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Online Discussion Forums & Word of Web - Best Practice Guide - Tarek Reda


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This research document outlines a best practice guide to online discussion forums and building online reputation.

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Online Discussion Forums & Word of Web - Best Practice Guide - Tarek Reda

  1. 1. Forums & Word of Web Best-Practice Guide By: Tarek Reda Salem 1-Jan-2011Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 1 of 17
  2. 2. ContentsExecutive Summary………………………………………………………………….3Findings / Analysis…………………………………………………………………...4 Everybody is talking!………………………………………………………....4 What is a Forum?....................................................................................5 Business impact of Forums………………………………………………….5 The voice of customers………………………………………………5 Forums and online reputation……………………………………….7 Forums in a step-by-step process…………………………………..8 Case studies………………………………………………………….11 The Guild case study………………………………………...11 Mozilla case study……………………………………………12Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………….14References…………………………………………………………………………….15Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 2 of 17
  3. 3. Executive SummaryWord of web is a double-edged weapon that can either boost your online reputation ortotally destroy it. Therefore companies must carefully follow an appropriate consistentset of techniques in order to manage online word of mouth.Listening to the customer’s voice in online discussion forums and interactingaccordingly, not only provides the company with an excellent opportunity to build up itsonline reputation within the industry, but it also brings direct traffic to the company’swebsite. Posting valuable content on forums related to one’s industry on a global scaleis a great way to increase inbound links and traffic to the website (Batten 2010). Onlinediscussion forums have an effective impact on improving the company’s credibility,reputation and search engine ranking. In an email on 7th November 2010 Monica statedthat there is one truth above all; no business will survive this new shift in communicationif it will not adopt reactive and proactive reply to this ever challenging, dynamic field.A case study conducted by Nelson (2007) shows the effective impact of onlinediscussion forums on business decisions and marketing strategies. Online discussionsprovide a clearer image of what the customers are really looking for, what they like, andwhat they don’t, which helps business owners make much more effective decisions.Another case study by Philipson (2010) shows how he applied effective methods inorder to boost customer experience and multiply the positive online word of mouth forMozilla.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 3 of 17
  4. 4. Findings / Analysis Everybody is talking! • Word of mouth is for the most part responsible for the online success of many big names such as Hotmail and the early days of Amazon (Pastore 2000). In an email on 2nd November 2010 Faysal stated that if you want to understand the importance of online word of mouth think of how important offline word of mouth is and multiply it by tens if not hundreds or thousands. Online channels provide a very easy platform for users around the world to express and share their thoughts about anything, what’s very interesting is that your brand could be the subject for those conversations. • Komisarjevsky (n.d.) as cited by Pastore (2000) discussed that in today’s e- society one influential online person can shape the attitudes and behavior of about eight people anywhere around the world. The challenge nowadays is for companies to understand the influence of online word of mouth and utilize its potential impact to achieve measurable business results in today’s internet focused age. • One of the examples of the word of web and its impact on a business is musician Dave Carroll. Carroll flew United Airlines to Nebraska for a one- week tour where he witnessed the luggage handlers carelessly throwing his $3,500 guitar and totally damaging his guitar. After nine months of trying get United’s attention, Carroll turned to the public. His band wrote a song and filmed a music video titled “United Breaks Guitars,” where he tells the story of his miserable experience and the airline’s careless attitude. He uploaded the video to Youtube and it quickly went viral and everybody started sharing it; so far the video has 9.4 million views and conversations about this video flooded everywhere. Not very good news for United Airlines! (S. Narisi 2009). • In an email on 2nd November 2010 Philipson shared some statistics about word of mouth: o Consumer research, carried out by YouGov, (May 2010 this year) shows that over 80% of online consumers use online reviews as part of the journey to purchase in the last 12 months.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 4 of 17
  5. 5. YouGov also found that 62% of consumers have changed their minds about a purchase as a result of a bad review or word of mouth warning. o PQ Media report “Word-of-Mouth Marketing Forecast 2009-2013” showed the following figures:  Word of mouth spending to reach $3 Billion by 2013.  Word of mouth spending is on pace to grow another 10.2% this year, placing it among the fastest growing advertising and marketing segments. o He also mentioned the fact that viral of word of mouth is not a cheap way to promote your brand. The planning and investment required to make a good campaign should not be understated. What is a Forum? • An online resource where participants post, reply, and discuss topics. It brings together people from around the world for conversations, opinions, and interactions. In order to use a forum, users need to have a web browser, a login ID, and a password. (Stroll 2006). • Forums do not show messages in real-time; in order to see new messages the forum page must be reloaded. The posted message might also need to be approved by a moderator before it becomes visible on the forum (Wikipedia n.d.). Business impact of Forums • The voice of customers: o Todays technology provides various opportunities for consumers to start conversations. Every day customers talk among themselves in online product forums and social networks. They share their thoughts to the whole world about products and services, their likes and dislikes, and their hopes for future offerings (Bean 2008).Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 5 of 17
  6. 6. o The PostRelease and Synovate 2009 study in USA (cited in Marketing Profs) showed that customers who frequently use forums are considered direct influencers to the business. They are more likely to share links to products, write reviews and ratings, and recommend a particular purchase to other users. The study also shows that forum contributors are active bloggers as well. They are now more engaged and have the freedom to have their own platform and share their experiences with a certain product explicitly. o Another source mentioned that forums are a tool for businesses that forms a semi-permanent archive of consumers online word of mouth, and therefore digital marketing managers should mine the conversations for consumer insights into their products and even into their marketing programs (Marketing Profs 2010). o A company must always listen to the voice of customers; what information they’re saying and where does it come from so that communications messages can be adjusted quickly in response to emerging opinions (Hampton 2004). o In a conversation on 4th November 2010 Bernier said that his company doesn’t believe in ‘one size fits all’ solution, therefore they have different forums with different languages to make it cozy enough for customers worldwide to interact and consume information more effectively. o He also mentioned that before a company would set a forum with a specific language it should consider how many active users will be speaking that language in order to justify the money spent on such development.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 6 of 17
  7. 7. • Forums and online reputation: o We cannot argue that internet has become the hub of information and the use of online discussion forums has grown by 7,000% in the last four years. Such forums are being used increasingly by consumers to support or criticize products and brands; they are now influencing the perspectives of millions of consumers worldwide. This consumer generated media directly influences a business’s online reputation and that’s why it must be constantly under the radar (Hampton 2004). o Online discussion forums not only shape the corporate online reputation, it also influences the mainstream media due to the fact that Journalists are using online discussion forums to gain an instant image of the consumer opinion (Hampton 2004). o Bean (2008) states that customers do not have much trust in advertising - but rather what others say. Recommendations and opinions are the most trusted and important information a company receives. o In an email on 28th October 2010 Mito discussed his personal experience with the word of web, he said: “I saw the trailer of Julia Roberts Eat Love Pray and thought it was an awesome movie & thought I have to go to the cinema & watch it. Same day, I saw a post on an online forum saying that the film was way below than expected and then I saw some 18 comments on that post of other users saying the same thing. It was a disappointment so I decided not to go; as a business impact Julia Roberts did lose some of her fortune, Hollywood was affected, and finally the cinemas here in Egypt were affected too, all because of some online discussion forum comments”.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 7 of 17
  8. 8. o Jodi (2010) advised forum business users to be helpful, to listen, and to answer questions. In other words, build trust in your knowledge and abilities, then when people on the forum need what you do or sell, theyll turn to you because they know you have the knowledge. o Montalbano (2010) states that one must be very active on forums and give extra time and energy to provide knowledge for those in need and expect nothing in return. • Forums in a step-by-step process: o There are basically 2 sides when dealing with forums and word of web channels; the side where you listen, and the side where you interact. o Listen  Freed (n.d.) stated some valid points that should be followed in order to monitor online word of mouth efficiently: • Do not buy recommendations by providing incentives to do so. What you’re looking for is ‘earned recommendation’ not ‘bought recommendation’. • In order to monitor the actual promoters of your brand, you need to be more elaborative in your questions; do not just ask “Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?” but rather go for “How likely are you to communicate about your experiences?” and give them a scale from 0 to 10. • Another metric that should be measured is ‘satisfaction’ because this is what drives a customer to recommend your product/service. AskForums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 8 of 17
  9. 9. your customers how satisfied are they with a certain product/service on a scale from 0 to 10.  In an email on 2nd November 2010 Faysal stated that you need to be active in addressing issues that people complain about and dont like. You may also want to thank people who would say positive stuff about your company and reward this behavior.  In an email on 1st November 2010 Berry said that marketers should listen to the on- going conversations to help define the emerging trends and future ideas.  He also noted that a good way for a company to get consumers to take part in a conversation around its brand is to facilitate a discussion on a branded forum on its website and keep an eye on the conversations happening.  A good way to monitor the company’s buzz and word of mouth is to use Google Alerts; you can enter your “company name” + “forum” as a search term and Google Alerts will alert you every time someone mentions your search term (Vinerean n.d.). o Interact  Bain (c.2008) outlined a framework to interact on forums: • Search for forums in search engines by typing your “keyword phrase” + “forum”. Then make a list of the top 5 to 10 relevant forums to your industry using *Alexa rank and **Page rank. *Alexa rank is a ranking of all the websites based on their traffic; the more traffic, the lower the rank e.g. Google has the highest traffic of all websites and therefore in Alexa ranking it’s number 1. **Page rank is a tool by Google that ranks websites based on their inbound links on a numeric weighting from 0 to 10. The more inbound links a webpage has, the higher its page rank.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 9 of 17
  10. 10. • Logon to the chosen forums and start answering specific industry questions to demonstrate that you are an expert in the industry. • Your posts in the forum should be of value so that people would be interested to visit your website. • Don’t be a spammer and start advertising for your company or business because then people will lose interest in your posts. You are there to interact and provide useful content, not to sell your products. • Submit tips and advice, and people will like to know more and actually refer you to other users. • Post on a regular basis, e.g. weekly, to develop credibility and consistency. • Manage your time e.g. half an hour every week. • Always remember to include a link to your website in your post signature. Usually forums don’t allow you to include links before having 10 or 20 posts. • Make sure your link is your main keyword phrase in order to be optimized for search engines.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 10 of 17
  11. 11. • Case studies: • The Guild case study: o Nelson (2007) demonstrates a case study that shows the effective impact of online discussion forums on business decisions and marketing strategies: o The company:  The Guild – a company that represents 1,200 artists and markets their work through its website, catalogs, and books. o The issue:  Toni Sikes, CEO and founder of The Guild was hoping to grow more traffic to the website However she wasnt certain what her customers really wanted.  The Guild was a medium-sized company, Sikes had limited resources.  Sikes thought that product reviews might help customers and staff understands whats most popular on the site, but she was worried they might also damage the companys relationship with artists themselves through negative feedback. o The solution:  The Guild decided to turn to Networked Insights, which offers a managed customer forum system for monitoring user discussions.  The forum on included discussion topics such as Ask the Artist Community and Share Your Own Artful Home.  The forum showed a huge success; it accumulated 536 members, who engaged in 13,850 total interactions and started 87 discussion topics.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 11 of 17
  12. 12.  Sikes found that the home decorating category has pulled in the most number of conversations; accordingly she decided to shift the company’s priority focus to ideas for home decorating.  By providing a community for her customers to interact with each other on topics that are important to them, The Guild was then able to mine those discussions for their own marketing needs and gather customer insights without bothering them to join a survey or focus group. • Mozilla case study: o In an email on 2nd November 2010 Philipson reveals a case study of a campaign he recently undertook for Mozilla. The case study shows the impact of positive online word of mouth: o Objective:  The recent Internet browser skirmish has been fought out on billboards, television and in media across Europe. In June 2010, the European Commission ruled on a landmark settlement.  The case cited that if you were running a Microsoft Windows PC inside the European economic area and using their default Web browser, you would see a Browser Choice screen appear offering you a number of different alternatives to the software that navigates you around the Web. It was nicknamed “The Browser Ballot”. o Challenge:  The big technology companies including Google and Microsoft spent millions on advertising and marketing to promote their new browsers to gain and sustain lucrative market share during the ballot.  Mozilla however is a non-profit with limited marketing spends and a strong reliance on an effective communications strategy that integrates traditional and social media toForums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 12 of 17
  13. 13. successfully meet the challenges posed by aggressive- spending browser brands. o Approach:  Racepoint (Philipson’s company) worked with Mozilla to mobilize their existing community to educate consumers and build buzz through word of mouth and a number of call to actions:  A website was set up at called “Open To Choice” which highlighted a variety of ways people could get involved, educating, informing and engaging with the broader public about the importance of choosing a browser that suits their particular habits on the wonderful Web.  Visitors could download posters, add Twitter logos to their handles, download flyers to be distributed, organize booths at local events or even give talks. A blog post was published from the CEO and Chairwoman highlighting what Mozilla considered important in regard to having the right to ‘choose your own browser’ and distributed to key national news desks and key influencers through social media channels.  Racepoint also organized a number of wide reaching consumer media briefings including women’s lifestyle magazine Good Housekeeping, PA broadcast, BBC World Service, BBC Click, The Guardian and The Financial Times. o Results:  In one week alone, Mozilla commented and was referenced as the safest or the number one browser for consumers in over 50 broadcast mediums including the BBC World Service, BBC Click, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, Sky News Breakfast, Channel 4 News and Working Lunch.  In print and online media including The Financial Times, Telegraph, The Guardian and ZDNet, it was reported that the Mozilla had added more than 50,000 new users within the first week. In that same week, the Web was swamped with Mozilla advocates championing the “Open To Choice” website with over 16,000 visits and the twitter handle gaining 500 influencers including the BBC and Google.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 13 of 17
  14. 14. Conclusion • Communications professionals who master the techniques of monitoring online discussion forums and interact accordingly will be able to better manage their companys reputation and brand as well as bring direct traffic to their website. • Word of web brings high return on investment, considering the amount of money paid on generating a discussion and the amount of return from conversations about your brand. • This digital channel provides insightful resources that can be utilized as part of an effective marketing campaign; however it shouldn’t be analyzed individually, all channels should be interconnected. • Nowadays, multichannel customers are getting smarter; companies are now adapting to the customers instead of the opposite. With all the powerful tools available to them, customers now are the ones who shape the organization’s culture and processes.Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 14 of 17
  15. 15. References MARKETING PROFS (2010) Were Way More Complex Than That [WWW].Available from: [Accessed 31/10/2010]. MARKETING PROFS (2010) Online Forum Users Are Influential Consumers[WWW]. Available from: [Accessed 31/10/2010]. F. HAMPTON (2004) How to Manage Your Corporate Reputation Online [WWW].Available from: [Accessed31/10/2010]. H. STROLL (2006) Marketing Challenge: Three Ways to Engage Employees andCustomers [WWW]. Available from:[Accessed 31/10/2010]. D. BEAN (2008) How to Hear the Voice of Your Customers: Hone First-PersonIntelligence From All Forms of Feedback [WWW]. Availablefrom: [Accessed 31/10/2010]. WIKIPEDIA (n.d.) Internet forum. [Online]. Availablefrom: [Accessed 31/10/2010]. D. BAIN. (c.2008). 26 Week Plan [online video]. Availablefrom: [Accessed31/10/2010].Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 15 of 17
  16. 16. JODI. (2010) Marketing Profs. Weblog [Online] 1st April. Availablefrom: [Accessed1/11/2010]. R. MONTALBANO (2010) Marketing Profs. Weblog [Online] 1st April. Availablefrom: [Accessed1/11/2010]. M. PASTORE (2000) The Value of Word of Mouth [WWW]. Availablefrom: [Accessed1/11/2010]. S. NARISI (2009). Angry customer + YouTube = Ruined reputation. HR [Accessed 1/11/2010].Weblog [Online] 30th July. Available from: L. FREED (n.d.) Measuring Word of Mouth Online: Six Key Considerations[WWW] Foresee Results. Available from: [Accessed1/11/2010]. T. VINEREAN (n.d.). Top 10 Free Tools To Monitor Your Online Reputation.TonTenz. Weblog [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 1/11/2010]. M. G. NELSON (2007) Artful Home Mines Customer Forums to Decide WebStrategy [WWW] Clickz. Availablefrom: [Accessed 1/11/2010]. J. BATTEN (2010) Nine Tools for Your Link-Building Toolkit [WWW] Clickz.Available from: [Accessed 1/11/2010].Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 16 of 17
  17. 17. Forums & Word of Web – Best Practice Guide Page 17 of 17