There are many differences between the Internet of the past and how we use it today. You no longer have to deal with dial-up and unsophisticated browsers and design. The Internet has changed, but there are still aspects of its infancy that stand strong today.
The Internet has always been about information and communication. You may remember when AOL Instant Messenger ruled the land or the initial impact of email. But perhaps one of the most effective communication methods was the discussion forum.
When people first started browsing the web for information, the experience was "on rails." Customization was more of an afterthought, and there wasn't much content to peruse. Even so, discussion forums were an instant hit among early pioneers of the Internet. And they grew in popularity as the web continued to progress. Many people used discussion forums as a way to get information to troubleshoot a tech problem. But forums began to transition into conversational platforms where members could share ideas. They could talk about their lives and discuss anything.
As time moved on, many Internet users began to lose interest in forums as a platform for discussion. Texting, social media, and other platforms rose to new heights, eclipsing forums. Even with all that, forums never actually went anywhere. If anything, forums for more specialized niches began to emerge. They would cater to small, yet passionate audiences; building online communities in new ways.
Today, forums are as much of a part of the web as anything else. With all the different ways you can communicate, forums are still crucial to how many people approach the web. Discussion forums aren't going to disappear, especially when it comes to the professional world.
People still gravitate towards discussion forums, and there are many reasons why. They are often geared towards people looking to discuss a specific subject, but any business can incorporate them. When well-designed intranet software, discussion forums can lead to a more streamlined platform.
Here are just a few benefits of intranet discussion forums for businesses:
Content is the name of the game when it comes to today's Internet. Businesses are creating relevant content to bring in a new audience. They are also providing people with the information they're searching for. When you streamline content creation, it can take your web presence to a whole new level.
A major benefit of intranet discussion forums is their ability to help with content creation. A simple discussion can go in many directions, sometimes morphing into something new. In many scenarios, these discussions turn into new content that useful in the future. They may end up influencing the creation of new products and services.
Providing great customer support is the only way to ensure you're keeping your customers happy. The same goes for your own staff members. No one wants to buy products or services from a vendor that isn't willing to provide help. And nobody wants to work for a company that doesn't provide help to its people. As a business scales, the need for adequate customer service tools and internal support grows. Many organizations find themselves falling behind as a result of poor planning.
The intranet discussion forum is an excellent platform for your support team. It can act as an intranet help desk. You can assign team members to address the problems in detail.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to audience retention. The more versatile the approach, the better. A social media presence and a well-designed website are important to keeping your audience engaged and onboard. But this only scratches the surface.
Using intranet discussion forums in your web presence can be an effective way to keep your audience interested. Once discussions start flowing, your audience will spend more time browsing your forums.
Market research is important. But it can be quite invasive, so it's best to approach it the right way. You'll want to gain information about your audience without making them feel like guinea pigs. Intranet discussion forums are perfect for this.
Pay attention to the posts in your business's forums, and you'll start to get a sense of how your audience ticks. This allows you to market to customers and clients in a more effective manner. You'll get to know what they're looking for in your company's products and services. Many companies use other tools and methods to gather this same information, yet they're spending thousands of dollars. If you use intranet forums, you'll definitely save on cost.
Today's customers and clients are looking for personality in the companies they work with. It's no longer possible to keep customers without offering them something in return. The deal-breaker often comes in the form of customer service and personal interaction. Nobody wants to sit on hold for 20+ minutes only to speak to answering machine.
When you make good use of intranet discussion forums, personal interaction becomes a no-brainer. This is a great way to show clients that you care ... and that you're willing to go the extra mile to provide custom responses. to those who approach your organization with questions.
Even if you have great customer service, sometimes you won't be able to answer every question right away. While this scenario may not be the end of the world, it can have a dramatic effect on customer retention. Your clients and customers need all the help they can get when experiencing an issue. It often goes overlooked that your forum community also acts as a support system to customers in need.
The cornerstone to any successful forum is the creation of a well-defined community. When you build this community as a part of your forum, you will gain many people who are well-versed in your products and services. As a result, those who use forums for troubleshooting can get answers by knowledgeable members of the community. It can take some time to build a community, but when you take the right approach, you will see success.
Project management and collaboration are huge parts of any business. Many companies struggle to find the best ways to approach these work methods. And with so many options out there, it's hard to figure out which is the best fit.
Intranet discussion forums can come in handy when streamlining project collaboration and management. Many people don't realize that forums work both internally and externally. This is the perfect opportunity for employees to communicate with each other about current projects. Ideas will come to fruition and people will collaborate.
A knowledge base is beneficial to your customers, clients, and also your employees. This is especially true when onboarding new employees. The more information they have at their fingertips, the less likely they'll run into any struggles along the way.
You can approach knowledge management in many ways. But one of the most effective platforms to use is an intranet discussion forum. Since you can save forum posts and access them later, the information won't leave the people who need it most. Intranet forums are also effective when organizing such information. Things have a tendency to get hectic when a knowledge base gets out of control. When the forum is clean and organized, finding information is never an issue.
There are many ways to use forums to build an online community. For today's businesses, social intranet software is key in turning discussion forums into a reality. With social intranet software like Communifire, creating and managing forums is easy ... especially for those not well-versed in forums. At the same time, power users will love the added features in Communifire, tweaking forums to meet whatever their needs may be.
Communifire comes with many features that can help you push discussions in a forward direction. Here are a few examples:
Organization is the key to success in almost any business situation. In Communifire, you can organize forums into groups. This allows users to access information without jumping through hoops. Under each group is a selection of topics, further reducing information overlap. Under topics, you can post threads, with the most recently-updated discussions being at the top of the list.
It's beneficial to track the way members use your forums to understand patterns and interests. Communifire allows you to analyze statistics on threads, providing insight on views, likes, replies, and more. This is the perfect way to identify trending topics, helping you create an approach for future products and services.
An unmonitored forum can get out of hand, and it's not always easy to get things back on track. Proper administration the whole way through is essential. Intranet administration in Communifire is easy. It allows you to create different permissions for each user, delete offensive comments, and keep the community in line. When you learn how to administer a forum in Communifire, there's no reason to worry about losing control.
Because staff members don't have the time to learn a complicated forum, the easier it is to use, the better. In Communifire, writing posts and replies is as easy as it gets. The software's fully-functional text editor means you don't have to worry about communication restrictions.
Improving SEO (search engine optimization) can help bring a far-reaching audience to companies of all kinds. Since there are many ways to approach SEO, it's important to use as many different vehicles as possible. Communifire can help, because the forums are optimized for SEO. This means the more they're used, the more likely they'll show up at the top of a search. In the end, this will provide positive results for you company's business development practices.
It's hard to keep track of new posts on a daily basis. Notifications, then, can be lifesaving. Communifire users can receive email notifications that update them on activity associated with their posts. This ensures none of the action gets overlooked and that everyone is on the same page.
When you use Communifire as an intranet discussion forum, it doesn't take long to see the benefits come to life. Build a community, introduce engaging discussions, and you'll see the change you're looking for.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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