Archive for the 'Online Communities' Category

Highlighting PbNation

Despite initially being labeled as a fad, paintball has 10.5 million players in the U.S. alone, and is one of the fastest growing sports.

About PbNation

Generating over 20 million monthly pageviews and approximately 1.9 million monthly unique visitors, PbNation.com is the largest interactive sports community on the Internet with a focus on the extreme sport of paintball.

PbNation includes a paintball store, a collection of product reviews, a consumer-to-consumer paintball equipment marketplace, a paintball industry news section, and a paintball video content sharing site. While the majority of the content is paintball related approximately 30% of the content is non-paintball related including videos, gaming, outdoors, and other topics of interest to this demographic.

PbNation in the News

Splat Magazine awarded PbNation the 2007 “Paintball Web Site of the Year” and credits PbNation for having “played a larger role in the expansion of paintball knowledge than practically any other source in history.” SplatXD awarded PbNation the “Paintball Website of the Year” and said, “For as big as our sport is, our media for the most part is poorly produced, has extremely limited reach and does nothing to expand the visibility of the game.”

According to Forbes, PbNation is the “number one paintball fan site”, and the Chicago Tribune called it the “ultra popular paintball website” and listed becoming involved in PbNation as number one in their “Tips for Going Pro” about becoming a professional paintball player. Press Enterprises cites PbNation as “the leading paintball forum, helping facilitate everything from equipment reviews to discussions on the world’s best paintballers to the organization of games.”

“…PbNation is a cornerstone of the paintball enthusiast ecosystem and one of the largest independent forum communities in the world. From our initial review, we have found that PbNation has built up tremendous engagement in a very valuable demographic and we are very excited for what the future holds for us.” said Sanjay Sabnani, CrowdGather’s Chairman and CEO.

Where Are Social Media Marketers Seeing the Most Success?

An article was published yesterday on eMarketer that contained some very surprising information. In recent times when marketers discuss social media the primary destination that comes to mind is Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare.

“Eighty-five percent of companies viewed Facebook as successful, a significant jump from 54% in 2009. Yet Facebook hasn’t matched message or bulletin boards, with 93% reporting it was a successful tactic.”

 

This information was released in a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Market Research.

Interview with forum-software.org

Forum Software Reviews

Today, I have the fortune of publishing an interview with Nicolas Ternisien who runs the very popular Forum Software Reviews site, forum-software.org. Nicolas is a professional Java/JEE developer with strong interests in Open Source (mainly the KDE desktop) and web technologies.  He lives in Brussels, Belgium with his wife and three cats.  In addition to running Forum Software Reviews, which keeps him quite busy with a backlog of forums to review, he works at the European Commision as an JEE consultant.  Nick does an excellent job of walking through dozens of different forum software packages and comparing them on a whole range of features.  All of this infomration is compiled into comparison charts, individual write-ups of each forum, and dozens of screenshots.  It’s a great reference website for any forum admin looking to start a new forum.

Stats:

  • Started May 2006
  • Reviewed over 43 types of forum software!  From phpbb, to zoho, to lefora, to google groups
  • Has over 10,000 admins visit each month!

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Why did you start forum-software.org?

I started Forum-Software.org (“Forum Software Reviews” name has been chosen after while, because Forum-Software.org was looking to the name of a the template website used in DNS squatting 😉 in 2006, because I noticed at this period that no websites were comparing, listing and testing forum softwares – or at least, I did not googled correctly. Obviously, some big communities around each softwares were really dynamic, but it was hard to find an unbiaised opinion in such community, that would of course promote the one they support.

I mainly develop and review softwares on my hobby time, so it could therefore explain why you could find intervals of time (the worst was maybe two months!) without any news. It is based on PHP and the famous – and awesome – Drupal CMS. It was my first experimentation of this CMS, and I must admit that still today, I could spend hours to fix my first misusages of it.

The first goal of Forum Software Reviews was to regularly review forum softwares (of any kind, well known, or not, classic or exotic, …), let the users be able to test them directly with live demonstrations, and try to be as objective as possible. At the beginning I did not want to give rating, to do not disappoint developer teams that work hard to implement such softwares, and because it is hard to judge in several hours the work of several months. But, finally, I added them because of a global needs from my readers, that want to be guided in the forum software jungle.

The Forum Comparator came later, and is really used now, even if it is of course oriented in a technical way (the comparator will not help you to know if the ergonomics or the appearance of a software are well suited for you.

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What are some interesting trends you are seeing in forum software?

The two main trends I noticed in the last years is the increasing power of open source, that really levels up the quality of free forum softwares. It is sometimes really sad, because some great projects have been given up, but finally, this Darwin’s natural selection in softwares is really good for final users. The other really important trend is the services oriented way to provide and distribute softwares. Lefora is a perfect example of this, as now, community managers do not longer want to install, upgrade and administrate a software, and prefer spending time to improve and manage their community. This is, in my opinion, the logical way from which the “cloud-computing” is coming from.

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What are some important features you like to see in forum software?

In my opinion, one of the most important thing is the ease of use of a software. You see too much often forums with thousand of buttons, to watch, quote, change the appearance, report a problem, create a new topic, rate an answer, register… for each topic pages where the only important action is, actually, to reply. This also requires a simple and clear layout and theme, not overloaded with images and so on.

One of the future important feature is the integration with social networks, like Twitter and Facebook. Users are tired to create a new account, upload their avatar, and describe themselves in each community they register. This is probably one of the reason why so many Groups are created in Facebook: one account to rule them all. Fortunately, many solutions exist, like Gravatar, Openid and Google Friends, and more and more softwares are implementing (often via plugins) such integration.

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What are your future goals with forum-software.org?

I plan to create a new module, in the next months (remember the “hobby time” in my first answer) to let users register the forum website they manage or administrate. This would be a good way to gather some statistics about type of softwares used, community size average, number of posts and topics,… I hope it will bring additional information about, for example, what is the general forum software used for an expected community of, let’s say, 2000 users, percentage of usage of a specific forum software, most used forum software in biggest communities…

Those information would be integrated through charts and inside of each forum software reviews. Obviously, this would be also a good way to create a directory of existing forum, and let users promoting what they were able to do with one software (theme used, list of plugins, local customization,…). This is in my opinion, a good way to see how much a software is flexible or not. I will keep you informed of such new improvements.

Thank you for this interview, it was really interesting, and please excuse my french way of speaking english 😉

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Author’s Comments: Nicolas made some really insightful point here, especially on the direction that forum software is taking.  I personally agree with his statement that ‘ease of use’ is one of the most important things in forum software.  When you have too many options, it just becomes overwhelming.  Tying in with social networks also hits on another pain point that we hear alot – people don’t want to create yet another membership account.  So if they can choose to login with their existing facebook or twitter account, many times they will choose that option – and from other hosting sites we’ve talked to, we’ve really seen this ‘third-party login’ usage take off in the past year.  It’s something we plan to add to Lefora in the future.

Featured Forum – Bicycle Tutor

Two weekends ago I took a 2 day bike trip and encountered some bike problems along the way.  When I came back from the trip I went to Bicycle Tutor for tips on how to keep my bicycle well maintained.   With all the useful help I received,  I just needed to interview the creator of the community.  So this month we are interviewing Alex Ramon from bicycletutor.com.  Alex’s site is primarily a video tutorial site but he showcases his forum section heavily.

*Threads: 850

*Posts: 3,189

*Members: 790

*Software: MyBB

How long have you been running bicycle tutor as well as the forums section?

I started Bicycle Tutor in December 2007, and launched the forums the following year to cope with all the email questions I was getting. The first year the forums were online I used bbPress, but recently upgraded to MyBB for the added features and functionality.

Where do most of your visitors come from? How do they first hear about your site?

Half of our visitors learn about the site when searching for answers on search engines. The other half come from other websites, blogs, bookmarks, facebook, and forums. Word of mouth has been the biggest source of traffic since the beginning. People really like the videos and are happy to tell others about the site.

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

1. Always be helpful and friendly.
2. Avoid making too many rules and restrictions. Make it easy for people to register and begin posting.
3. Make it easy for visitors to change their profile settings and subscribe to threads by email and RSS.
4. Always be helpful and friendly.

Have you had problems with trolls or inappropriate members on your forum? If so, how did you manage their behavior?

I’ve had a few severe hack attacks on the main site, but luckily not much trouble on the forums. A few times someone has set up an account and posted spam threads, but they are easy to spot and delete. I can’t recall any members being rude or inappropriate. I think it’s because cyclists are just awesome by default.

How have you promoted your forum, and are you still continuing to promote or does it grow on it’s own?

It seems to grow on it’s own now, but I also put links around the main site wherever appropriate. I use the forum category feeds to post the latest related discussions below each video. I also announced it on my facebook fan page and recently sent out a newsletter letting subscribers know about the upgrades. I will continue tweaking to make sure people find answers to their questions easily when they visit the site.

Being the bicycle tutor and forum admin, how often do you chime in and answer questions on your forum?

At first I was doing my best to answer every question, but soon found it difficult to keep up. Luckily other people started joining and offering their answers and advice. I want to encourage that because there are so many people that know things I don’t. I’ve gradually scaled back my presence, but I still post whenever I have something helpful to say. I also keep an eye on threads to make sure no questions go unanswered for too long.

Author’s Comments:  Alex’s forum has really utilized the main part of his site, video tutorials, in building a great community of bicycle maintenance experts.  He’s also done a great job in using other social media sites in promoting his forum to the point it’s growing on its own.  Thanks for your time Alex!


Featured Forum – The Unofficial B-Cast Forum

This might be the first time we’re featuring a forum that is less than a week old.  Just 4 days ago James (veritas) started The Unofficial B-Cast Forum for fans of the daily B-Cast show.  What’s interesting, is this forum caught my eye within 2 days of launch due to its spread on twitter with ‘re-tweets’ and it’s enormously fast growth (over 200 posts from 30 members in just 2-3 days).

Unofficial B-Cast Forum Stats:
* Age: < 4 days
* Threads: 67
* Posts: 274
* Members: 37
* Software : lefora

What is your forum about? My forum is a “fan” site for Breitbart.tv’s The B-Cast, which is a daily M-F 4pm to 6pm eastern webcast with live chat, hosted by Scott Baker and Liz Stephans. They are very active in the conservative media and Scott Baker was recently featured on the Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck Show.  They focus on the political topics of the day and various other news breaking events like the Acorn scandal along with other interesting stories and the occasional humorous viral videos. The forums seek to reflect that same type of information. Myself and several others of a growing audience have been involved in the chat aspect of the show for quite some time now. When chat was left open around the clock, we started noticing that people would show up at all hours of the day and night and just chat and share links. But as you probably know, chat is like dropping leaves in a stream. If you are not there at the time, you more than likely will miss whatever is said or posted. Because even though the chat runs all the time, it does clear from time to time. I thought that the same people involved in the chat all with very similar interests in politics might want a forum to give more permanence to posts and allow people to get their posts seen by more members and have more time to really expound on their points. Chat only allows for quick one line types of posts and with the viewership rising continually it was getting harder to get your posts seen. I think that the chat feature is what makes The B-Cast special because we can interact with the hosts during the live shows, but people still wanted to talk even after the 2 hour show was over. I floated this idea of a forum and several of the chat members thought it was a good idea. That is why I started the “Unofficial B-Cast” forums.
Have you run a forum before? I have been an Admin on a few successful political forums and have tried to launch a couple of others in the past.
I see you’ve had a lot of ppl retweet about your forum on twitter, how did you go about motivating other people to tweet about your forum? Well I would like to say I had a lot to do with it, but it was really just the chat members letting others know what we were doing.
How else have you been promoting your forum? I have really just been using twitter and our chat community at The B-Cast to promote it. Along with putting it in my signature when posting elsewhere. I tried to use the sidebar function to create a custom html widget to show The B-Cast’s twitter posts. I followed the directions in the support FAQ, but for some reason I can not get it to work.
Is there anything else you’ve been doing to help generate such high posting activity over the first few days of your forum? That is pretty much it. I happen to have a great pool of the B-Cast community supporting what we are trying to do. I think that was key. There was already a group of like minded people that were anxious to express their ideas, I just gave them one more place with a little different format to do so. I hope that as The B-Cast grows, our fan community will as well. The B-Cast’s URL is http://www.breitbart.tv/livestream/ the show is M-F from 4 to 6 eastern and the previous day’s show loops after that until midnight or for weekends when the next live show starts.
How did you find out about Lefora and what made you choose it as your forum software? To be honest, not knowing exactly how people would like the forum idea even though many said they would, I Googled for a free format and found Lefora. I like the WYSIWYG style for the posters. I will say that since most of the sites where I have been an Admin were phpbb, the Admin tools are a little limiting, but sometimes simple is better. I like the way this site takes many of the headaches most Admin face, such as spam, and tackle that for us. Also, the theme format that was available and I chose was perfect to coincide with The B-Cast.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with fellow admins? I would say that one thing I have learned is make sure you identify your audience before starting a forum. If you can find something that already has a following online, but not a forum, you will probably be able to get members. The trick after that is keeping them. I think it will work for The B-Cast forums, because this was started by me as a service to my other Bcasters. I believe in what Liz and Scott are doing and I want to promote it any way I can!

What is your forum about?

My forum is a “fan” site for Breitbart.tv’s The B-Cast, which is a daily M-F 4pm to 6pm eastern webcast with live chat, hosted by Scott Baker and Liz Stephans. They are very active in the conservative media and Scott Baker was recently featured on the Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck Show.  They focus on the political topics of the day and various other news breaking events like the Acorn scandal along with other interesting stories and the occasional humorous viral videos. The forums seek to reflect that same type of information.

Have you run a forum before?

I have been an Admin on a few successful political forums and have tried to launch a couple of others in the past.

I see you’ve had a lot of ppl retweet about your forum on twitter, how did you go about motivating other people to tweet about your forum?

Well I would like to say I had a lot to do with it, but it was really just the chat members letting others know what we were doing.

How else have you been promoting your forum?

I have really just been using twitter and our chat community at The B-Cast to promote it. Along with putting it in my signature when posting elsewhere. I tried to use the sidebar function to create a custom html widget to show The B-Cast’s twitter posts. I followed the directions in the support FAQ, but for some reason I can not get it to work.

Is there anything else you’ve been doing to help generate such high posting activity over the first few days of your forum?

That is pretty much it. I happen to have a great pool of the B-Cast community supporting what we are trying to do. I think that was key. There was already a group of like minded people that were anxious to express their ideas, I just gave them one more place with a little different format to do so. I hope that as The B-Cast grows, our fan community will as well. The B-Cast’s URL is http://www.breitbart.tv/livestream/ the show is M-F from 4 to 6 eastern and the previous day’s show loops after that until midnight or for weekends when the next live show starts.

How did you find out about Lefora and what made you choose it as your forum software?

To be honest, not knowing exactly how people would like the forum idea even though many said they would, I Googled for a free format and found Lefora. I like the WYSIWYG style for the posters. I will say that since most of the sites where I have been an Admin were phpbb, the Admin tools are a little limiting, but sometimes simple is better. I like the way this site takes many of the headaches most Admin face, such as spam, and tackle that for us. Also, the theme format that was available and I chose was perfect to coincide with The B-Cast.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with fellow admins?

I would say that one thing I have learned is make sure you identify your audience before starting a forum. If you can find something that already has a following online, but not a forum, you will probably be able to get members. The trick after that is keeping them. I think it will work for The B-Cast forums, because this was started by me as a service to my other Bcasters. I believe in what Liz and Scott are doing and I want to promote it any way I can!

Myself and several others of a growing audience have been involved in the chat aspect of the show for quite some time now. When chat was left open around the clock, we started noticing that people would show up at all hours of the day and night and just chat and share links. But as you probably know, chat is like dropping leaves in a stream. If you are not there at the time, you more than likely will miss whatever is said or posted. Because even though the chat runs all the time, it does clear from time to time. I thought that the same people involved in the chat all with very similar interests in politics might want a forum to give more permanence to posts and allow people to get their posts seen by more members and have more time to really expound on their points. Chat only allows for quick one line types of posts and with the viewership rising continually it was getting harder to get your posts seen. I think that the chat feature is what makes The B-Cast special because we can interact with the hosts during the live shows, but people still wanted to talk even after the 2 hour show was over. I floated this idea of a forum and several of the chat members thought it was a good idea. That is why I started the “Unofficial B-Cast” forums.

Author’s Comments: In just a few days, James has done a terrific job of realizing another outlet was need for a community and so he started a forum on Eamped.com (running the Lefora forum software).  He took an active chat room and turned it into a thriving forum overnight.  From posting links in their chat room to his use of Twitter and of other members ‘re-tweeting’ his message to their network has helped contribute to this success.

It was also interesting to read his comments on the Lefora software – at first it seems limiting, but it’s simple and automatically takes care of the many headaches that admins have to deal with on other forum software, like spam prevention and theming.  Our goal is to hide complexities so that the admin interface is incredibly simple to use and not overwhelming.  We spend extra time programming automatic community functions into the forums, so admins can spend their time fostering their community, not tweaking a bunch of settings.

Twitter, Facebook, and Social Network traffic on Forums

From a question posted over at the popular The Admin Zone forum, a number of admins of forums are debating the value of traffic from social networking websites like facebook and twitter.  I decided to run some stats on our 80,000+ forums and see just what type of traffic the major social networks bring, and how likely would a visitor be to explore a forum, or bounce and leave the site.

Below is a chart of visitor activity to Lefora.com forums from popular social networks.

A few interesting stats:

  • 1/3 of all our traffic comes from search engines, mostly google.  This traffic tends to be slightly lower performing then our site averages, and something we’re working on improving.
  • Facebook is the 5th most popular referrer to our forums (of any website), it is over 5x as popular as myspace for referring traffic.  However, there are two reasons for this.  1, we offer Facebook Connect integration to make it easy to post updates to your facebook wall from the forum, and 2, myspace blocks all outbound links on their site with a scary intermediate page warning people they are leaving the myspace garden.
  • Social networking sites generally far out perform the average activity on our site, from pages per visit, time on site, and most importantly, a lower bounce rate (meaning people find what’s interesting in the forums after they click through a link on a social network.

For more Lefora Stats, be sure to check our recently added real-time Stats page.

Interview – Martin Reed of CommunitySpark.com

Martin has been building and managing online communities for over 9 years.  He’s given talks and advice to a number of organizations about building communities, including the NYC Dept. of Education.  He’s been interviewed by the BBC, Web User Magazine, and other international newspapers.
His site, CommunitySpark, is an invaluable resource for any admin, new or mature.  As Martin offers great advice on growing an online forum, keeping your members happy, and promoting your community.
Hi Martin, would you mind staring off with telling us a little bit about Community Spark?
I built my first online community from scratch back in 2000. Since then, I purchased a dormant online community and brought it back to life and last September I launched another new community. Community Spark is where I share what I have learnt in over nine years of community building.
We are split nowadays when it comes to community building advice. When I started out, this kind of advice was hard to come by. Furthermore, I hate seeing online communities fail – and most of them do. The goal of Community Spark is to help people build successful online communities.
I’m still learning – even now. Not only do I share advice on my blog, but I also learn from my readers so the benefits run both ways.
You obviously have a natural affiliation for running communities.  Do you think there are a few personality traits that make for a good forum admin or community organizer?
Yes. Patience, dedication, passion and determination. Real communities don’t develop overnight. They take a lot of hard work and sometimes community management can be rather unrewarding. You need to be in it for the long term. Being passionate about the community or the subject matter of the community will get you through these tough times. You need to be determined to succeed.
Do you find that running different communities with different interest groups and demographics poses new challenges to you?  Or is it the case that there are a few fundamental concepts on running an online community, and these apply universal to different groups?
Every online community is different (or at least, it should be). Therefore, even if you manage more than one community on the same subject matter, there will be different personalities and a different culture.
The subject matter of the community shouldn’t hugely affect how you run that community – some subjects may require more sensitivity or different moderation policies but at the end of the day, you are still dealing with people. People want to feel recognized and rewarded – the subject matter comes second to the human element of community.
My newest community is Female Forum – an online community for women. I am the community manager and all the members know I am male – I make no secret of the fact. Some new members are a little wary at first, but they soon recognise that my gender has no bearing on my ability to manage the community.
Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins in order to run a fun and active forum?
Only three?!
1. Know why you want an online community, what will make your community different, and why people will want to join.
2. Forget quantity. Instead, aim for quality.
3. Always listen to your members (don’t confuse this with always saying yes), be approachable, and keep them in the spotlight.
.
What are some of the more ‘shocking’ things you learned throughout your 9+ year career of running online communities?
The anonymity of the Internet can be both a curse and a blessing. People will share information that they would never dream of discussing face to face. This can lead to some very frank, open, honest and often touching discussions. On the other hand, some people can be so abusive and offensive you may sometimes question people’s humanity.
As a community manager, you’ll receive abuse at some stage. Sometimes it will be awful – you need to ignore it and rise above it. I’ve been told to ‘watch my back’, some people have told me they know where I live (handy in case I forget, I suppose) and others have threatened to destroy the community by attacking the server.
What are some tips you might share to reinvigorate communities that might be loosing steam?
You need to work out why your community is losing steam. Is it boring? Are members feeling undervalued? Are you involved in the community yourself? If you aren’t involved, why should others contribute? Make sure the community is easy to use – focus on functionality rather than features. Make sure members feel rewarded and valued (remember to say thank you). Create a culture where members form real relationships with one another – they’ll find it almost impossible to leave a place that is full of people they regard as friends.
Finally, for all those new admins out there, what is one piece of advice you’d like to share with a new forum admin starting their first forum?
Don’t think that members will flock to your online community just because it is there. Community building is harder than that. Aim to get members before you open – invite people you respect and those that are interested in the subject matter of your community to help with the development process. Tailor the community around these initial golden members, and ensure there are discussions and content in the community before it goes live.
Author’s Comments: Martin, thank you for your concise responses.  I recommend all forum admins head over to CommunitySpark for more indepth articles.  Martin’s last point for new forum admins is really good advice.  Frequently I see admins in our support forum get frustrated when members don’t ‘flock’ to their new forum.  It takes time and sweat for an admin to incubate a new community.  Just creating the shell of a forum won’t get members there and certainly won’t provoke them to start posting.  An admin must work hard to invite those ‘golden’ members first and spur conversation and questions between them before attracting more members.  Lefora will continue to post best practices around starting a new forum in the coming months.

Martin has been building and managing online communities for over 9 years.  He’s given talks and advice to a number of organizations about building communities, including the NYC Dept. of Education.  He’s been interviewed by the BBC, Web User Magazine, and other international newspapers.

His site, CommunitySpark, is an invaluable resource for any admin, new or mature.  As Martin offers great advice on growing an online forum, keeping your members happy, and promoting your community.

.

Hi Martin, would you mind staring off with telling us a little bit about Community Spark?
I built my first online community from scratch back in 2000. Since then, I purchased a dormant online community and brought it back to life and last September I launched another new community. Community Spark is where I share what I have learnt in over nine years of community building.

We are split nowadays when it comes to community building advice. When I started out, this kind of advice was hard to come by. Furthermore, I hate seeing online communities fail – and most of them do. The goal of Community Spark is to help people build successful online communities.

I’m still learning – even now. Not only do I share advice on my blog, but I also learn from my readers so the benefits run both ways.

.

You obviously have a natural affiliation for running communities.  Do you think there are a few personality traits that make for a good forum admin or community organizer?
Yes. Patience, dedication, passion and determination. Real communities don’t develop overnight. They take a lot of hard work and sometimes community management can be rather unrewarding. You need to be in it for the long term. Being passionate about the community or the subject matter of the community will get you through these tough times. You need to be determined to succeed.

.

Do you find that running different communities with different interest groups and demographics poses new challenges to you?  Or is it the case that there are a few fundamental concepts on running an online community, and these apply universal to different groups?
Every online community is different (or at least, it should be). Therefore, even if you manage more than one community on the same subject matter, there will be different personalities and a different culture.

The subject matter of the community shouldn’t hugely affect how you run that community – some subjects may require more sensitivity or different moderation policies but at the end of the day, you are still dealing with people. People want to feel recognized and rewarded – the subject matter comes second to the human element of community.

My newest community is Female Forum – an online community for women. I am the community manager and all the members know I am male – I make no secret of the fact. Some new members are a little wary at first, but they soon recognise that my gender has no bearing on my ability to manage the community.

.

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins in order to run a fun and active forum?

Only three?!

  1. Know why you want an online community, what will make your community different, and why people will want to join.
  2. Forget quantity. Instead, aim for quality.
  3. Always listen to your members (don’t confuse this with always saying yes), be approachable, and keep them in the spotlight.

.

What are some of the more ‘shocking’ things you learned throughout your 9+ year career of running online communities?
The anonymity of the Internet can be both a curse and a blessing. People will share information that they would never dream of discussing face to face. This can lead to some very frank, open, honest and often touching discussions. On the other hand, some people can be so abusive and offensive you may sometimes question people’s humanity.

As a community manager, you’ll receive abuse at some stage. Sometimes it will be awful – you need to ignore it and rise above it. I’ve been told to ‘watch my back’, some people have told me they know where I live (handy in case I forget, I suppose) and others have threatened to destroy the community by attacking the server.

.

What are some tips you might share to reinvigorate communities that might be loosing steam?
You need to work out why your community is losing steam. Is it boring? Are members feeling undervalued? Are you involved in the community yourself? If you aren’t involved, why should others contribute? Make sure the community is easy to use – focus on functionality rather than features. Make sure members feel rewarded and valued (remember to say thank you). Create a culture where members form real relationships with one another – they’ll find it almost impossible to leave a place that is full of people they regard as friends.

.

Finally, for all those new admins out there, what is one piece of advice you’d like to share with a new forum admin starting their first forum?
Don’t think that members will flock to your online community just because it is there. Community building is harder than that. Aim to get members before you open – invite people you respect and those that are interested in the subject matter of your community to help with the development process. Tailor the community around these initial golden members, and ensure there are discussions and content in the community before it goes live.

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Author’s Comments: Martin, thank you for your concise responses.  I recommend all forum admins head over to CommunitySpark for more indepth articles.  Martin’s last point for new forum admins is really good advice.  Frequently I see admins in our support forum get frustrated when members don’t ‘flock’ to their new forum.  It takes time and sweat for an admin to incubate a new community.  Just creating the shell of a forum won’t get members there and certainly won’t provoke them to start posting.  An admin must work hard to invite those ‘golden’ members first and spur conversation and questions between them before attracting more members.  Lefora will continue to post best practices around starting a new forum in the coming months.


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June 2017
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