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Forums for the purpose of business marketing

Jeff Fuqua

Well-known member
#1
I'm researching the idea of offering forum design and management services to companies who might benefit from owning one. An example would be for a company who wants to offer in-depth customer service for their product, a tourist town who wants to generate enthusiasm to possible vacationers by discussing attractions, restaurants, etc. or for a topic-driven board like "movies" but sponsored by RedBox or some such company.

I'm having trouble pinning down the kinds of businesses who would see owning a forum giving them an online marketing advantage. I realize building a forum is just a small part of process. It's the management which is key for it to grow and be effective. That is my area of focus for this.

And, though there are many very successful message boards out there, is use on the decline? It appears many companies have embraced Facebook for online marketing but not forums which, IMO, gives them a better opportunity to stay on brand and interact more in-depth with their potential and current customers.

I wanted to see if anyone here had some thoughts on this idea, industries who might be interested and discuss the future of message boards in general as far as online marketing.

Thanks.
 

petertdavis

Well-known member
#2
I think one of the reasons companies tend to market more to Facebook than forums is because it's easier. You can setup an advertising campaign on Facebook in minutes, and just watch the results. It makes for good spreadsheets and reports, which corporate beancounters love.

Forums, on the other hand, aren't as easy. You can get at them through Adsense/Adwords, but that's more complex than advertising on Facebook. It's not as easy to target just related forums. You can build a profile page on forums, like in Facebook, but usually that comes off as spam.

Much of the time, companies trying to advertise on forums comes off ham-handed and looks like spam more than trying to engage an audience. I don't think that offering forum designs in this context is going to take you too far, but a marketing agency that specializes in helping companies engage forum audiences might do well.
 

Lee

Well-known member
#3
I think that Facebook is a better way to handle company advertising for no other reason that the sheer reach from an audience perspective. Offering support on Facebook isn't such a good idea to me. I feel there is room for both Facebook advertising and forum support to exist hand in hand. This is nowhere near the end of the forum as the quality and depth of information found in a forum just cannot be replicated on Facebook.
 

Jeff Fuqua

Well-known member
#4
Thanks for the reply.

Sorry if I confused but I am talking about companies creating their OWN forum. If it were for their own customer support, for example, it would match their brand.
 

Jeff Fuqua

Well-known member
#8
This is nowhere near the end of the forum as the quality and depth of information found in a forum just cannot be replicated on Facebook.
I agree. Any company would would want their own forum would want to offer in-depth information or customer support in such a way that Facebook or a direct email could not.
 

Jeff Fuqua

Well-known member
#10
Both are very impressive but, in the case of communispace.com, they create message boards which are invite only. I need to read more but it seems like it is more like a method for ongoing case studies. jivesoftware.com appears to be closer to what I am envisioning.

getsatisfaction.com is also a source I've looked into but their design doesn't reflect the brand identity of their clients beyond a logo on the upper left. What I am thinking about would be more customer-driven.

This is all very helpful. I clearly have a lot more research to do.
 

EasyTarget

Well-known member
#12
Both are very impressive but, in the case of communispace.com, they create message boards which are invite only. I need to read more but it seems like it is more like a method for ongoing case studies. jivesoftware.com appears to be closer to what I am envisioning.

getsatisfaction.com is also a source I've looked into but their design doesn't reflect the brand identity of their clients beyond a logo on the upper left. What I am thinking about would be more customer-driven.

This is all very helpful. I clearly have a lot more research to do.
Also need to think about the size of the company. To have effective forums you need 1 or more employees dedicated to replying, moderating the forum. Most companies don't have the internal resources to do so. And it's a difficult ROI equation for the biz model.
 

Jeff Fuqua

Well-known member
#13
Also need to think about the size of the company. To have effective forums you need 1 or more employees dedicated to replying, moderating the forum. Most companies don't have the internal resources to do so. And it's a difficult ROI equation for the biz model.
Agreed. The company would need to be willing to have someone available to answer questions but a part of what I envision offering is moderating. The hope would be that other members would often step in and share information much like we see here on this forum.

ROI is a challenge. I used to work in public relations and we often times had to compare the size of an article in the newspaper with what that amount of space would cost for an ad. I felt that wasn't a great method but it helped. I assume this would need to be measured as any social media efforts would.
 

petertdavis

Well-known member
#15
Training, manager policies.. etc. A community for a business like Wendy's. It would be a place for staff to communicate, not the consumer.
A private community for Wendy's franchise owners could also be a good idea for them. There are something like 6500 Wendy's franchises out there, assuming that corporate would want them to communicate together at all, having it done in a controlled environment would certainly appeal to them.
 

Carlos

Well-known member
#16
I had thought of doing something similar recently.
ROI is a challenge. I used to work in public relations and we often times had to compare the size of an article in the newspaper with what that amount of space would cost for an ad. I felt that wasn't a great method but it helped. I assume this would need to be measured as any social media efforts would.
Not really, they hired you. You go and manage the community within' the company's protocols.

For example, Trion Worlds, the online developer of games like Warface, and Defiance (Video Game), was hiring for some sort of community manager that understands community software (they're on vB4 :cautious:), the inner workings, and whatnot. The manager is someone knowledgeable in the space. They are in my area.

The problem with this lies with the company. If you want to successfully do the job as the company wishes - you've got to think like the company. It's like this, I'm an entrepreneur, and I think like Trion Worlds because I'm a gamer, right? And, likewise I believe a company can benefit a lot from a community platform for feedback and whatnot. But sometimes that's not enough.

What if your ideas clash with the management that hired you for the job of installing, managing, designing, and marketing the community? You'll lose their business, and you end up feeling wary of the job.

I could go and create a community for Trion Worlds, but the problem lies with them; are they accepting of changes? Are they accepting of the person who has experience in the space, but isn't a "know it all?" Do you have to design the graphics exactly as they envision? Or do you have freedom to do as you wish? Are they going to allow you to do things the way that you feel that should be done? All of this adds up.

You have to think about what possible outcomes can happen before you make a move like this one.
 
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Jeff Fuqua

Well-known member
#17
Good comments.

I think I'd approach it as I do creating a website for a client. Everything is decided in written form before wireframes. The client would signs off at each stage before launch. That should avoid any conflicts.

The challenge would be in moderating, IMO. I'd prefer to just admin and advise as I don't know the "voice" of the company's brand. Someone within the marketing department would need to step in.
 

Carlos

Well-known member
#18
I think I'd approach it as I do creating a website for a client. Everything is decided in written form before wireframes. The client would signs off at each stage before launch. That should avoid any conflicts.
That a'boy. (y) Positivity!
The challenge would be in moderating, IMO. I'd prefer to just admin and advise as I don't know the "voice" of the company's brand. Someone within the marketing department would need to step in.
The Moderation problem is the compay's problem; you are just the administrator that does the things that person (i.e. you) know best. In another example, EA is basically in my backyard. From time to time, I see employment opportunities where the potential hire can moderate, relay feedback to staff/management, and other like-minded community stuff such as social media. These folks are the "children" community managers of the big ones like you. Epic Games' forums were even moderated by the users, some are staff, but sometimes, Epic handpicks the moderators. Capcom, too.

Liked your post because you said it perfectly; you might want to be admin, but don't want to diminish the "voice" of the brand or company.
 

Jeff Fuqua

Well-known member
#19
Epic handpicks the moderators. Capcom, too.
And some of these moderators are not employed by the company? That would be a scary thought because one could do a lot of damage in a very short time.

There's lots to think about. Finding out who to target will be a big challenge.
 

Mike Edge

Well-known member
#20
And some of these moderators are not employed by the company? That would be a scary thought because one could do a lot of damage in a very short time.

There's lots to think about. Finding out who to target will be a big challenge.
It's pretty normal, esp in the big gaming company communities. Minecraft, they don't even own the site they use for the offcial forum, was 100% fan base built.