Building and sustaining online communities isn't an overnight effort. It requires patience. Here are some tips to help you along the way.
The notion of community has been around for quite a long time, whether it's a virtual community or an in-person group. Unsurprisingly, the notion of a forum has evolved as well.
However, when these two ideas are combined, you get something truly magical: an online community forum. Such forums may be a valuable asset to your company, whether you're beginning from zero or expanding on an existing product.
In this section, we'll go over what a community forum is, how effective it can be as a vehicle for bringing like-minded individuals together, as well as how to start your own online forum.
Let's get started.
A community forum is an online area where individuals with similar interests may interact, participate, and debate issues. People have been utilising community forums to connect together and weigh in on a range of common interests since the advent of the internet, be it a Potterheads discussing Snape's actual character or yogis providing each other advice on best practises.
Previously, these internet forums were strictly, well, someone else's job. However, it is now easier than ever to build your own online community that brings together individuals who support your passions, drives, and interests.
There is so much you can accomplish once you quit asking, "How to Build an Online Forum?" and actually ask, "How can I get from a forum to a complete community?"
This is particularly true if you've been thinking about how to make an online forum for your website. You've most likely looked into the typical suspects. However, technologies such as Slack and Facebook Groups are not appropriate as a community forum or as a wider community platform.
You should ideally look for a platform with extensive community capabilities. That is, features that make it much easier to discuss any and all of your hobbies, whether they be the care of rare potted plants or whatever is going on with current Call of Duty.
In practise, how does that look? Consider your capacity to publish, remark, and applaud. A customised activity stream. Direct messaging allows your members to communicate one-on-one. The capacity to keep members interested and active by using polls and inquiries. The list continues!
The key is that your subscribers may communicate with one another in a number of ways. They are not left to compose remarks into a normal, barren community forum environment, their thoughts and ideas sinking into obscurity.
You may transform your community forum into a premium subscription with the appropriate tools. If you can deliver a very valued experience—one in which your members may learn something new together—you can certainly charge for it. And your members will unquestionably pay for access!
If you're concerned that charging for your community forum would discourage others from joining, don't do it. Really. At the end of the day, consumers are concerned with what you charge them for. And by putting gated material behind a paid membership—whether it's a subscription or a one-time fee—you're increasing the value for your prospective members.
Talking of growth, once you've established your own online forum and begun to grow your community, there's really no keeping you. The first stop is subscriptions. Next up: online classes.
Creating an online course is an excellent method to progress beyond simply discussing a topic to gaining important knowledge about it. And they're fantastic for a variety of reasons:
Isn't this why you wanted to learn how to establish an online forum in the first place? By creating an online course, you provide your members with an organised opportunity to learn more about their interests, passions, or drives. That's a fantastic thing to say.
Remember how we stated that premium memberships allow you to offer something so valuable that you can charge a fee for it? The same goes for online courses.
There's a high possibility you've been interested in your field for a long time. If you have older content that delves into that interest, you can repackage it as an online course and offer it for a premium within your premium community forum.
First and foremost: If you want to learn how to set up an online discussion forum, you'll need to locate a platform that has all of the capabilities you'll need to succeed (and later, grow). While there are many alternatives, you'll notice that certain software has a particular oomph that others don't.
Let's take a look at what's available.
Vanilla Forums provides community forum software for large corporations wanting to enhance brand loyalty by connecting with their consumers. It has several solid, run-of-the-mill community management features in terms of community management software: Users can, for example, submit material, form subgroups, and submit questions and surveys.
Vanilla Forums, on the other hand, does not provide much space for development. There is no monetization option, nor can you add-on services such as memberships, subscriptions, or online courses. As a result, Vanilla Forums is one of your most limited community forum options—and depending on the size of your organisation, it may no longer be available.
WordPress, ah, WordPress. WordPress once was your sole choice for creating something really unique, whether you utilised the programme as a website builder or a community forum.
But the issue about WordPress is that customising it is both costly and complex, even if you're only using it to build an online discussion forum. And if you just do not have the time (or, let's be honest, the patience) to sort it all out, you'll be stuck with a community forum devoid of any community-oriented features, much alone any tools for future expansion.
There is also Pensil. Pensil is a software-as-a-service that allows you to consolidate everything—your community forum, subscriptions, online classes, and more—under one identity that is immediately available on the web, iOS, and Android.
With Pensil, you basically get to establish your own online forum and play with it. Your subscribers may communicate about their passions and interests through direct messages, posts, comments, and emojis, as well as a customisable activity stream. When you're ready, you may branch out into subscriptions, online courses, virtual events, VIP groups, and so on.
The most effective community platforms have a defined goal or motive. That drive is what pulls your team together: It is a passion, hobby, or goal that is very important to them.
With a defined goal for your community forum, you can provide clarity to yourself and new members about who belongs in your forum and what they will gain from participating.
Ask yourself the following questions to obtain a sense of your motivation: What people are you bringing around each other? What will those individuals be able to accomplish as a result of their participation in this community forum?
Perhaps you're beginning fresh, hoping to establish your own online forum centred on a specific topic when you've not been able to discover something suitable. Maybe you already have an audience in mind, whether it's a social network or an email list, that would be ideal for the community site you're creating.
In any case, the next critical step in figuring out how to establish an online forum is to locate and attract the individuals who would benefit the most from it. It's an important step to take, especially if you want to reap big profits.
You may be ready to launch after you've envisioned what your members could look like.
So you've determined the objective of your community forum and determined who would benefit the most from it. The next stage in building your own online forum is to gather all of the necessary information and be ready to go live.
You could start to worry about not having enough members to launch your community forum at this time. Our advice is to relax! To be effective, you literally just need ten people. And from there, you can begin to develop and extend your community forum.
Do you want to see what it looks like in action? Prepare a mini-launch with 10 of your most committed members—the members who are as passionate about Michaela Coel's work as you are—and get them all on the same day, at the same time. There, you'll have the opportunity to make them excited about their adventure ahead. You may also demonstrate how your community forum will serve as a dedicated area for people to explore their interests and establish relationships with one another.
Putting in the effort today will pay rewards later on, according to what we call the network effect: Every new member who joins your community forum adds more value—and thus more opportunities for the community to develop and thrive.
After you've figured out how to create an online community forum, you should concentrate on the actual experience you're offering for your members. What is our recommendation? To keep your members interested in your service, provide a variety of material.
There are several methods to accomplish this, such as having a weekly virtual happy hour or giving a cohort-based course where participants may learn more about the subject of your community forum. Furthermore, if you've picked a dynamic community forum platform, you'll be able to employ important elements for everyday interaction, such as polls, comments, and more.
It's alright if you don't receive a tonne of interaction straight away. The trick here is to experiment and remain open-minded. If a particular sort of material isn't working, go out to your members and solicit feedback. Put their suggestions into action. Please try again. It's a journey; trust that it will all work out in the end.
Okay, you have the expertise, but don't know where to start building your first online course? Here is a crash course on building your first course.
Here are some of the initial steps you need to keep in mind before starting your paid membership site or community.