With new and innovative social media platforms taking over the internet, forums and message boards seem to have taken the backstage. However, forum platforms are still thriving, although they now cater to a smaller crowd than before. With the right approach, they could also serve as a valuable source of data for your social intelligence projects. In this post, we take a look at five reasons why.
1: Forum Posts Don’t Disappear after 24 Hours
With the ability to create in-the-moment posts that disappear after 24 hours, stories have become a highly appealing way to share content among both brands and consumers. This, however, puts your social listening efforts at a disadvantage because you can no longer track story posts after they disappear.
Forum posts, on the other hand, don’t have an expiration date. They stay permanently in the message board or forum unless the user/moderator deletes them. This makes them highly traceable and therefore, can make a valuable contribution to your social listening efforts.
On top of this, they’re also visible in Google search results. This enables us to understand what kind of results people are exposed to when they search for certain topics.
2: Anonymity drives authentic engagement
Social media offers people a channel to express themselves while connecting with others. But many social media users tend to create a persona that their followers might like instead of being their authentic selves. People are typically connected to families, colleagues, friends and other real-life acquaintances on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. This means they feel the need to hide behind their fabricated social media personas, especially when engaging on topics that are considered private, controversial, sensitive or even taboo.
On the contrary, forums offer people a chance to anonymously share their honest opinions and authentic experiences. This anonymity encourages them to speak freely while they might otherwise fear judgment, intimidation or ridicule. Moreover, anonymous discussion forums can become a safe space for people to share their thoughts in countries where restrictions are placed on the public debate of certain topics.
3: There’s a Sense of Trust within Forum Communities
Amid the growing mistrust of social media, forums are stepping in as a more reliable source of information. In fact, 80% of respondents in a Tapatalk survey felt that responses on a specialised forum are more trustworthy than those on Facebook. The absence of personal or commercial gain as a motive behind the posts can be credited to this sense of trust.
Meanwhile, forum members are more likely to be motivated by curiosity, altruism, recognition from like-minded people and general positive feelings from honest peer-to-peer interactions. Therefore, forums often have a strong community of people with shared interests, experiences or concerns to foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
As such, there’s perceived trustworthiness among peers, which can make it easier to open up or find common ground. People who feel at ease with the forum community are also more likely to be comfortable sharing their thoughts, views and ideas, facilitating honest peer-to-peer interactions.
4: They Foster In-Depth Discussions within Orderly Categories
There’s order within forums, with conversations neatly organised into threads, rooms, spaces and other logic categories. That way, members know exactly where to go to find the information they need, join a discussion or ask a question.
Moreover, forums are designed to foster in-depth conversations. There are no strict character limits that would prevent users from thoroughly sharing their thoughts or explanations. In a single post, they can explain, argue, reason and present the pros and cons.
This is in stark contrast to platforms like Twitter, which, although offers an opportunity for debate, doesn’t provide much room to go in-depth. The strict character limit means people have to keep their statements brief, which means there’s significant room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding. As a result, forums are a goldmine for valuable insights into consumer thoughts and opinions as they feature detailed accounts from users.
5: They Help Create Robust Customer Personas
We can use niche message boards and forums to map communities based on which threads they participate in. This will then help us to find hidden clusters, enabling us to understand our target audiences beyond the basic demographic characteristics.
Forums help us to identify the interconnected interests of a target audience, which can be used for developing in-depth persona profiles. The detailed discussions within threads and topic categories can also be used to extract cultural insights in global or country-specific social listening projects. With native, in-country analysts examining stances and opinions from a multilingual audience, forums can be used to create more robust personas within a target geographical region.
This allows brands to paint a more detailed portrait of the audience they want to reach and get a better understanding of their customers’ wants, needs, pain points and desires.
Make the Most of Forums for Your Next Social Intelligence Project
Although forums have a lower volume of usage, they can prove to be a valuable source of audience insights. They give us a deeper understanding of certain topics and what drives core consumer groups. Forums are particularly useful in projects that require in-depth analysis of barriers and drivers, especially when exploring new cultural markets.
Contact us to learn how we can help you make the most of forums to extract deep cultural insights.
Based in Madrid in Spain, Digital Marketing and Social Media Insights Expert, Tamara helps to answer business questions and to develop actionable customer insights globally by tying together business goals, teams and technology together. As Associate Director at Convosphere, Tamara supports global companies in making their strategic social intelligence projects scalable and successful. She regularly writes about Social Intelligence and Customer Insights and collaborates as a lecturer with several business schools in Spain.