How to build a forum community
April 7, 2009
We just launched forums on UGAL, and we think that they can be a game changer in terms of functionalities that they bring to your website. Think of them as content written to your website by visitors you might not know. If your forum becomes busy enough, it will be a prime source of new traffic to your website - a very good thing.
There is however a big issue with the forums: they are empty at first. Besides the initial "Welcome to the forums, please stay polite" discussion traditionally posted by the admin, there is nothing to see. And with nothing to see, chances that your visitors will start a new discussion are very slim. Pretty much the chicken and the egg question, and it all comes down to how to start building an online community.
Here are a few ideas on how to start a forum and give it some (if not good) chances of success.
Start simple, with one topic only.
Your forum has one single topic to start with. We recommend to keep it that way, so that the home page of your forum is an engaging list of discussions, not a list of possibly empty topics. You can always create new topics and re-classify discussions later on, when the main topic has gained enough traffic.
You are the admin of the forums and need to stay on top of it. Contribute as much as you can to the forums, and do not leave discussions unanswered for more than a few hours. Quick response times will greatly increase the likelyhood of your community sticking around.
Use different profiles
Many succesfull forums owners have acknowledged the practice of initially "seeding the forums" themselves, using different profiles. While it might seem a bit shady, the technique is very effective at making your forum look busier than it is.
Ask everybody you know to contribute
Ask your family, friends, colleagues and why not customers to contribute to your forum when you launch it. Do not forget to contact UGAL, we will try to contribute as insightfully as we can. Seriously.
Do not give up!
It will take some time to build a community around your forum, regardless of the strategy you choose, there is simply no recipe for quick success. Be patient.