A message board is an internet-based website people use to discuss topics, or threads, of common interest. These topics can be categorized so users can more easily search and find topics relevant to their area of interest. Depending on how the message board is set up, users may have to register and become part of one of the message board’s user groups.
Running a message board for your customers, constituents, or members can bring many benefits to your business, such as:
- Recruit and Retain Users/Members: A message board can bring members together to interact, share resources, and engage to get a deeper understanding about your association, business, or products. The exclusivity of a members-only community can drive demand to join and participate in a group that imparts a feeling of connectedness and belonging.
- Give Members a Voice: Members can communicate with colleagues and staff easily from any computer, tablet, or mobile device. Your association or business representatives can also reply with feedback to address concerns or questions, regardless of schedules or other time constraints.
- Build a Knowledge Base: By default, the give-and-take and back-and-forth of member discussion revolving around various topics designed to transfer knowledge and solve problems will create a depth of knowledge that can be shared with any member interested in your industry. This creates a sort of knowledge base that can be referenced, by topic, for information regarding issues such as product use or troubleshooting.
- Collect and Analyze User Data: Requiring members to register for membership to your message board creates an opportunity to gather demographic information about your constituents. Depending on your business or association needs, an online sign-up sheet can be used to collect relevant personal data and then report on community activities, based on those demographics.
When starting a message board, be sure to assign a moderator for your forum. This person will act as the arbiter by addressing users’ concerns, complaints, and conflicts. Since the spirit of the message board is to provide a forum on which users’ can express their opinions, there are bound to be those folks who push the limits of civility and fail to express their ideas in a socially acceptable way.
This is where a set of rules and policies, such as what constitutes valid topics for discussion and what happens to members if they break the rules, will help to head-off any potential misunderstandings. Remember, this message board forum is a direct representation of your business or association. Moderation is key to maintaining a constructive atmosphere for member interaction.
Depending on the scope of your message board effort, a dedicated administrator may be needed to manage the technical details required for running the site. An administrator can promote/demote members to and from the moderator role, help enforce topic and discussion rules, create the sections and sub-sections needed to manage topic threads, and perform any necessary database operations required to keep the site operational.
Besides creating and maintaining your own message board, there are companies that provide community management as a service. Using such a service can make administrative and moderation tasks much easier, while still providing all the benefits of providing a message board to your constituency.
Regardless of what path you take to elicit constituent feedback through a message board (in-house run or outsourced service), providing a well moderated forum for your customers to interact will provide the benefit of knowledge for both your business and your members.