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Are Online Forums Dead? Here’s How to Resurrect Them

Online forums sound like a thing of the past with the new live messaging and social options out there today. You might think that there aren’t many people out there who are still actively interested in reading or posting on forums.

But when done correctly, they’re still one of the best ways to help customers and build an engaged community at the same time. Our data shows that you can decrease support tickets by 10% by using self-service tools like forums, online communities, and knowledge bases.

First, you need to organize your forums by separating posts into different categories so that your customers can easily find what they’re looking for. Here’s how.

Organize forums into different categories

In Freshdesk, forums are organized into three different categories.

Categories > Forums > Topics

Categories are the top level, and can contain several different forums. Within these forums, there can be countless topics of discussion.

When you organize your support forums, you make it easier for customers to find exactly what they need when they need it.

To create a new category, select Forums > Add Category.

Give each category a title and click Save. The end result should look something like this:

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 To create forums to add within each category, select the “New Forum” button within the desired category.

 Write a name for each forum with a brief description and select the forum type.

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To create new topics, click on the “Start a Topic” button within a forum.

You need to be strict when it comes to spam on your forums, or people will become annoyed with all of the fake posts.

Crack down on spam

More than half of all emails are spam.

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Forum comments can be just as bad. No one wants to see spam posts in the middle of what they’re trying to read. Especially when trying to search for support answers.

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To avoid this problem, you can easily filter out unwanted posts and spam links with Freshdesk’s advanced spam protection feature.

You can also enable Freshdesk’s forum moderation feature by going to Admin > Portals > Settings.

It doesn’t hurt to create new guidelines for users during this process. That way, they’ll know that you take spam seriously.

Be sure to post your forum guidelines where all members can see them.

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 Make it easy for users to report violations, too. That way your forum is self-policing. For example, all it takes to report a post on Facebook is one click. It should be that simple on your forum, too.

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ITEAD Studio even has a section on their site where users can report issues or bugs and make suggestions.

If your forum looks outdated, why no give it a bit of a facelift?

Revamp your forum’s design

59% of consumers across the globe would rather engage with beautifully designed content over simple content, even when they’re short on time.

Revamp your site by adding some new features or site sections.

There’s a reason why sites are constantly updated and changed. In 2014, Adobe Forums looked like this:

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Today, the forum looks much more fresh and modern.

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It doesn’t hurt to redesign your colors, images, or fonts. Give everything a fresh, new look.

Don’t be afraid to A/B test two different versions of your site using a tool like Odoo to find out which one performs best.

Then, encourage new (and old) users to join your newly designed forums via email. Tell them what’s changed and give them a breakdown of how to navigate and use the new forum.

Convert forum topics to tickets

Your forum is a great place for your customers to find support. They can use it to help one another out, talk about your features, and discuss your brand.

But that doesn’t mean that you should never get involved. You can convert these topics into tickets with a help desk software.

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That way, your team can get to work on an issue instead of waiting for another customer to provide help.

They can even monitor certain topics by clicking on the “follow” button so that they receive an email each time that a post is added to the thread.

Conclusion

There are tons of shiny, new ways to communicate with people across the web.

But that doesn’t mean that older kinds of online communities, like forums, are dead.

People use them for self-service support all of the time.

First things first: you need to organize your posts into different categories to make it easy for people to find solutions.

Then, rack down on spam comments. No one wants to sift through them while trying to read valuable content. Install an anti-spam plugin and police your website for spammers often.

Make it easy for users to report guideline violations, too, so that they take care of some of the work for you. It doesn’t hurt to revamp your forum’s design every once and a while. If you haven’t touched your forum’s layout since it launched, you need to.

Freshen things up a bit, add or update some images, and try changing the font for a more modern, sleek look.

Finally, never forget the importance of converting forum posts into tickets so that you can solve issues internally.

Don’t wait around for other customers to provide the help that you can offer yourself.

 What are you going to do to breathe life back into your online forum first?

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A digital marketer and an occasional content writer

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