- Sep 05, 2019
- by Brad Litwin
Online forums have a lot to offer your website and business. They can help you interact and engage with your audience, and make it easier to build a community around your website. However, running an active forum isn’t always easy.
To keep your forum from fading away soon after it appears, it can help to interact frequently with the community. In addition, you can promote members to special positions, hold community-wide events, and send weekly update messages. With a little work, you can have a strong and active forum running in no time.
In this article, we’ll talk about how a forum can help you build a community website. We’ll then discuss five best practices for managing your forum and boosting engagement. Let’s get to it!
How a Forum Can Help You Build a Community Website
An internet forum, or message board, is an online discussion site where members post content and interact with one another. Chances are high that you’ve been on a forum before in some capacity, even if it was just to view information.
Most forums look something like this:
Creating a forum can be an effective way to build a like-minded community for your main website or online business. With the right kind of content, you can attract experts who want to share their knowledge, and beginners who want to learn more.
In addition, an active forum is naturally engaging. It invites discussion around your content, which can be far more interactive than the comments section of a blog. Furthermore, a dedicated forum can make your website a destination for information on your topic of choice.
5 Best Practices to Increase Engagement on Your Forum-Based Website
Although forums can be a powerful engagement tool, they can also be a challenge to manage effectively. Let’s discuss some best practices that can help your forum excel!
1. Spend Time in the Community
It’s important for you to be a part of your own forum. After all, you’re the reason it exists. You can’t expect it to grow without your direct support and encouragement, especially in the beginning.
For example, if someone posts on the forum and doesn’t receive a prompt response, they may be discouraged and post less often. They may even stop visiting altogether. Over time, this can have a real negative impact on your site and community.
To avoid this, you can be the one who responds to user posts that might otherwise go unanswered. In fact, you may want to respond to as many posts as you can. The more active you are in the community, the more likely it is to grow. In addition, offering valuable information, insight, and advice enables you to establish yourself as a leader and an expert in your field.
As your community grows, others should naturally emerge as active leaders in the forum, and you may be able to take a step back. You can then encourage those leaders and show them your appreciation, to help strengthen your community.
2. Encourage Progress Logs
A progress log is a thread where people share projects they are working on and the progress they’ve made on them. Members return periodically to update everyone on how their projects are going, while other members can encourage them and offer advice.
Posts such as these are highly interactive, and promote a positive atmosphere in your community. They inspire members to share with one another and generate more activity on the forum. Moreover, they help to form personal connections between members.
To implement this strategy, you can create a section of ongoing threads where people are reporting progress on some type of project relevant to your audience. For instance, a forum geared towards writers might have a section where people can post their daily word counts or other writing progress.
3. Promote Members of Your Community to Special Positions
As we mentioned earlier, some of your most active forum members may begin to stand out over time. They may be particularly knowledgeable about your niche, or just friendly and responsive. Either way, you can reward these members by recognizing their contributions to the community as a whole.
By doing this, you invite these members to take ownership of the forum. They are urged to create new content, and interact with other members. In this way, you can begin to create a self-sustaining community that is no longer dependent on your constant interaction, and is more likely to be viable over the long term.
You can also consider giving special profile badges to your most-active members. Additionally, you may wish to assign monitoring responsibilities to members you know you can trust. Having a group of individuals with a vested, personal interest in the community can really help it thrive.
4. Hold Community-Wide Events and Contests
Another way to strengthen and bring your community together is with scheduled events. An event could be a week-long challenge, a contest, or a special piece of content presented at a specific time.
These occasions give your community something to look forward to. People may be talking about them before they happen, discussing their personal challenges or how they would feel if they won the contest. Interactions such as these can be a huge boost to overall engagement.
You could also try giving away a prize to the first person to do something relevant to your community, or hold a Q&A with a special guest at a set time. You could also organize a long-term community challenge. For example, on a fitness forum you might challenge your members to try and lose a specific amount of weight over a period of weeks or months.
5. Send Weekly Update Messages
Weekly update messages, such as a newsletter, can do wonders for engagement. You can include excerpts of important conversations, feature new tricks people have shared, and highlight some of the best photos that have been posted.
Your weekly messages remind members of the forum’s existence. They’re also a good way to let members know they are important. In addition, they may inspire your community to comment on something they found interesting in the latest message, or to start their own new threads.
In your weekly messages, it’s a good idea to offer positive feedback and encouragement. If someone in the community has achieved something, such as securing a new job in the field, you can congratulate them in your newsletter. This type of strategy can be an effective way to bring your community together and grow your forum website.
Your forum-based website can be a thriving community where members come to learn, share their valuable knowledge, and celebrate achievements together. However, it may take time and a lot of hard work to make that happen.
To increase engagement on your forum-based website, you can consider the following best practices:
- Spend time in the community.
- Encourage progress logs.
- Promote members of your community to special positions.
- Hold community-wide events and contests.
- Send weekly update messages.
Image credit: Luis Quintero.