ProBoards, an Orange County, CA-based Internet forums hosting company, recently announced the addition of Forums.net. This new platform has been specifically designed for SMB needs, and is powered by the company’s ProBoards Version 5 software. I was able to have a chat with ProBoards President and CEO, Patrick Clinger, yesterday, and he gave me the rundown on the new platform, as well as some insightful observations on why SMBs should use forums in everyday business.
To start our call, Patrick gave me a bit of company history, including the fact that ProBoards has been in business for 14 years, and that they currently see 40 million visitors monthly. They are well-known for offering their, white-label Internet forum hosting service to enterprises, and they are now focusing their efforts to help SMBs. The Forums.net solution includes the same white-label capabilities as the original ProBoards, with the following features added:
- Forums built are natively mobile, to allow all community members to access forums from a multitude of devices, and have optimized social media link-offs.
- Forums.net is optimized for SEO and allows SMBs to use their own domain to keep all web traffic tracked properly.
- Seamless integration with existing site themes, as well as full customization.
- Single-Sign-On capabilities that integrate into existing site.
- Hosted via SSL for security.
- If anything goes wrong, or if an SMB doesn’t like the service, they can export their data and go at any time.
- Fully-managed by Forums.net.
Patrick then answered the big question, the one we’ve all been asking since we were little: “Why?” More specifically: why should you or anyone else use forums for your business? First and foremost, it’s a time-tested way to reach and engage customers and a greater community.
“Forums are the original social network,” said Patrick in our interview. “They have withstood the test of time, which is a real testament to their value.”
He also explained that his company has very high customer service rates, due to the fact that they keep an active member forum up. This forum enables them to have 24/7 support, as after the employees leave the office, community members are still active on the forums and able to help one another with product concerns or general questions.
Tied into this is the role of company transparency. Having a forum where product/service issues are made public, SMBs have the chance to show how they solve problems and earn customer confidence. Patrick also told me that ProBoards has had great success with volunteer moderators, who have been on the forum daily for some 14 years, and who are able to answer most questions.
I finished out our call by asking Patrick if his company had any reseller programs available. He let me know that, as Forums.net is relatively new, there’s no reseller program at this time, but that they are looking to develop one in the future.