It may seem obvious how having a forums section or online community on your web site can help bring business to you-prospective clients and customers can connect, communicate and find out more about your product or services by spending more time on your site. What might not be as obvious, however, is how all of that chatting and commenting can actually help you to make improvements and adjust your service delivery or product line to better meet the needs of those people you consider customers.
People tend to share candidly and honestly when they are connecting with others in a forums or community section. Even though they know it is likely moderated, they will have “immediate” responses and ask pertinent questions. This can be very valuable information for you if you are looking for ways to improve your business.

You may actually hear things (or read things) on the community pages of your web site that you would not otherwise hear. If there are glitches in a product’s performances, or issues that you are or are not addressing, there is a good chance it could come to light in a conversation between two or more “users” on your web site.

If you really want to “find out what people are saying” about your business, product or service, you can also get into the forums or community sections yourself and ask some questions. There is nothing wrong with introducing some topics and getting people talking about things that you would like to know about: “What do you all think of the new hours of XZY store? Do you think they should stay open later on Sundays?” The other visitors do not have to know that you are an “insider”-you can create a username that does not give you away and participate in conversations.

You can also influence the types of conversations and information shared by creating chat categories. Instead of just one overall forum that is a free-for-all, consider creating sub-categories or topics about specific things. That way, people will be guided to participate in these conversations and chat about the topics provided. While you may not be able to control what is actually talked about, these sub-topics can be a good way or encouraging people to focus in certain directions. You will also be able to tell which topics people are NOT interested in based on which categories do not attract visitors or posts. All of this information can help you to adjust your business offerings to meet the needs of your public.