Before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, people used forums as a social network. Forum users can discuss just about anything—debating about politics, providing recommendations for travel, giving advice about college applications, and reviewing products. A comradery rises out of those discussions, as people share their perspectives and establish online relationships.
And from these natural, unsolicited conversations, powerful consumer insights can be mined. We’ve unearthed forums’ main values to researchers and brands:
- In-depth discussions
- Crowdsourcing ideas
- Subject matter experts
For example, the discussion on hotels primarily takes place on forums. Looking at the hotels conversation on social media sources on Crimson Hexagon’s platform (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and forums), 71 percent of the conversation occurs on forums. On top forums like FlyerTalk, TripAdvisor, and Cruise Critic, people discuss various aspects of their hotel experiences, revealing the reasons why they prefer hotels over home sharing and vice versa. By looking at the consumer conversation, we’ve identified four main reasons they prefer hotels—consistency and reliability, better services and amenities, points/services reducing costs, and trustworthiness.
Because forums are structured in a way to bring like-minded people together to discuss a topic, they are a great resource for crowdsourcing ideas.
When people are deciding which hotel brand to choose for their travel, their research goes deeper than looking at the hotel websites. They turn to forums to crowdsource recommendations about where to stay. People provide detailed responses that elaborate why they warn against or advocate for a certain hotel. “Unfortunately my recent stay was terrible! Avoid this hotel. In addition to multiple issues with the staff, among other things, we didn’t have working internet. The Hyatt Mag Mile is located next to a hospital complex and there is quite a bit of noise,” said a forum user about Hyatt.
Subject Matter Experts
On forum discussions, it becomes clear who the leaders in certain topics are. Novices seek out information from those who are more experienced. Subject matter experts are often willing to dispense advice to those who seek it. Forums are full of these answer-seeking conversations.
For example, when people are trying to decide which car to buy, they seek advice from car owners who have had experience with certain brands. Those experts are able to provide their knowledge about what makes a car worth buying, assessing factors like mileage and safety. They also offer valuable information about dealerships, warning of ones that are fraudulent.
Forums are dense with information. The lengthy posts may be initially difficult to dissect, but the analysis is made easier with Crimson Hexagon. Researchers and brands that seek to understand unfiltered consumer opinions about any topic can look to forums.