My Experience with Forums

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On two of my more heavily trafficked websites (Burbank.com and TropicalBirds.com), I added forums for people to chat and have discussions. Since the domain names were fairly targeted, I assumed that people would be happy to join and begin interacting, which would help build brand awareness and recognition. I was wrong.

On TropicalBirds.com, I added the forum and paid a company to seed the forum with posts. I also added links to the forum on the sidebar of every page, and in some of the text as well. While the comment seeding initially spurred a bit of discussion on TropicalBirds.com, that didn’t last long. There were heavy periods of quiet, with the occasional sign-up. Not a very good result.

Likewise with Burbank.com, I added links on the home page and side navigation. I also added a “discuss” icon and link on news articles, after I created a topic in the forum. Although there is more traffic to the Burbank.com forum than TropicalBirds.com, there is little discussion.

I had heard spam could be a big issue with a forum, but I don’t really have that problem. I had a bunch of spammy sign-ups with TropicalBirds.com, so I made it so that I need to approve all new members.

Forums can be successful, but those require significant moderation efforts and time to contribute. If you are thinking about adding a forum to your website in order to make it come to life, it could be a waste of time and money if you are committed to running it. Forums can be very good for a developed domain name, but they certainly aren’t a magic bullet.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I have a forum on my Caribbean country site and most of the posts and comments are very targeted and informational. Since I get an email every time someone posts, I can see the comment spammers but there aren’t many. I can delete and ban their IP with two clicks so it’s worth the time to provide a “forum” for people to interact.

    As with most forums, traffic is moderate and revenue is light.

  2. I have the same issue on some of my sites, it is hard to get a forum started and get it used by members on a regular basis. Maybe it’s harder these days because there are already so many places where people can interact. Getting a forum up and running probably takes the same amount of effort as full website development – it’s not something you can set up one time and let build – though there may be exceptions.

  3. You’re looking at it from too short horizon. I’ve seen your TB.com forum and its I think great. But developing forum to lively site takes years, not months. Key is activity there – people signup only if they see really recent points (say from past hour max. days). This will not happen in short time, it takes much patience and seen from domainer view is not something I’d recommend (if you don’t post yourself, you will pay too much for continual seeding).

    But if you have unique forum in some kind of way, it works.

  4. And one more thing: approving registrations manually is just no-no. People want to register and post just right and you are losing their immediate attention if you force them to wait till another day.

    In my experience only about 40% of new registrations are done without motive of immediate posting (but mainly just for curiosity). And key is to start notifying this non-posters group through e-mail and turn them to posters.

    One thing that is sure to work is placing welcome box or header promoting registrations (and posting in later phases). You can read more about that on:
    http://www.vbulletin.org/forum/showthread.php?t=119572
    (but download and viewing attachments requires being vB customer)

  5. I’ve had the same experience as you Elliot. I think if you’re going to add forums to your site you really have to put the time in to make them a success.

    Many people expect forums to just grow organically which is rare since people like visiting forums that already have an active community.

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