw Something on aSaturday night when suddenly I am inspired to change my username. I am in the app andsee a support link. I click that support link and it takes me to the Draw Something GetSatisfaction community. 10 In an old fashioned forum, I would need to first navigate to thecorrect forum and subforum to post my question. An annoying ordeal indeed. In DrawSomething’s community, however, I can post my question right away and associate it witha particular product or tag in the process of posting.10 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 12
  14. 14. Once I am in the community, I type in my question. (The modern forum knows thatInternet users today search first, read later, so it automatically searches the existingdatabase of topics for my question. But we’ll get to that later). I see that a few peoplehave asked similar questions, but I continue to post my question anyway. At that point,I can categorize my new forum topic as a question, problem, idea, or praise. This helps COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 13
  15. 15. the company understand what type of outcome I am looking for: if it’s a question, Iwant an answer. If it’s a problem, I want a solution. If it’s an idea, I want to hear that it’sbeing considered or will be implemented. If it’s praise, I just want the creators of DrawSomething to know that I worship the ground that they walk on.In any case: I’ve chosen my topic type as a question. I then am asked to include either asmiley face, a neutral face, or an sad face to express how I am feeling. I choose a happyface because, even though I want to change my username, I still love Draw Something. Igo ahead and post it. A few minutes later, I get an email notifying me that there has beena reply to my question. I see that another Draw Something enthusiast, UnicornsUnite52,recently changed his username, and replied with instructions on how I can do it as well.In addition, this Draw Something enthusiast is a Champion in the community (a featurewe discussed earlier in this ebook) and as a result has the ability to mark the question as“Answered.” He can also mark his answer has the “Official Response” so that future DrawSomething players know that his answer is sanctioned by the company.Why is this so important? Because topic types, topic statuses, sentiment reporting,and promoted answers are all part of why we say that the modern forum is outcomeoriented. The forums of the past also allowed customers to get answers to theirquestions, problems fixed, and ideas considered, but topic categorization andstatuses help the company and customer more clearly communicate the intention andacknowledgment of each topic. Sentiment reporting also helps companies keep tabs onthe pulse of the customer community, but we’ll get to that later. COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 14
  16. 16. 5   SEARCH ORIENTATION, FTW!Back in the day, the first thing you would do upon setting up a new email account was setup your file structure. A file for work documents, a file for financial documents, a file forpersonal letters. This was the only way you’d have to find any emails in the future, so youset it up and went to work filing things away.Today, files are no longer the norm; search is. Think about Gmail: you can add labels toemails based on the sender and/or subject, but there are no folders. Instead, there is asearch bar at the top of your web inbox that lets you quickly, easily find any email fromany date range with the click of a button. Searchlight on Macs is similar: while you cannavigate through folders and subfolders, you can always click on the little magnifyingglass in the upper right hand corner of your computer for the file or application you’relooking for.Online consumers are being conditioned to search first, click later. And the modern forumtakes that into account by searching all content automatically before allowing customersto post a new topic. Whereas old forums have the folder structure of older email serviceslike Outlook, the new forums are search-oriented.Let’s return to the Draw Something example. When HappyKitty22 types “How do I changemy username” into the Draw Something community, 11 the database of existing topicsis searched. Being a modern forum, there is also a search bar at the top for those onlyinterested in searching old topics, but the box for entering a question is prominentlydisplayed on the homepage of the forum and also serves as a search bar. Sneaky sneaky.The benefits of the search-oriented modern forum go both ways: customers are happybecause they get instant gratification by finding answers to their questions. Companiesare happy because they can spend less time answering repetitive questions and more11 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 15
  17. 17. time serving the needs of their customers with complicated support situations. Yola,for example, reported a 60-70% decrease in support tickets after implementing a GetSatisfaction community. 12 They also found that 5 out of 6 customers prefer community asa primary support channel. For these reasons, Yola now offers support communities in 6languages.In addition, communities that revolve around search simply feel more like the modernweb. If your company is focused on creating web applications that make today’sconsumers happy, why send them to an archaic forum the second they have a question?Send them to a forward-thinking, search-oriented forum instead and they will be sure tothank you for it.12 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 16
  18. 18. 6   ANALYZE ALL OF THE THINGSOh data. How we adore thee. After all, how would we know if our community is healthywithout you? Or even more basic: how can we calculate the ROI of maintaining a customerforum without you? Only the sophisticated tools of the modern forum allow us to do that.Which is the sixth and final reason why your company needs more than a forum; it needsa Get Satisfaction customer community.You may be thinking: old forums have data for topic thread views and number ofcomments. What more could you need? The answer is: so much more. With platformssuch as Get Satisfaction, you have augmented basic analytics at your fingertips 13 and canalso purchase deeper analytics packages. 14 Whether you’re using a customer forum forsupport, marketing, and product feedback, data analysis is essential to gauging how wellyou are serving your customers.Let’s start with basic analytics. With a modern forum, you can easily view the numberof new topics and comments, traffic sources to your community (there are many, sinceyou’re using a modern, distributable forum!), most active users in the community, andmost active topics. These dashboards are available for anyone in your organization to viewand give a nice snapshot of community activity. You can also customize the timeframeto get the information on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. It’s as simple as aclick of a few buttons.With deeper analytics, you can learn even more. Like who the most active employeesare in your community. Or what your average response time is. Or what percent of yourcommunity is engaged. It’s data like this that lets you step back and see how you’re doing13 COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 17
  19. 19. and then measure progress as time goes on. After all, without knowing where we are, it isimpossible to move forward.CONCLUSIONIf you started this ebook thinking you wanted any old forum, we hope we’ve convinced youthat the new generation of forums provides benefits that will help you better serve yourcustomers and improve the bottom line. We outlined the six major benefits of moderncommunities over the old forums of the bygone era:1 Engagement: communities encourage customer engagement by using an intuitive, social user interface.2 Location: communities can be anywhere your customers are.3 Relevance: bring relevant topics to any part of your website with community widgets.4 Outcomes: topic types and topic status ensure that companies and customers know what to expect from each other and get satisfactory outcomes, faster.5 Search: we’ve all been conditioned to find information through search. Communities are search-based rather than siloed into sub-categories.6 Analytics: you want to have a rockin’ customer community? You’ll need numbers to prove it.We hope you’ve found these points to be useful as you think about which platform isright for you and your company. While you decide, why not take one for a test run? GetSatisfaction offers a 30 free, no-risk trial. Sign up today and get your community up andrunning in 10 minutes or less. Have questions? Feel free to email or, you can call 877-339-3997 and talk to a real human. COMMUNITIES: The New Forum of the Social Age 18