Online community or forum is a place where people exchange information or socialize. If you are planning to have your own community and forum it can be can be easily done nowadays. There are many free and paid tools and sites available which will help you build your own community or forum. Having your own forum requires lots of time, dedication and constant monitoring. So before you build an online community or forum you should have a clear purpose of why you want to start one yourself.

These communities and forums are great way of increasing traffic to your sit. You can use them to increase awareness about your business. One of the easiest ways you can create a social networking is to use free tools available like yahoo groups, flickr, Facebook and blogs. There are other sites like Ning which will help you to create your own social networking site or your own forum. Blogs are a great way of positioning by putting in your posts which will serve as a base for further networking and positioning yourself as an expert. You can start discussions on emails by forming your own group by using free tool like Yahoo. These mails can be moderated like any other forum and inappropriate content can be edited. You can start your own forum or discussion board by using free networking site like Facebook. You can go one step ahead and create your own social networking site by using some website like Ning.

One of the key points to remember for any forum is that the starting will be slow. As most the people do not like to be part of newly launched discussions you need to build up the momentum so that people start coming to your forum. You can initiate discussions yourself or can get the experts in the related field to provide their opinion on the subject matter. Communities and forums thrive if the users have freedom to pose any question they have. It might be a very simple question posted by a new member who might not appeal to more expert member, but a helpful tolerant atmosphere must be encouraged. There should be a no tolerance policy for miscreants or people who start commenting in a negative way on others.

You should provide answer to all the questions posted to you promptly and in a satisfactory manner. Always encourage feedback from the users and learn to accept criticism. If you have made a mistake you should accept it.

Today’s world is competitive, and if a business needs to get ahead of its competitors, there must be some distinguishing factors between these two. The good news is that the distinguishing factors are not very difficult to harness. The success of a product or service is dependent on many factors but the most fundamental bottom line for it is the number of customers it have. After all that is the measuring scale, more the users more the success. Popularity of a product is a direct influencing agent in this regard. Traditional marketing techniques are good, but only for traditional marketing mediums. New age platforms such as the internet require new ways of popularizing products and on the same time provide those too.

One great way to bring up excitement in people about a product or service is to build an online community around it. This is being harnessed by many companies today and is proving to be quiet effective. It’s a quiet easy process to implement for anybody, thanks to the Open Source movement; there are ample software platforms available to provide such services, free of cost. Paid solutions are also there for those who want to get support for the platform without getting into its nuts and bolts themselves. These software solutions generally come in form of online forum software but it could be a community based solution too. For example, the online customer forum of Dell Inc. is a great example of a well designed community forum whereas the Zune Social by Microsoft is a successful community built around its hardware mp3 player called Zune.

The point is, when people get engaged with a product or service, they try to share their experience with it with others around the world, over internet. They generally do so, on general public bulletin boards or their own personal blogs. But that is not as engaging as they should be as the public bulletin generally lack people with same interest and blog is rather passive medium.

So it makes sense for the manufacturer to provide a forum built around its products and services to its user, using any suitable available software like PHPBB or vBulletin and then advertise it on their websites as well as product brochures, manuals etc. This attracts customers instantly and when all users using same products come online and share their experience, the community becomes very vibrant and lively. Problems gets solved automatically many times resulting in less support calls and issues are found more easily, mostly in early adopters stage.

So it’s not quite a big task to setup an online community around a product or service but the benefits gained from it are manifold.