When To Create Discussion Forums

One of the best ways to generate word of mouth and create brand evangelists is to create a discussion forum.   What could be better than giving hundreds, thousands, or even millions of your customers or potential customers a forum where they can talk about your products day night?  They can swap stories and passions and ideas.   

Many companies think creating a discussion forum is a great idea.  They think, "of course – people love us and our products – they’d like nothing better than to have a place where they can meet and talk about us for hours".

I wonder what would happen if I, Holly Buchanan, created my own discussion forum.  All my fans could congregate and talk about me and all the things I’m passionate about, from marketing to women, to addictions to Swedish Fish , to what to do about your Boston Terrier’s snoring problem.

There’s just one problem – no one cares about Holly Buchanan.   (Ok, my mom does, but…..)   

Do people share some of my same passions?  Sure they do.    I know I have more than one reader, so someone other than my mother is reading the blog.   But is my brand strong enough that people really want to talk about me?   No, it’s not.

Yet many companies think their customers are so passionate about the company and what it sells that, of course, they need a discussion forum.    Apple needs a discussion forum – you probably don’t…….unless……

Fill a deeply felt or unmet need

Realsavvymoms.com is a site dedicated to moms and moms-to-be.   Now, this is a pretty crowded space.   but Realsavvymoms.com found a strong need among their visitors – that need was for advice during pregnancy.  So Realsavvymoms.com created the "Ask a Midwife" discussion forum.

Read through the various threads, and you can’t help but sense a near desperate need for advice, council, and sometimes just reassurance that you’re not losing your mind (or your body).

"Ask a Midwife" is incredibly popular – I believe – because it addresses such a strongly felt need – a need for medical information from a trusted source other than your primary doctor or OBGYN.

When you’re pregnant, your body goes through all sorts of changes.  Every day is a new adventure and sometimes a new scare.    You don’t necessarily want to bother your doctor every 12 hours with what’s going on, especially if you feel it’s not important enough to trouble him or her with.   But it’s still important to you.

Realsavvymoms.com understood this deep personal need for advice from a trusted health care professional, offered in an anonymous forum where you could ask anything you want – AND learn from questions other pregnant women are asking.   

All questions are treated with respect.   Feel silly asking your doctor a question? Ask a Midwife.   Feel like you may be the only woman facing these problems or feelings?  Ask a Midwife.  Want to know what challenges and questions other moms-to-be have?  Ask a Midwife.

Post titles range from "5 weeks pregnant and no fetal heartbeat on internal U/S" to "Kinda scared" to "Summer heat and early labor" to "I think I might have had a miscarriage".   

You know you are not alone in asking a question when you see 761 views of that question and answer.   

761 views – think this is a question a lot of moms are worried about?    Think this forum is hitting on crucial topics?  You betcha.

So – if you’re going to create a discussion forum – either have a remarkable product with true customer evangelists (like Apple),  OR find a deeply held or unmet need of your visitors – either information, or advice, or conversation place that provides something she needs, delivered in the manner in which she wants it delivered.   

Next best thing – a blog

If you don’t have the technical resources to create a discussion forum – consider the next best thing – a blog.   Granted, a blog is really more about your thoughts than your customers thoughts.  But, thanks to comments – it is the next best thing to creating a dialog between you and your customers and among your customers themselves.   

This entry was posted in How women use the web, Marketing strategy, Marketing to women done well, Word of Mouth Advertising and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to When To Create Discussion Forums

  1. The tendency for marketing to overestimate its importance to customers is universal. It’s human nature to believe that what you spend so much time with and what pays your bills is important. In reality most businesses intersect with only a small slice of a customer’s life. While that slice may be important it is rarely that important that the customer cares about us as much as we care about ourselves. This is what makes truly empathetic marketing communications so difficult. As marketers we take for granted that people know things about us, our products and services that perhaps they should but don’t. It’s hard to imagine what angle of approach a person will take when interacting with us. We spend too much time inside the bottle, and when you are inside the bottle it’s virtually impossible to read the label.

  2. alfred says:

    well perhaps we should all spend less time in the bottle than.. for example,
    http://www.travellerbonk.com shows how this can be done effectively.

  3. Eamon says:

    Nice and useful blog.
    Certainly think that a blog is bendy / malleable enough to allow most companies to have some sort of dialogue with their customers (at least to have more of a dialogue than without (a blog)).

  4. sandhaya says:

    Has anyone out there heard about WideCircles.com. It seems like a way better service then wasting money on PPC. Apparently they are using refering websites ( forums, blogs, wiki, etc. ) and have a viral word of mouth distributed approach to it. My friend told me he got around 100 visits from single post which cost him $0.40c. I am going to give them a try today . In case you are intrested here is it. http://widecircles.com?s=imt1

  5. prime816 says:

    its a very good idea using blogs for marketing.
    imagine how many bloggers around the word? and that would be the coverage of the marketing of the company. blogs makes the marketing strategies
    of some companies more effective.
    Put The Message Where It Matters! WideCircles aka Wide Circles represents relevant, distributed, highly targeted and efficient internet word of mouth marketing using entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion using social network mediums such as blogs, forums, wikis and so on. http://widecircles.com

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  7. Joining online forums is one of the easiest internet network marketing techniques that you can use to get free MLM leads and free guaranteed signups for your mlm business. And by incorporating the new system of attraction marketing into your forum campaign strategy, you’ll be able to recruit as many people as you can to join your primary program and build your downline fast.

  8. Nsp says:

    Hi Chris. Im a regular raeedr though not a regular commentator of your blog. I feel really happy to join the forum. In fact I have already joined and my account is awaiting moderation. Great job you are doing there in the forum. Thanks.

  9. Brenda says:

    Excellent initiative. I can inmaige folks getting to know each other and the community after the site starts to build momentum.One more item that I think might be well received would be an event listing, so people can keep each other informed about various meetings, celebrations and the like.I’ll be going over my notes from last weekend’s meeting, and expect I’ll add a couple of more comments soon. There certainly was a lot of good ideas being raised, and the enthusiasm was energizing.Cedar and the surrounding area has a lot going for it, and from what I’m hearing this is Cedar’s time to shine!

  10. Chisato says:

    Please bare in mind that Cedar Rd. is HWY 1A and it like all the other roads in the area are owned by the ministry. We went torguhh many a discussion on the OCP regarding people and goods moving torguhh the area and the committee made a great number of recommendations. Hopefully, we might be able to get some of it looked at?Cheers,

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