Even now, they are still hugely popular. A 2015 survey by Pew Research Centre found that 15% of all internet users read or comment on discussion forums.
But why in the age of Facebook and other social media sites are forums still used so extensively?
In this blog post we’re going to look at some of the main benefits of online forums and why you should be using them to improve productivity within your team and other stakeholders.
This is what most people would consider the main advantage of an online forum.
They are a great way for your team members and stakeholders to connect over shared experiences.
To take things further, you could even create separate communities for different groups so they can easily find topics that are relevant to them. This is a great way to ensure that they stay engaged with the conversations.
With email now considered a major productivity killer by many employees, organisations need to find new ways to improve communication.
An online forum can help form a key part of your communication plan. Rather than searching through a packed inbox of emails, you can simply ask a question within the forum and see everyone’s responses in a clear, chronological order.
Another advantage is that the key points raised in the discussion don’t have to be lost. The most popular platforms will allow you to pin specific posts to the top of the discussion so no-one misses any key statements.
Improving collaboration should be the near the top of your list of priorities.
Why? For a start, 75% of employers rate team work and collaboration as “very important.”
That’s not all though. Collaboration can help to bring out the creative sides of your team members, as they can work closer together and bring new ideas to the table.
What better place to do this than in a forum? People can contribute their ideas in the knowledge that it is stored in an online workspace that can be referred back to at any time.
There are many benefits to having engaged employees. Increased productivity and less absenteeism are just two reasons why companies as large as Google and Facebook continue to invest so much time and money into improving it.
This is backed up by research that found that employees are 12% more productive when they’re happy at work.
By creating a thriving online community, your stakeholders will naturally feel more engaged with your project.
It gives them a platform to express their views and creativity and ultimately feel like they’re positively contributing to its success.
Seek assistance and support
Every day we are faced with problems that we need to overcome.
Sometimes we can just simply ask a manager or colleague for help. But what happens if they’re not around or too busy? The last thing you want is to be left to deal with the problem alone!
With an online forum, you don’t have to. Simply create a discussion and ask your community for help. If everyone posts problems and responds to them, over time it will create a network amongst colleagues that will be actively supporting each other.
Even better, as forum posts are generally archived, you can refer back to previous answers given to common issues to do with your project. It could grow to become an FAQ or Wikipedia style resource for your team or even your whole organisation.
Help drive usage of your online collaboration tool
Your forum doesn’t have to be a standalone entity. It can also form a key part of your existing or new online collaboration tool.
Not invested in one? Perhaps you should. Especially when you consider that Gartner have stated that social technologies are currently used by 70% of organisations.
But there is another statistic stands out. In the same article, Gartner also stated that most social collaboration initiatives fail because they follow a worst practice approach of "provide and pray", leading to only a 10% success rate.
To avoid this, you need to achieve one thing. Give your stakeholders a good reason to collaborate with you in this way.
An online forum can contribute towards this. Ensuring discussions are around relevant topics that people want to actively participating in, can help encourage stakeholders to regularly login, engage with your tool and ultimately help you to achieve project success.
To make this even easier for you, leading suppliers give you the option to ‘@ mention’ specific people to help increase participation and bring more people into the conversation.