NB:Â This is a guest article by by Anthony Rawlins, CEO of Digital Visitor, a social media and marketing agency for travel and tourism organisations globally.
Part One focused on thinking beyond reviews and ratings and the benefits of setting up forums and discussion boards within your website.
Today we look at some of the challenges…
1. Content – how to encourage conversation
One of the questions we are often asked is how can I make sure this application is used or that I gather content from my online visitors?
Here are a few pointers:
- Make it simple for them to contribute to your site
- Let them know about this new feature in your emails and other customer communications
- Pro-actively gather content from them â€“ emailing them to start a discussion or ask a question on your site
- Incentivise them. You donâ€™t have to give them a car but perhaps you can give a small prize to the most engaged discussions on your website?
- Navigation â€“ add discussions and forums to relevant places on your website, such as destination pages or other information pages and allow them to start conversation around these areas. Donâ€™t give them free reign to start chatting about anything in the world as it may not be relevant to your business
Whenever you open a public forum or discussion board you are going to have to think about moderation and inappropriate content.
For some of the solutions we have delivered, we have found a very low percentage (less than 1%) of content is unfairly negative or inappropriate and most decent applications have spam filters, obscenity monitors, etc.
What about negative comments?
Click here to read an articleÂ specifically dealing with this but, remember, weâ€™re not looking at product reviews here â€“ therefore any negative content isnâ€™t necessarily directed towards your services.
Like many things on the internet, a forum is an open target for spammers because when it grows then it inevitably has some weight in Google (and other search engines).
It is vital to consider how you will deal with this before it becomes a problem. Â Again, most decent discussion and forum applications have the ability to block certain users and have complex and useful spam filters.
4. Kick starting your forum
It can initially be extremely difficult to attract visitors to a forum. And an empty forum basically has no hope of attracting people that participate.
People need to see content and be able to explore topics.
Creating all this content can be a lot of work and time. As mentioned previously, incentivise the best discussions, communicate with your existing user database to begin the conversations and you should also get your staff involved to drive the conversations.
Establishing a discussion forum can take some time and effort, but once people start contributing, you’ll quickly begin to see the benefits they can bring to a business.
NB: This is a guest article by Anthony Rawlins, CEO of Digital Visitor, a social media and marketing agency for travel and tourism organisations globally.
NB2: Image via Shutterstock.