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Forums, Blogs, and Community Sites - An Introduction

Posted July 18, 2011 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Communication with an organization's audience can take place through many formats. A forum and blog site, for example, is more than a collection of opinions, research, and comments. It is also a place where conversations take place and online relationships evolve. This information can then be found by others on the Internet.

In the early days of the Internet, static web pages served as online repositories of information. With Web 2.0 came the possibility for users to create content. This information is easily found by search engines. Forums are web sites where users can participate in online discussions about nearly any topic.

Types of Community Sites

Many community sites are divided into two types:

  • Forums - Some forums focus on rating and reviewing products, others are for answering questions, and others are simply for discussing certain topics. Many individuals participate in these types of sites because they like the psychic rewards that come from sharing. Psychic rewards, as defined in the book Groundswell, are "good feelings from altruism, validation, and belonging to a community".

  • Blogs - Blogs, on the other hand, are authored typically by one person or a handful of people. Users can comment on the content of blogs. In a public relations context, blogs are often used to relay corporate information that is too long to be included in a press release. They can also include product information or the state of a website. Users generate content in the form of the comments they leave on blogs.

Site moderation is typically done on both types of community sites, and involves reviewing and acting upon irrelevant, inappropriate, and negative content. It is necessary to keep users in check when they cross the line. Site moderation itself evolves as a community changes. The goal is to understand and improve moderation as a function between users (external relations) and moderators (internal relations).

Real-Life Examples

The computer company Dell has a customer support forum where users can ask and answer questions about its products. By helping one another in this way, it's estimated that this forum has saved Dell over $1 million in customer support phone calls.

Likewise, Lego spreads information about its products through a forum called LUGNET. It uses brand ambassadors who are paid in Lego bricks to steer the conversation within the community. It is estimated that this program has increased adult Lego purchases by $500,000. As these examples illustrate, forums can be used to supplement a corporate web site.

Do you prefer to turn to an online community for answers or do you look to a company's technical support staff when you have questions?

Editor's Note: This is the first in a multi-part series about social sites. More entries will appear soon.

References:

Li, Charlene, and Josh Bernoff. Groundswell. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2008. Print.

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#1

Re: Forums, Blogs, and Community Sites - An Introduction

07/18/2011 11:08 AM

"Likewise, Lego spreads information about its products through a forum called LUGNET. It uses brand ambassadors who are paid in Lego bricks to steer the conversation within the community."

I find this intriguing. Is anyone aware, are there other forums with a similar tactic?

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Re: Forums, Blogs, and Community Sites - An Introduction

07/18/2011 12:31 PM

I'm sure there are. Search "brand ambassador" and you'll find lots of information. It seems to be a popular job.

A brand ambassador could be an employee or someone acting on a company's behalf. Either way, the person is knowledgeable about the product or service, and is interacting with the regular customers or users.

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Re: Forums, Blogs, and Community Sites - An Introduction

08/09/2011 10:03 PM

Nice post. Milo

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