At the bottom of most areas where you type your question for a community, you have an option to add a ‘tag’.
This seemingly benign option has such a huge impact over a community it’s bewildering how little discussion it receives.
When tagging is done well, it achieves three things:
1) Ensures the right posts appear in front of the right people. Experts in particular topics can browse a page of properly tagged discussions and answer questions. This increases both the quantity and quality of answers. Sometimes people can even follow particular tags.
2) Enables you to create topic pages. You can use tags to create unique topic pages filled solely with discussions, articles, and other material relevant to that particular tag. This gives you far more flexibility than category pages.
3) Lets members follow tags. Members can follow and receive questions related to particular tags they’re interested in. You can even find the top experts by each particular ‘tag’ in the community.
However, tagging is rarely done well in the community. Most communities fall victim to one of three mistakes.
Mistake 1: Forcing members to come up with tags. This is the worst option. If members have an open text box to create a ‘tag’, you’re going to get dozens of variations of similar tags ranging from (‘iphones’, ‘brokeniphone’, to ‘dfgdfg’).
Mistake 2: Forcing members to start typing for tags to appear. This is slightly better, at least relevant tags will appear as members type them. However, members still have to know what a tag is and can still misclassify their answers.
Mistake 3: Presenting too many tags. This at least lets people select tags, but often there are so many tags to choose from members just select anything to make the boxes go away.
The Right Approach to Tagging
The right approach to tagging is to use your existing member data to suggest relevant tags.
The Apple community is the best example of this. To ask a question, you first need to log-in. Once you log-in, you can start typing your question in the search box (this helps reduce duplicate questions).
Once you click the link to ask a question, the platform uses your data to suggest the most likely tags.
This is about as good as it gets.
You can select what you’re asking about and what topic your question is relevant to. You can still change it if it’s not a good fit, but thus far I’ve found these options to be spot on.
If you’re looking for a project to massively improve your community in the new year, I’d start here.