Almost all websites of significance have forums or any discussion board variation. In these forums, first time website visitors as well as regulars come in to exchange ideas, talk about the website and other topics. They also serve as guides and deeper access into the heart and soul of companies, organizations, institutions and ideas behind websites.
But how does a forum work? What do successful forums have in common?
First of all, forums must be easy to access. There are forums that require applet downloads and even take a lot of time to access. These forums belong to websites that are failures. Successful forums open in a click.
In successful forums, topics are easily categorized and threads are easy to understand and relevant. Some forums have tendencies to embrace anything in everything in one go. They must realize that in the age of Web 2.0, Internet users no longer go online to read and consume information. They go to the web to look for sites that they can relate to and sites that cater to their interest. People are looking for forums that they can participate in while getting information.
This leads to the next issue which forum moderation and interaction. There are some moderators who just sit back and slap the hands of erring forum posters. There are also those who actually read posts and respond (positively, negatively sometimes violently). This actually drives more traffic into the site. Moderators even thread originators must be able to generate discussion and sustain it. Or else, forum will end up like ranting blogs or news sites that are just up for consumption, not for interaction.
Forums are made for discussion and exchange of ideas. It is not a highway but an intersection where people and minds converge (and yes, sometimes, inevitably clash). But this is the whole point of Web 2.0. As more websites narrow down their specialization and try to capture its audience a successful, lively and interactive forum is vital to the success of any campaign.
Successful forums and discussion boards are one of the most sought after advertising spots on the Internet. The reasons are simple. There is traffic, there is participation from the traffic (therefore commitment and attachment to the forum by the readers) and forums are already segmentized (target market for specific brands).
If not done for business ends, forums are wonderful avenues to test your wits, to gain friends, to learn and even market yourself and your business. There have been many success stories of buyers meeting sellers over online forums, sometimes even by accident or coincidence.
Forums epitomize the whole recipe for success of the Internet phenomenon. It brings people from all corners of the world with the same interest together and they gather to have fun and to learn. It is online democracy at its finest. People converge to consume and produce information. That is what freedom is all about.