3 Questions to Ask Before Adding a Forum to Your Membership Site?


Adding a Forum to Your Membership Site

Using a forum to engage members in a membership site has long been a popular and effective option.
With so many different types of platforms, including social media, which can be used to engage an audience it is important to make sure a forum is the best way to provide additional value to your members. There can be multiple variables to consider when selecting how to implement a forum, but before this step it is critical to answer three fundamental questions about your membership site.

Does Adding a Forum Serve a Purpose?

One of the worst mistakes you can make is adding a forum to your membership site simply to add one. The key is to ensure it will add additional value to the content you are delivering in an effective way. If a forum does not have any true underlying purpose there are a multitude of complications that will actually push members away. The most common problem with forums is when they are not used by members. An empty forum is visible for everyone to see and if there are no ongoing conversations it lowers the perceived value of the membership.

A unique problem a poorly performing forum can have on membership sites is a loss of members. Even if they are receiving exceptional value from the rest of the membership site they will entertain the thought of leaving because the forum experiences so poor. This is true even if they would stay a member if the forum it never existed at all. Paying members are subconsciously always looking for a reason to leave and a forum which does not serve a purpose may give them that reason.

Is a Forum the Best Option to Serve Your Purpose?

Once you have determined that a forum would be a valuable addition to your membership site by serving a specific purpose, the next question you need to answer is whether or not it is the best option.

Even a productive forum can be a bad idea if it prevents you from engaging with your audience in a more effective way. Fundamentally, if your members are experiencing frustration with the existing communication tools you are providing then adding a forum may be an ideal solution. On the other hand, if they are already satisfied with the tools you are providing then a forum may prove to be redundant and ineffective.

Are You Willing and Able to be Committed to It?

The final question to answer is whether or not you or your staff are willing and able to commit the necessary time and resources to maintaining an active forum. Forum administrators actively monitor and moderate posts. You will also likely be required to interact with members as well. Even if you do not contribute to your form in a direct way, it will still require a certain level of dedication to ensure it remains valuable. Ideally, you will be able to leverage the form to answer member questions, invite members to engage with you and other members, and even enter into ongoing conversations to provide valuable advice.

Forums can be an excellent tool for encouraging discussions around the topics that interest your members. It also provides another avenue for your members to create relationships with each other, motivate each other, and even provide access to a different way to discuss new skills. Before introducing a forum to your membership website, take a moment to make sure it truly serves a purpose and that it is the best option to achieve your specific goals. Finally, consider the amount of time and resources necessary to maintain an active forum and whether or not you are willing to make this level of commitment.

1 Comment
  • Peter D. Rishel says:

    I have never set up a membership site but have managed several forums so I thought I would post a few other things to consider. The first is related to your third point about deciding whether or not you can commit to it. Forums can take a lot of time to get established because you probably won’t find people willing to volunteer to moderate the forum in its early stages. Either you are going to have to do it yourself or pay a few people to do it. Fortunately, all of my forums have had people volunteer to moderate it once the foreign became established and active.
    One point I don’t entirely agree with is that there are situations a forum doesn’t make sense. I guess if you have a very active Facebook page or something like that than a forum may be redundant. But at that point, why not move everything to a forum on your website that way you can control the advertisements being displayed and better moderate the content? Personally, I have never regretted adding a forum to any of my websites.

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