If you’re looking for an easy way to make your business’ website more interactive, consider adding a bulletin board or a forum. They’re different names for the same thing, an application you can add to your site allowing visitors to leave messages and interact with each other. You can even join in the discussion.
Adding a forum doesn’t need to cost you a dime. Doing a Google search on the term “free bulletin boards” will net you many options, which you’ll want to examine. Consider not only the functionality of each bulletin board, but also the ease of installation. If you don’t plan to hire somebody to install it, you’ll have to do it yourself, and they often require at least a modicum of technical knowledge.
One of the most popular free packages for creating online bulletin boards is phpBB.
There are forums available for sale, bulletin-board software packages that is. Two of themost popular are Vbulletin and Invision Board.
It’s not necessarily a given that you, the business owner, would want a bulletin board on your website. Not that many companies use them. However, if your business spends a fair amount of time supporting existing clients, a forum can save you a significant amount of time by providing an environment with information that can be accessed by existing customers and prospects.
For example, if you get hundreds of inquiries about Topic X, address it in the forum once and then encourage your clients to visit the site.
Necessary to monitor
Sure, bulletin boards can help to develop a sense of community around your brand. Anytime you can provide an environment for people to sit around and discuss your products and your business, it serves as self-propelled marketing. However, beware that giving visitors the ability to discuss your products and services in a forum environment doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll talk positively. You’ll need to monitor the board.
Then again, you’ll always want to monitor the forum’s goings on. Clients and prospects will often post questions, concerns or suggestions just to see how quickly you respond. That helps them to gauge what kind of customer service they can expect from your business. In other words, if you’re not willing or if you don’t have the time to get involved with your site’s bulletin board, it might be best not to install one.
On a side note, forums are also an excellent way of naturally boosting your search-engine presence. Bulletin board posts are as good as individual web pages, and the more posts that have substantive content about your business, the better your Google rank can be.
Consider prizes and discounts
Get creative with your forum. Offer a prize or a discount to the bulletin board member whose suggestion leads directly to a product idea or change. Perhaps you could offer 20 percent off a purchase for the person who asks the question of the month. There’s no reason, just because bulletin boards are a device for discussion, not to regularly invoke calls to action.