I would like to ask for some tips and strategies on making a forum facility successful? As a user what forum related features do you like and find useful (e.g. email weekly updates)?
Background info. I have recently launched a new website within our business which is a resource for Management Development information but also contains a commenting facility on the articles and a forum to pose questions and have discussions. Of course the aim of this is to allow users to tap into the knowledge of those around the business, people they wouldn't normally have access to and share this knowledge and experience for mutual benefit.
We have launched our site and we are getting the odd trickle of comments and forums through however we would like to give it a boost as people get used to a new culture of learning. How do we get people interested enough in the forum to comment?
What does good look like with this in terms of site statistics?
we found we needed to create the 'community of interest' outside of the technology, then they would use it more freely. Also, senior people being seen to reply to questions adds weight.
A weekly newsletter is a good idea - feature content from the community; good advice, post of the week, member of the month (use a questionnaire format for these) - and get the headlines right to attract responses - eg. 'Can you help...', 'Any advice...', 'What's the biggest challenge in...' etc.
There are some fantastic community resources at feverbee.com - http://www.feverbee.com/2013/02/how-to-build-an-online-community.html
- plenty of ideas there.
One thing we have done is minimised the use of email for sharing documents/information but instead posting the documents within the forum and then circulating a link to it to "force" people to go into the forum. Also, it sounds obvious but choose content which is topical/of interest to a large population of the community. You can also ask specific (influential) people to post news and comments to lead the way/act as change agents.
The thing that will keep people coming back is fresh content (articles, conversations..). If someone comes back to the community/forum a couple times a week and there is nothing new happening, they are less likely to return as frequently and are likely to look elsewhere for information/interaction. The content also, critically, needs to be of value to the individual.
Try get a small group (3 or 4) if highly engaged individuals on your side and between the group come up with a schedule of sorts to ensure there is turnover of content.
Although it's an 'old' publication, take a look at "Community building on the web: Secret strategies for successful online communities" by Amy Jo Kim. The screen shots are out of the dark ages - due to the age of the book - but the approach, wisdom, and tips are pure gold.
Hope this helps.
In my experience the best way to ensure engagement is to try and develop situations/ scenarios that people within the community will face - but typically haven't come across yet. That creates a double hit for "what's in it for me!; firstly, a "that was interesting" reaction and secondly the "ah yes, I remember this"!