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Forums - Are They For You?

Definition

Forums are an instrument used to communicate and collaborate with others. Examples of forums include discussions, chat rooms, messaging windows and calendars. They enable users of a website to interact with each other by exchanging tips and discussing hot topics related to a website’s theme.

Forums save information posted on a particular topic for other people to see at any time, creating a discussion environment. Everything that gets posted can be read again and again. As the discussion isn't real time, it rarely turns into heated arguments as people are given time to research and consider their comments before replying.

Forums have become a common feature in many websites. But is it
wise to add forums to your website? Below are the pros and cons of forums.

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Pros

Generate Website Content

Large, active forums generate content for your website. For example, the website. Members of forums can be very knowledgeable about the topic under discussion and they'll usually try to show this in their posts. They can provide lots of information and tips which visitors to your site can use.

Creates “stickiness”

With lots of information and discussion being exchanged in your forums, visitors will return again and again to see replies to their posts, read others posts and basically to see if anything has changed. This will increase traffic to your site through repeat visitors.

Capture User Information

In most forums, people who want to post have to register by giving their names and email address. This allows you to follow up and email them in the future with information about your product or service. They won't consider it spam because they will know who you are.

Gain More Creditability

Forums allow you to gain creditability with your website visitors as you can reply to posts that are looking for help. By doing this you're letting everyone know that you are an expert on the topic of your website. They're much more likely to buy from you if you know what you're talking about!

Create a Sense of Community

Reaching from behind their computer screens, people from all over the world join together, get to know each other and create a community. This is actually happening! Members connect with each other, offering support in time of need and some of them even meeting each other in real life. Forums allow you to build relationship with visitors.

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Cons

May Take Time to Build a Community

It can take a long time before your forums pick up. An empty forum can actually drive new visitors away. It's a vicious circle - when they see that no one else is posting, they don't post themselves, and move on to the next website. It may take months of hard work to get your forums off the ground. You have to actively promote it and create lots of topics for discussion yourself. If these topics are interesting, then you should get a few replies. Normally, it will take months before a steady flow of topics and replies are posted by other members.

Lots of Ongoing Management

You need to constantly monitor your forums to make sure that they are clean of spam and posts are appropriate for the topic. This has to be done on a daily basis and if your forum gets busy, it's going to be very time-consuming. Once your forums are large enough, you can have a team of moderators to help you run it. Finding good moderators can mean the difference between success and failure.

Takes Lots of Resources

Forums are database-type applications that generate web pages on
the fly. Every time a user views a page, it's being created from
scratch. As the forums become more active, this can be a heavy
load on the web server's resources. Forums are big resource “hogs”, taking up bandwidth, disk space and CPU resources. When a forum reaches 2,000 members, you may need to switch over to a dedicated server.

Are Not Big Revenue Generators

Forums not only cost a lot to run, they also don't bring in a whole lot of revenue, compared to regular web pages. Advertisers don't like to run ads on forum pages. Click-through rates on forum pages are significantly lower then on other types of web pages.


Forums are not for every website.
Don't just put it up there and hope for the best. If you can't put a lot of time and effort into creating a viable community, just leave it. Having no forums is better than having dead forums that may actually drive people away.

Do your research. How easy will it be to create a community geared towards the subject of your website? Is it something that people want to talk about with each other? Are there other forums on this subject? How are they doing?

Get your feet wet. Join some forums and become an active participant. If possible, become a moderator in a large forum. Your learning will increase dramatically.

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