Social Support Is Here To Stay or Why Your Business Needs A Forum

Social support is here to stay, and guess what? The big names know this. From Dell to HP, online companies are reorganizing support channels in an effort to meet customer needs. With the ubiquitous of social media, it’s not really a matter of choice. In fact, the number of companies handling a quarter of their support inquiries on social media doubled in 2012.

Social media opens up new points of contact for businesses, and if your company has a Facebook page or is using Twitter, there is a good chance your customers will be using these channels to get information. This may be in the form of a sales question, or even a support issue. People want answers, and with the speed and availability of information online, we’ve all come to expect these answers faster.

Why You Need A Forum For Your Customers

If there is one thing that can be said about your customers is that they will talk about your business, good or bad. What you need to think about is: where do you want that conversation to occur? I’ll answer that for you — on your own web property.

You may be familiar with the term “owned media”. If you’re not, owned media is content that you own. A forum falls into that category, and for a greater explanation of the benefits and differences of paid, earned, and “owned” media, take a look below:

Paid, Earned, Owned Media

Paid, Earned, and Owned Media

Benefits Of Using A Forum For Customer Support

One of the prime benefits of using a forum for support is that any answers that come up along the way, once addressed, can be built into a resource or knowledgebase. This actually saves you time and money down the road. Instead of having to explain the same instructions to every customer that asks, you can refer them to the resource. Plus, if you structure your forum correctly and make things easy to find, your customers can find the resource directly, which saves them time.

You also have to measure the value of having a community built around your brand. A perfect example of this in action is this developer on Themeforest. As you can see, his theme has been purchased over 30,000 times, has been featured on the site, and has an excellent rating. The theme itself is high quality and designed well, but what really adds power to this developer’s sales is the level of support, and the community that he has built around his theme.

An example of a community support forum.

An example of a community support forum.

This developer handles support issues using a forum and has structured each thread to make it easy to find information. There is also an area for people to show off their websites that are using his theme, and he also showcases these on his website. Another aspect of having a forum, which you will see here, is other members helping each other with questions. This is another benefit of using forums for customer service: your members tend to help each other, making your job easier.

It can’t be left out that having a forum also builds transparency around your business, and adds plenty of social proof. If you build a community, offer value, and are responsive to your customers, your forum will not only be a support channel — it will help drive sales.

Oh, and let’s not forget the SEO benefits. Depending upon your niche, if you make the forum open to all, the content that your forum produces will get indexed in Google.

Still not convinced? Check out this infographic from HP for more stats on community forums and social support.

Social Support Is Here To Stay or Why Your Business Needs A Forum

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How To Automatically Tweet New Forum Threads With No Coding

How To Automatically Tweet New Forum Threads With No Coding

There is no denying that social media can be a healthy source of traffic for your forum. The key is getting those visitors. You want the conversation to occur on your board, but there are a few tricks that help you leverage traffic from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to get people involved in the conversation.

Today, we’ll be discussing one of the ways you can use free online tools to automatically publish tweets, Facebook posts, and even social bookmarks every time a new thread is posted on your forum. This tutorial will work with any forum software that has RSS feeds. I’ve set it up on vBulletin and XenForo and can confirm it works like a charm. The entire process can be accomplished in about 15 minutes.

Here is what you will need to get started:

  • Make sure you have a Twitter account. If your forum is particularly active you may want to set up a completely separate Twitter account to use as your Twitter bot.
  • Create an account at IFTTT.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

First, you’ll need to authorize your Twitter account with IFTTT. This is a very simple process. Once you have created an account and verified your email, you will need to click ‘Create’ on the top navigation bar.

Create a recipe in IFTTT

Click ‘Create’ to begin creating your first IFTTT recipe.

Next, you’ll need to choose navigate to the RSS icon and select it.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

Find the RSS icon and select it.

Choose the first option on this screen.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

Choose a ‘New Feed Item’

Now, you’ll need to choose a thread on your forum that you would like to be auto-tweeted with every new thread.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

Pick a thread and grab the RSS feed.

Once you have the feed, paste it into the field like the example below and press ‘Create Trigger’.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

Paste your feed URL in the field and create the trigger.

The next step will be authenticating your Twitter account with IFTTT so it can post tweets. Click ‘that’ and move on.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

You’ll now need to authenticate your Twitter account.

You’ll need to choose Post a tweet in the options area.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

Choose ‘Post a tweet’.

Once you have gotten this far you will have the option to customize the feed. It is best to simply leave everything like it is, but you can also add a hashtag that is relevant to your niche. This will help you show up in the right places in Twitter search. Don’t go overboard though as Twitter has a character limit.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

Leave it as it is or add a hashtag if you like.

Create the action. Now, it is time to activate the trigger. It is best to write yourself a little note describing the “recipe” you just created.

Step By Step Guide To Creating A Twitter Bot For Your Forum

Click the button and you’re done.

That’s it. You can go back through the steps to add more forum threads. It’s that simple.

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7 Reasons You Should Be Using WordPress For Your Small Business

7 Reasons You Should Be Using WordPress For Your Small Business

WordPress is a ubiquitous blogging software and CMS that powers millions of websites around the web. It’s ease of use, flexibility and secure design make it a popular choice for nearly anyone looking to launch their own website. What makes WordPress unique is it can be quite simple to use for the beginner, while still being a powerful solution for developers and designers of all skill levels.

If you’re still on the fence about launching your website and either budget or lack of knowledge is holding you back, check out these 7 reasons why your small business should be using WordPress.

#1 WordPress is free.

This is a major plus for small businesses. With so many expenses to deal with throughout the year it’s nice to know you can get a powerful CMS and blogging software for absolutely free. All it takes is a simple download. Of course, you still need a domain and web hosting, but these are very affordable.

#2 WordPress is easy to use.

When it comes to updating your site, WordPress makes things simple. If you have ever used Microsoft Word you should have an easy time learning how to create and publish posts within WordPress. You’ll also find that uploading images are very simple as well.

The best part about WordPress is that it is easy to find an answer. A simple search on Google will uncover tons of tutorials for every experience level. This means you can save money by maintaining your own site versus hiring a webmaster for simple tasks. It also means you can update your site more frequently, which is necessary for building traffic and rankings in the search engines.

#3 WordPress makes it easy to have a professional presence.

WordPress uses themes to change its look to different designs. There are thousands of both free and paid themes, but the best part is that a real nice, professional theme will only cost about $35 – $45. You can find the perfect theme for your business through sites like Themeforest.

#4 WordPress is optimized for SEO.

Search engine optimization is the process of fine-tuning your website to appear in Google under the keywords your customers would use to find your business. SEO can be a very complicated and delicate process. WordPress makes the job easier by using clean code and highlighting information the search engines are looking for. You can expand these features through plugins like WordPress SEO.

#5 WordPress is simple to expand.

If you wanted to add extra features to a regular HTML website it can require an extensive amount of effort, depending on the task. WordPress can be the same way, but a lot of this can be sidestepped through the use of WordPress plugins. These plugins allow you to search for features to add to your site, add them, and customize to your needs. For example, say you wanted to add a review feature to your site — there’s a plugin for that. Do you want people to be able to share your content? You’ll find plenty of social sharing plugins as well.

#6 WordPress makes mobile easy.

Mobile is big online. More and more people are using their smart phones to search for local businesses, so if your website isn’t up to the task chances are they might click away before they walk through the door. What makes WordPress so great is the fact that there are a lot of themes that are responsive. Not only will you have a mobile site, you’ll have a website that displays good across multiple devices — from desktops to smart phones to tablets.

#7 WordPress is constantly being updated.

WordPress is a free, open-source project with developers from around the world contributing to make it better and more secure. This is important. You want a software that is constantly being updated as new cyber threats and vulnerabilities come out. You also want a system where user experience is at the center of development when it comes to new features and functionality. With WordPress that’s exactly what you get.

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5 Tips For Building Your Dream Forum Or Website

5 Tips For Building Your Dream Forum Or Website

A new year is approaching, and with it comes the annual list of resolutions and goals to mark the calendar. High on the list for most people is improving their website (or starting one). Gone are the days when websites were only owned by tech geeks and big companies.

It’s as simple as ever to get started with your own website or forum. Companies like WordPress and XenForo have paved the way for software solutions that are about as ‘plug and play’ as it’s going to get, without shelling out the big bucks. It’s also more easy than ever to have a website look just as professional as ones costing thousands of dollars.

Of course, an investment is still required. You need a domain. You need hosting. Most of all, you need a plan and a direction for your new website. It won’t build itself. Whether you plan on hiring a designer, or you are more of the do-it-yourself type, following some basic steps during the launch process will allow you to build a forum or website that stands out and looks they way you want.

Follow these five simple steps and you’ll have the website you want in no time.

Work Within Your Budget

It’s very easy to get sucked into thinking that you need everything at once. In reality, you don’t. Getting started is half the battle, and the sooner you get online, the better off your website will be down the road. Set yourself a budget — and stick to it. There will always be room for improvement. The important thing is getting online.

Choose The Perfect Domain

We’ve talked about choosing a domain name for your website before. Your domain will be something that everyone will use to identify your site, so you should definitely do some thinking on this before you launch. Switching to another domain down the road has a lot of drawbacks; you’ll lose a bit of search traffic, you’ll have to implement 301s and watch out for 404’d urls. Basically, it’s a big hassle. Better to chose the perfect domain name right from the beginning.

Bookmark What You Like

Chances are on your quest to build a forum or website, you’ve checked out other sites and got an idea for the look you want. Before the design process kicks in, you’ll need plenty of sources for inspiration. What will help the process along is having examples of the look and features you want to see on your site. A handy little tool for this phase of your website launch is Evernote. Simply install the browser tab and when you come across a feature or website you would like to model your site after, hit the bookmark button and comment on what exactly it is that stood out to you.

Implement What You Can

Once you know what you want to see on your site you’ll be able to start implementing what you can. There is a very real chance that you won’t be able to implement everything. You may not have the budget, or lack the skills to get the implementation you need. Do not let this discourage you. Once your site starts becoming successful you’ll be able to revisit these ideas and implement them if they are still important to you.

Let Consistency Pay Off

Consistency is the key to successful marketing. You will not get anywhere without putting in the work. Once your website is live the work is only beginning. You’ll have a lot to learn, but what you need to remember is that baby steps count. Do what you can and spend time learning about marketing, SEO, and social media. In time, and with enough effort, you will grow the successful website you are dreaming about.

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A Turkey’s Guide To Thanksgiving Marketing

A Turkey's Guide To Thanksgiving Marketing

Thanksgiving is about fun, family… and eating a lot of good food. It’s also the time of year we reflect on our blessings and be thankful for what we have. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. There is nothing quite like relaxing with the family, with the bustle and activity of food being prepared, children playing, and the football game sounding in the background.

That’s not all the holiday season brings. It’s also a time of year when shoppers come out in full force. For a lot of businesses, this is the “make or break” season, so it’s incredibly important to be prepared for what’s coming.

A lot of shopping occurs this time of year, so much in fact that Adobe is forecasting the biggest Thanksgiving, the biggest Black Friday, and the biggest Cyber Monday in history.


6 Small Business Marketing Tips For Thanksgiving

Creating an incredible Thanksgiving feast is a lot like creating the perfect marketing plan: it takes preparation, skill, a bit of cash. You also need people to show up. You don’t want the bird on the table without guests, just like you don’t want to put in the work and not have customers showing up to your business, or clicking the order button on your website.

Fortunately, we’ve put together a bit of information to get you going in the right direction.

1. Get started early

Procrastination will not get you to where you need to be, so the only way to pull this off is get started early. You don’t rush out on Thanksgiving to shop for supplies. If you have before, you’re well aware that it turns Thanksgiving into a stressful chore; scrambling to the store, preparing the bird, hoping to get dinner done in time. It takes all the joy out of the holiday and you work yourself to the bone trying to get everything done at once. More times than not, quality suffer as well.

Start your planning early. Don’t put yourself in the position to have to make a mad dash to get things done. Strategize what you want to accomplish this holiday season and start laying the groundwork for a successful Thanksgiving marketing campaign.

2. Dress up for the holidays

What is a Thanksgiving meal without the dressing? It’s all the little things to make a great meal. You need stuffing, pie, mashed potatoes, and all the other fixings — especially if I’m coming for dinner.

The same goes for your business. Let your customers (and potentials) know you are one with the seasons. If you own a brick-and-mortar establishment, make sure to add some festive Thanksgiving decorations. This simple touch will add warmth and get people in the spirit of the holidays. If you only do business online, why not add some Thanksgiving touches to your website?

3. Host an event

Beyond the food, Thanksgiving is about coming together with family and friends. Hosting an event for your customers, whether online or in the store, is something that can help you leverage the holiday season and bring your customers closer to you.

This is important. It will help you build brand loyalty. Without differentiating yourself from the competition, customers are left comparing apples to apples.

4. Send calendars or cards to your customers

Have you ever sent out postcards to family and friends during the holidays? The reality is that with social media becoming such a huge part of our lives, the old pen and paper often fall by the wayside.

This makes the impact of receiving a postcard, letter, or calendar, even stronger. Try to put together some gifts for your customers. I’m sure they will be “thankful”.

5. Don’t skimp on marketing materials or advertising

There are a lot of people that go all out for Thanksgiving. Maybe that is not you, but I will venture a guess that there is at least someone in your family or circle that is known for cooking an excellent meal for Thanksgiving. They don’t skimp on things. They take no shortcuts. Everything has to be homemade (or close to it).

You should take this same approach to your holiday marketing. Pay attention to the details and don’t skimp on doing what you need to do to get the word out. Set aside a budget for paid advertising, and be sure to have money / time set aside to bring the best to the table.

6. Cross promote

Thanksgiving is about coming together, so a cross-promotion strategy this holiday season might be the perfect choice. Teaming up with another business doubles your audience, and increase your marketing budget — you don’t have to worry about everything coming out of your pocket. On the other side of the coin though, you’ll want to make sure you partner up with a business that does not compete with you directly, but offers something that your customers would appreciate.

Do you have any Thanksgiving marketing tips to share?


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How To Choose The Perfect Domain Name For Your Business

How To Choose The Perfect Domain Name For Your Business

Domains are the real estate of the internet. A great domain name can be the foundation for an empire. A bad one can be exceptionally forgettable. There are a variety of factors that go into choosing the perfect domain name for your website, but at the end of the day it comes down to one thing: you have an important decision to make.

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Free Marketing Tools Every Small Business Should Be Using

Free Marketing Tools Every Small Business Should Be Using

If you are a small business owner and venturing into the land of online marketing, it’s always good to have a few tools at your disposal that make your life easier.

I mean, seriously, who can complain about that? Whether you are just getting started, or have been for awhile, saving money is always a good thing — especially when you can get the job done without shelling out more money. As a small business owner, chances are keeping costs low is important.


Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to schedule and send out messages to your social media accounts from one place. You can connect up to (5) accounts for free, which is often more than enough for most small businesses.

The best way to get started is to sign up for an account and add the social media accounts that you would like to monitor. You can add Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and more. After you get your accounts set up, download and install the browser extension. This way, you’ll be able to easily schedule things to share, without the hassle. And you can schedule ‘on the fly’, which makes it a handy little timesaver.


There are other options out there. If you do a lot of email marketing and are concentrating on growing a list, you may want to go with Aweber; it has a bit more flexibility. For most small businesses, if you just want to send out a simple newsletter to your customers from time to time, Mailchimp is the perfect solution.

For one, they have a free account that has a lot of functionality, and the analytics are very impressive. You will be able to see how many times your customers open your emails, plus get to see what links are being clicked the most.

You can put this data to use and learn who your most engaged customers are, which can help you with sales later on down the road.


When you are in business, you’re in business for your customers. Whether you are selling a product or service, your customers are the deciding factor for your success. Soliciting customer feedback is important. You want to make sure that what you are doing is being well received.

You can set up your own online surveys quickly and with little effort with a tool called SurveyMonkey. The free plan includes basic options that will allow you to collect customer feedback online, and their paid plans have a wealth of other features added in.


Rafflecopter is a really awesome app for running contests on Facebook. If you haven’t heard, Facebook now allows contests to be ran on your Timeline, but just because that door is now open, doesn’t mean you want to abandon running your contests through apps.

If you want more traction on social media, Rafflecopter is one of the best choices out there. You can easily run your own giveaways or contests and create your own options for entries. For example, contestants can earn more points by ‘liking’ your page, following you on Twitter or Pinterest, or sharing a tweet. The variety of options offered gives you the ability to use this app to build a following across multiple social channels at the same time, while at the same time exposing your business new (potential) customers.


If you are not hip to Topsy, you are missing out — big time. Topsy is a social search engine. It is a great tool to not only find infuencers or people interested in your niche, it’s also an incredible tool for uncovering link opportunities and getting ideas for blogging.

All you need to do is visit Topsy and type in your keyword. Next, select “links” and “all time”. That’s it. You should see a list of some of the best performing content on social media, sorted by the actual page. What can you do with this information? Well, for starters, you can use it to inspire your own content. If you see a piece of content that performed exceptionally well, do it better. If you can do even 20% better, there is a good chance that you can get people linking to your content as well.

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Where Will Your Website Be In 2014?

Where Will Your Website Be In 2014?

This year is on its way out. Let’s not kid ourselves here: time flies. Whether you are moving forward or not, time waits for no one. If you dream of having a snazzy website, lots of traffic, and online success — you have work to do.

It’s time to start thinking about your goals for next year. We’ve made the work a bit easier on you and came up with the top 6 ways you can make your website (and online presence) better.

Ready? Let’s do it.

Go mobile

Numbers don’t lie: mobile phones account for 17.4% of global web traffic and the people in the know only expect this number to grow. “You need to be where your customers are” cannot get any truer. People are using their smart phones and mobile devices to look for products and services. If you’re online make sure your website is responsive, or have a mobile version of your website setup.

Focus on content

To say content is important would be the understatement of the century. Good content is what attracts visitors, and you need visitors in order to turn them to customers. Make sure you are devoting time to producing content that is useful and informative. You should also publish regularly. Just remember to not drone on about your products with every post. It’s important to craft content that will be useful to your readers.

Original content will help you:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Showcase your expertise
  • Grow trust with your readers
  • Differentiate from the competition

Get active on social media

This is a big one. Search and social go hand in hand. If you’re after rankings and traffic, you’re much better off approaching online marketing from both angles. What’s important to remember is don’t just use social media to share your links. Be sure to actively engage with influencers and others in your industry. This will give you more visibility and help to establish you as one of the key people in your niche.

Create concrete goals

You won’t get anywhere without goals. You have to know where you are going in order to get there. Write down a list of goals and areas you want to improve, then start scratching those tasks off the list. Want to use something besides paper or Word? Wunderlist is a handy little app that will allow you to easily create lists, set due dates, and reminders and more.

Measure what you’re doing

Once you have goals in place it’s important to measure your efforts so you know if they are paying off. Use tools like Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and Facebook Insights to gather data about your brand. Try to analyze what’s working and what’s not. If you can pinpoint some of the activities you’ve been doing that are working well, look for ways you can do them better — or just do more of it. The important thing here is to find areas that may be not producing and eliminate them.

Start making deadlines

You cannot have goals without deadlines. When you don’t set an end date to a task, all it becomes is a “want”. Set your goals and pick a reasonable amount of time to accomplish them. If you have a date in mind you’ll have an easier time getting things done. You want to take small steps towards your goals everyday.

What are your plans for 2014?

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The Power of Authentic Customer Reviews

The Power of Authentic Customer Reviews

Let’s face it: customer reviews have taken a bad rap, and for very good reason. In a world of fake Yelp reviews and PRISM surveillance, there aren’t too many trusting souls on the internet. In fact, people are a bit skeptical of claims from either side of the fence, business or government.

The main driver for this is that most online reviews are bought and paid for by businesses hoping to gain an edge in the search engines, and dupe unsuspecting customers. Of course, not all reviews are make-believe, and an authentic customer testimonial can have a positive impact on your business.

But you need a strategy.

How To Get More (Authentic) Customer Reviews

Of course, it helps if you have a product or service that is truly amazing. I’m going to assume that you have that in place and have had the opportunity to create some believers.

Here is what you need to do next:

Reach Out To Your Most Loyal Customers

This should be the first step on your list, and for good reason. Social proof is important for building a business, and most people will not be moved to leave a positive review without a truly exceptional experience. And, most of the time, no one wants to be first.

In order to get the ball rolling you’ll want to get a couple of reviews from your customers. Reach out to the one’s you have developed a rapport with and ask them for a favor — simple as that. If the review will be appearing on your website, offer to link to their website (if appropriate). The link is the important part, so is using an actual picture. A real image puts a face to the testimonial and a website gives proof the person is who they say they are.

Invite Others To Share Their Opinion

Now, it’s unethical to give something away for the sole purpose of a review. That being said, there is nothing wrong with encouraging your customers to share their opinion. If someone has something good to say, why not ask them for a review?

Spread The Word

Once you have received good customer feedback, spread the word far and wide. You can not only use these testimonials on your website, but you can also use them on social media, presentations, and brochures.

The Power Of Community

If you own a brick-and-mortar business, or have local customers this can be an even more powerful marketing tool for you. When people see people they know talk positively about a business, it… well, has a positive impact.

More Tips For Getting Excellent Customer Reviews

Sometimes the best answer is a matter of perspective. You may think your business is firing on all cylinders and doing great by your customers, but you may be overlooking something. The key here is to pay attention to your customers. They are far more important than your actual product or service, because without them you do not have a business — you have a hobby.

Got any tips to add?


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vBulletin VS. XenForo – Which One Is Better?

vBulletin VS. XenForo - Which One Is Better?

Starting a forum is no easy task. There are a lot of decisions to make. And, a lot of choices. The first one that you’ll likely spend some time on is choosing which forum software to use. Will you go with vBulletin? Perhaps XenForo? A free forum software? There are many options; some free, others paid. The choice you make is depends entirely on what requirements you have for your community, what your budget is, and the type of support you will need.

Let’s Start With The Top Contenders: vBulletin and XenForo

The two names that you will come across the most are vBulletin and XenForo. Both are leading forum software, and both require a paid license. What’s interesting about these two options is that the developers for XenForo we’re some of the original developers of vBulletin. And yes, they had their day in court over this.

That being said, both forum options have their advantages, so much of the choice you need to make boils down to your individual taste. Let’s dig in and see what’s under the hood.

vBulletin Forum Software

vBulletin 5 Connect is the latest release. Internet Brands, the new owners of vBulletin, have added a ew feature set that seems impressive at first glance:

  • Simplified site set up and customization
  • Dynamic tools for content discovery
  • Expanded photo and video
  • Sleek new UI features activity stream
  • Increased social engagement
  • Expanded photo and Video capabilities
  • Robust architecture (SEO and Performance Improvements)
  • Category-leading mobile optimization

However, in practice most users are more fond of earlier versions of vBulletin, specifically VB3 and early releases of VB4. You should do your own research to reach your own verdict. vBulletin has been the leading forum software for many years, but since the release of vB5 many users have either stuck with their earlier versions or moved to other forum software.

XenForo Forum Software

XenForo started off with the original developers from vBulletin. When vBulletin was purchased in 2009 from Jelsoft by Internet Brands, conflicts arose over the next release, version 4.0. Kier Darby, the lead developer envisioned the new release to be a complete revamp of the software. Internet Brands wanted to incrementally improve on the software and conflicts arose. Eventually, Darby left and formed XenForo. For three years a lawsuit ensued when IB (Internet Brands) decided to sue the developers of XenForo. The lawsuit was settled February 28, 2013.

Afterwards, XenForo worked on developing a software that many people have come to love and use. There are many features bundled in XenForo; including great styling, activity streams, and social integration.

Examples Of vBulletin Forums

Of course, the look is all important. You want your community to have a nice look to it as this will help with engagement. Here are two notable forums with large member bases using vBulletin:





And some XenForo examples:

Digital Point

Digital Point



Final Thoughts

As you can see the look and feel can change, but what it really comes down to is what will work best for your community. At URLjet, no matter your choice of forum software, we have competent staff able to handle everything from forum setup to customization services. Get in touch if you have any questions about starting a forum.

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