Social community sofware driving online collaboration has rapidly proven to be the most effective method for forward-thinking business leaders to stay connected with their customers. As social media consumes a growing share of time and attention, it only makes sense that customer focused organizations engage using channels their customers increasingly prefer.

While Facebook, Twitter and the ever-present blog continue to be the subject of far too many CRM discussions, the fact remains these channels rely more on "push" messaging than the infinitely more valuable practice of collaborative engagement. Further, Facebook, Twitter and blogs are typically presented and operated as business-centric venues that diminish the proactive involvement of customers looking to advance agendas of their own.

Collaborative Engagement

While "traditional" social media channels have their uses, the most productive interaction with your customers requires an environment where the customer has freedom to dictate the terms of engagement. Customers are generally willing to expound on their experiences as consumers, but they must be allowed to do so with their own voice, on their terms.

Enter the "social business network". According to Forrester Research, the Enterprise Social Software market is expected to grow 860% over the next 4 years [1]. Why? Because social community software has proven to foster win-win engagement where all participants can be rewarded for their participation.

For customers, social business forums can become a trusted source of product recommendations, unvarnished product reviews, helpful product insights, solutions to problems, etc. Social business forums also offer customers a tremendous opportunity to collectively leverage requests for product or policy changes. Moreover, support communities, the fastest growing segment of all online social communities, often provide information that's otherwise difficult to find or too new to be properly documented by the vendor.

For business managers, collaborative social environments have proven to generate sales, deepen customer loyalty, provide invaluable customer insights and market intelligence, increase employee autonomy, improve internal company communications, and much more.

The ProBoards Solution

Whether you're building social networks for employee collaboration or a support forum for customers, ProBoards' unlimited scalability, award winning feature set and proven reliability are what you need. With over 22 million registered users hosting over 3 million forums, ProBoards supports a community of social networks with a staggering variety of applications.

Setting up a ProBoards business forum is fast and easy. Once you've submitted the create a forum setup form, an activation code will be emailed to you. Simply click the activation link in the email and login. As the forum owner, your user name will be admin. Use the password you originally entered in the setup form to login. Next, click the "Activate Account" link and your forum will be ready to go.

For those just starting out, ProBoards "Getting Started Guide" is a powerful resource. Here you'll find answers to the most common questions new members have when setting up their new ProBoards forums including Forum Basics, Forum Best Practices, Organizing Your Forum, and much more.

Forum Support

For 24/7 help with your ProBoards forum, please visit our Support Forum. If you need help with coding, visit the Coding and Design boards. If you'd like to communicate with other ProBoards forum members, please visit General Talk. The ProBoards support community is extremely active and a great way to get questions answered.

Moreover, being connected no longer means just knowing who your customers are, where they live and what they've purchased. For the most part, that's lifeless data used to push out generally unwelcome solicitations. The most coveted information, now and into the future, is knowing what customers think of you, what they want, and how they believe you can serve them better. The question is, how do we elicit these pearls of wisdom?