Visualize a web-based utopia where readers meet for open discussion while trolls are moderated and spam bots destroyed. No, we aren’t talking about some fantasy novel or sci-fi thriller here. Forums are a distant relative of the early 20th century Chautauquas that held audience to the likes of “The Great Commoner” William Jennings Bryan. Taking the visionary idea of the diverse, vocal community of the Chautauquas, web-based forums offer a chance for community building among site visitors with similar interests. If you are looking for super simple ways to hire a blog writer or you need help marketing your product, forums provide free traffic, feedback and ideas from your audience.
Wedding jokes aside, the latest catalyst for increasing web traffic is through social engagement. The use of social media for creating online engagement, or interaction, is one of the most successful examples of this method. Forums are another. Fans want a place to chat about a subject, website or product, and forums offer an open and active opportunity for this communication. Overall, your forum will enable readers to
- Exchange experiences and information
- Ask questions regarding your website
Perky fans will visit a forum daily, if not multiple times a day. Revolutionary forum posters will offer quality and applicable feedback for a web administrator to make the website more useful for users. For forum moderators who mull through post after post, they can determine new ideas for content according to what most interests their audience.
Build It So They Will Come
Anyone can add a forum to their website, and they can also do it for free. However, just because you have a forum doesn’t mean you’ll automatically attract a community that will increase your web traffic. In order to turn a forum into a place where posters will generate content that will attract more traffic and visitors, your website must already have activity. Ideally you should have at minimum 3,000 unique visitors per day; some suggest even 5,000. Otherwise you won’t have anyone coming by who will be interested in viewing or posting on your forum. If you have a ghost forum, or one with scant few, older posts, new visitors will think your website is inactive and they’ll leave with a bad impression. A community needs active visitors to keep it going, whether in person or on the web. Websites attract new posters by:
- Having your friends or colleagues create topics and respond to posts; they could create discussions amongst themselves as a way to promote early activity
- Setting up a contest to encourage visitors to post in your forum
- Linking to your social media profile, i.e. Facebook and Twitter, to add content to the forum via posts
- Posting articles on your website regarding the forum
- Guest blogging with articles that discuss your forum’s purpose
- Adding badges that are linked from the forum to your website and social media pages
The Good, the Bad and the Truth
Webbies tend to become overzealous with forums, checking daily so to post on their favorite topics or to argue with posts that are inflammatory. As a result, devoted forum posters will generate a ton of content via posts, which is the best way to grow a community.
However, the more posters you get, the more likely you are to have spammers, bots and trolls who try to sabotage your forum. This requires the work of a moderator, or moderators, who can spend as much time working on a forum as the website itself, weeding out noxious posts and calming outraged posters.
Finally, if you don’t have an active website with a community of visitors, then you can’t expect to establish a community simply through the establishment of a forum. A forum, after all, provides a place for an existing community of web visitors to talk amongst itself.
Miranda B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.