If you’re interested in Community Management topics, there’s an active Facebook group where discussions are happening. With over 1000 members from around the world there is a variety of contributions.
Here is a question that’s frequently asked:
I need help getting people to use a forum. I find that people will look at the questions but do not cross the threshold into actually responding to them. I work for a non-profit so the product is essentially engaging people in important regional issues and decisions. Can anyone help me?
Forums are all about people. For every one person posting, there are almost 100 reading. The majority of people are lurking, so how does one get people to come out & play? engage them if you will? Here are some ideas that I’ve used & once you get the ball rolling… it’s a exciting to see the forum take on a personality of it’s own!
- Be present – as a site owner it’s important that you’re there & active. Get to know your people & they will notice & respond. Make your customers feel special.
- Engage the people that are active at your forum because they probably love your product. They’re your power users & can help you greatly.
- Empower your power users – give them a private area in the forum & let them brainstorm. You’ll be amazed at what a group will come up with! Encourage them to keep it simple so no one gets worn out. Have them help moderate.
- Personalize your forums by trying the following -
- encourage members to post their picture by providing instructions for uploading an avatar – seeing their photo personalizes the online experience
- use your name rather than admin. for your username – admin is sterile
- encourage people to come out of lurking – run games or contests to see who is frequenting your forum. You may be surprised!
- where to get the prizes? If you don’t have resources, partner with related products & ask them to donate. You’ll be surprised at how many will join your venture.
- encourage members to put info in their signature
- for ex: a photography site – they could include their camera, lens info & software (It will encourage conversations amongst members
- Listen to your customers.
- Ask them what they’d like to see in the forums.
- Post a poll of interest to your community
- Ask them to provide feedback on your product/resources
- Ask yourself what makes your site unique? or how would you like it to be unique?
- How are you providing the user with value?
- Consider what makes your site unique & focus on that. If you can’t think of something – then look around at other’s forums to get ideas
- Be flexible…. and realize that sometimes you’ll have a great idea & oopsie, things don’t go as planned. But try try again.
- Be creative… watch what others are doing & gather ideas. I’m a people watcher, can you tell? And I love trying to figure out why things are successful. Plan ahead – this will guarantee success – and make you happier when you’re more relaxed in the execution of your plans.
- Be transparent – say what you mean & mean what you say. You’ll gain far more respect with all those you work with. And this is obvious, but good business practices are absolutely necessary. Remedy customer service issues quickly & follow up. Even the most negative curmudgeons will post their appreciation which adds value to your forums because it shows that your company is listening to their customers & most importantly *cares*.
- Other things in no particular order:
- offer a freebie
- find ways to creatively get people moving thru your forum like a scavenger hunt (they’ll have fun while doing so too!)
- send a newsletter out to your members
- *update* Are you participating in related forums, blogs, etc? That is an excellent way to talk about what your forums/community offer & encourage participation/partnering.
I think what holds site owners back is that they’re afraid to take risks, but consider it an experiment instead! It can be great fun trying new things & going in new directions. It is your community & you know their needs.
Here are some links for more reading:
What suggestions do you have for kick starting a community?