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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.

Contribute yourself

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.

Comment by Mathilde - UGAL

April 10, 2009 at 08:52 AM

thank you for your post. I've translated for the french blog (see
BTW, I've notice that I can contact you when I create a forum

Comment by Jean - UGAL

May 15, 2009 at 12:37 PM

Welcome Greeg, and thank you for the message. What type of feedback are you looking for?

Comment by Judy Vaughn

June 2, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Jean, after taking care of health issues, I've just begun to take our site seriously. Working on the premise that people most interested in scenic note cards might be people of a "certain age," I've begun to tailor my written words in terms of memoir and healing the cultural divide we've lived through over past years. Is it foolish to think a "sharing forum" like this could make sense?

Comment by Jean - UGAL

June 2, 2009 at 08:33 PM

glad to hear that you are feeling better. It is a very good idea to tailor your writing to your audience, as it will improve your ranking with the search engines for the right keywords.
As far as starting a forum, I would say yes, give it a try, there is nothing to loose. Even if it is not an overnight success, the forum will provide your website with even more content, which can only attract more visits from search engines. Do not hesitate to let me know if you have any question or need help to get the forum started!

Comment by S.

June 23, 2009 at 02:30 AM

I really like your post. Now I will look forward to change the "empty threads" to much less.

For the rest, do you have any suggestions? I am running this site 1 year and I have no writers at all. Visitors are coming, few but come, but nobody writes.

Any suggestion would be great.

Comment by Jean - UGAL

June 24, 2009 at 12:52 PM

Hello S.

Thanks for stopping by.

I would strongly recommend that you remove most of the categories and keep only 2 or 3 of them. Or even start with no categories at all. It will be less intimidating for your visitors, and much easier to discover the discussions happening on your forum. You can always introduce more categories later on, when and if needed.

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