By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media & Content Specialist at Sage Ireland
Last week we started using our new verified representative account on boards.ie. By using a verified account we are able to answer questions about Sage and our products that appear in boards.ie discussion forums, from an official Sage brand account.
This means that people can be sure the information they are getting about Sage on boards.ie is correct and up to date if it comes from our official account. Our boards.ie verified account is operated by members of the Sage Business Advice Team which is led by Lorna Keogh.
I thought this was a good opportunity to talk to Nicola McNally from boards.ie and learn more about how the site can be used by business owners. I started by asking Nicola about how boards.ie came about:
BW: For anyone that is not familiar, can you give us a brief background of boards.ie?
NM: Boards.ie as we know it began life as a forum for the popular computer game ‘Quake’ in 1998. In 2000 it became Boards.ie and has continued to grow apace ever since. We now have over 600,000 registered members making us the largest online community in Ireland.
BW: About how many discussions are active on boards every month?
NM: There are an average of 16,500 posts made every day on the site which equates to over 462,000 posts per month. To give you an idea of the scale of the site we currently have over 34 million posts on our database. We have been included in the National Library of Ireland’s Digital Archive.
- 2.4 million unique users and 34 million page impressions
- 2.1 million conversations, and 34 million posts, about 1,300 different topics
- We reach 1/3 of Ireland’s internet audience
BW: Why do you think boards.ie was able to attract the number of users and discussions it does while other discussion forums have failed?
NM: We have grown from a relatively small and close community to a large one which is now composed of many smaller communities; we have over 600 forums catering to a huge range of interests. I think our sustained success is down to the dedication of the community; we have a great moderation team in place and as we have grown have had to tackle different obstacles. We also understand the need for flexibility, for example as more businesses have come to Boards looking to engage with members, we have altered our approach to commercial interaction-making it easier for both businesses and members to engage on the site.
BW: What is the most popular topic on boards.ie at the moment?
NM: The busiest and most popular forums tend to be broader in their appeal, for example our Bargain Alerts forum is one of the busiest-community members post up great deals they have found, either on line or in stores and other members discuss them. Threads about politics and local or current affairs also tend to generate a lot of discussion.
BW: How many people work for boards.ie, how does boards.ie generate revenue?
NM: We currently have six members of staff, our community team of Dav, Niamh and Nicola, COO Gordon and the tech team of Ronan and Danny. Much of our revenue comes from ad sales.
BW: From the perspective of business owners how do you think they should use boards.ie?
NM: There are a number of options available; if a business wishes to engage with our members in a slightly different manner to traditional social media then they can apply for a Verified Representative account; this permits them a presence among the community and the ability to offer customer service or answer questions about their business/organisation. Many businesses also find this an invaluable source of feedback.
BW: What is not allowed?
NM: Advertising is strictly not permitted, we find it is disruptive to conversations and also permeates the community atmosphere.
BW: For brands with larger budgets, how can they use boards.ie?
NM: Our Talk To forums offer a branded customer service channel/platform which is provided by Boards.ie for the company’s exclusive use; it gives them a dedicated presence on the site where customers and members can contact the brand directly. It also reinforces their brand and can result in increased brand loyalty.
BW: Is there any particular brand or company that you see using boards.ie very effectively?
NM: We currently have seventeen businesses with Talk To forums on Boards.ie, two of the best examples of brand success would have to be Currys & PC World and Bank of Ireland. Currys built upon an existing customer base by offering discounts to Boards.ie members through their forum while Bank of Ireland have had great success in adding Boards.ie to their customer service channels.
BW: In the age of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn why is Boards.ie still relevant?
NM: All the content is archived and easily searchable. You can engage with an existing community and build your own community of members, establishing brand loyalty and consumer goodwill. A Talk to forum is not strictly a place to advertise but you can promote new products and services by sharing them with the community. It is also a source of invaluable feedback from customers and we have seen brilliant brand dedicated communities grow from Talk to forums.
BW: There has been a lot of discussion in both traditional and new media lately about ‘online bullying’. How does boards.ie manage to allow healthy public debate on its discussion forums while at the same time adhering to the law?
BW: If you had one tip for businesses thinking about using discussion forums to engage with people what would that be?
NM: Research! Take your time before engaging, get a good feel for the existing community and view the engagement as something which is mutually beneficial-we often see a noticeable upswing in consumer sentiment towards brands and businesses after they begin engaging on Boards.ie.
If you want to find out more about boards.ie you can contact them at [email protected] or on Twitter @boards_ie. If you want to engage with Sage on boards.ie why not leave us a message on our official verified account profile. Sage are also active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.