I love forums. I love to participate in them, and even more: I like to start them. If it weren’t for forums, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten into web development, let alone blogging. I have ran forums in the past, and I take part in a few just about every time I go online.
The only thing with forums is that they are so hard to get an active community going with it. A lot of bloggers will have a forum as an addition to their blog in hopes that it will create a better community, or just have a forum to make them look better. While a forum can maybe add a couple extra points to your professionalism, they are also things that should be well thought out, and released on time.
Too many bloggers who have forums have a dead forum. Just because your blog gets a 10 or more comments a post doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get all of those commentators go to your forum. I have some tips for bloggers interested in creating a forum for their blog, because it just doesn’t help you much managing a forum on top of a newly begun blog.
1. Understand that to build your forum, you need a steady going blog
Your blog needs some traffic; an active user base. That’s very important too, because what’s the purpose of having a dead blog and a dead forums? Forums are by far one of the hardest things to populate online, and if you’re still at the early stages of your blog then what hope do you have for your forum? Don’t try to do both at once, take it slow and easy. Just remember, as I had said above: 10 comments a post is fantastic, but how many of them do you honestly think will join your forum?
2. Think of a future forum as a lifeline
A forum attached to your blog can actually be very useful if you really think about it. The forum would serve as a secondary method of communicating with your readers, and that’s an important thing to have between you and your readers. What can your readers do for you though?
Well, content of course!
Yes, a forum is full of user submitted content. While you’re away, or sleeping, your forum members will be writing posts on your forum. They could be asking you questions, or even writing articles themselves. While this is pretty unlikely for a starting forum, it is still all something that can happen. Even if they’re not writing things pertaining to your niche, they are still doing a very important thing:
Creating a better community
Blogs have a great system for the way people to talk to each other, but if you were to compare user interaction on a blog against a forum, you would find that a forum beats the living daylights out of blogs. Commenting is the main way users get across to each other on a blog, and commenting is really just limited to what category your file your post in. Then there is a forum that has really no limitations and can have any topic in it you want in it. You can get a little more formal with each other by creating profiles, and getting to know each other better than you ever would through a blogs commenting system.
So, besides users having a better time on your site, how does creating a happier environment for your readers help you as a blogger? The answer is pretty simple: with a great community comes great trust. Like I said, connecting with your readers is so vital for you as a blogger.
3. Keeping the two separate: Ask yourself these 5 questions
As hectic as things can get on the Internet, doing what’s best for each community can be a tough choice to make. Just know one thing: your forum and your blog are two totally different things, and while one thing can be better for one of them, it may not be so good for the other. I will not answer these questions, but you are free to answer them and post them in the comments. I will definitely reflect on your answers in the comments.
- How can you evenly contribute to your blog and forum? The obvious answer is to post on your forum a few times a day, and maybe your blog once a day. But believe me on this one: It is MUCH easier said than done. Sure, maybe 10 forum topics and one blog post a day seems like a doable thing at first, but overtime you may just start with 8 forum topics and 1 blog post a day. Once you start that, you’re bound to keep slipping in the numbers.
- What will you need to do marketing wise? Marketing a forum and a blog can require two different marketing schemes as they are different sites. But you will find that they are not too different, and you can in fact promote your forum through blog commenting, or your blog through forum posting.
- How can you manage two different communities? A blog and a forum are two different communities. They need to be managed differently than each other, and one can prove to be tougher than the other. Just be able to have the patience and tolerance to run them both (yes, tolerance for the moments where you want to rip out your hair).
- How will you convert blog commentators to forum posters, and vice-versa? It may seem sense to you that if someone comments on your blog, they will most likely want to join your forum. I think it is more likely for a forum poster to comment a little on your blog, but not as common for a blog commentator to join your forum. It would pretty nice to have everyone take part in both, but sadly it is a difficult thing to do.
- Can you find inspiration from each communities? Do you think that having a forum will help you come up with better blog posts? Do you think writing on your blog will help you and your readers post better on the forum? It’s definitely possible, and like I said above: A forum can be your lifeline.
I would love to hear your answers to those questions. Feel free to write them in the comments and I will do a reflection of your answers.
4. The life span of your forum
Do you think your forum will be there for a while? Or are you just making a forum as a “test ‘n see” kind of thing? Like most web pioneers, you see this new venture as the one that make your name huge on the web. You have so much confidence that your forum will be around forever, you are just too excited to see the reality of it all.
Your forum will probably last as long as your blog, and it maybe it won’t. It’s kind of unpredictable with things like them. But if you can get at least 3 or 4 people coming back to your forum, then you should see that adding a forum to your blog was not a bad idea.
Something to think about
If you follow big bloggers like John Chow, or ProBlogger you will notice that they don’t have a forum. They’re two very influential bloggers with thousands of subscribers. With a community like theirs, why do you think they don’t have a forum? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.
My opinion is that they don’t need one. They are doing things very well already, and adding a forum to such a large community of readers would just add to the already large work load. But that’s just me, what do you think?