Forum Innovation - The Secret to Success
In the business world, innovation can launch a company from mediocrity to success. The same is true for any forum community. In order to succeed, you need to innovate. Whether this is your first forum, or your 10th, the only way to get ahead of the competition is to innovate.
If you are reading this, and are thinking about starting a forum, my friend you must realize that you are getting into the game at a stage where forums are exploding. There are millions of little communities that find a place on the internet. Before you launch your forum, you must realize that if it is just like every other forum out there, then you have already made a mistake. Pre-planned innovation in your forum will go along way in helping you keep members.
The first thing you should do is to scope out the competition. (Side-note: a forum that you can compete with, not one that has 100,000 members and will leave you in the dust). You need to scope out the competition in order to see how they innovate. Do they have a skin that is very pleasing? Do they have contests to draw in people? What do they give back to their respective communities? Do they have celebrity members that draw a crowd? Do they have games? Are they old and established? The list can go on forever. You need to take a pencil and paper, (yes, pencils are still useful in 2006), and write down what kinds of things your competitors, or future competitors, have.
Themes- If you can afford a custom theme, go for it. In the end, it will only help you get that edge. If not, don’t sweat it, if you can find a pleasing theme, and add your own banner, it will really help you establish an image, and draw people to your sites content.
Content- Need I say more? No, but I like listening to myself talk, so I will anyway. You need something sticky, and glue doesn’t cut it. (Lame joke, I know). Maybe your competition has no articles about your topic. Take a couple of hours, sit on your bum, and crank out 5-10 original articles. If anything, people will realize you know what you’re talking about, and start some conversation with you. See if there is a celebrity member that you might be able to contact, and tell them about your site. (Don’t abuse this however). Videos, images, and articles make up the bulk of “content”. Provide it; even if no one is looking at your site, it will be vital to building your site.
Bells- Bells defined (by me) are things that people will be attracted to because of our human nature, anything to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. This list includes modifications, prizes, points, a store, incentives, special groups, etc. Don’t overdo the bells, but if you have no bells ringing, something is wrong. Try one or two things, and see if they work out. If you are lacking that “community” feel, a good bell or two might help you out considerably.
Whistles- Whistles defined (by me) are little plastic things that make sound. (Lame joke number 2). I think of whistles as extensions of content. This list would include your blogs, image galleries, social networks, tutorials, etc. Ultimately, these will become a huge part of your content, so try different things, and see if people are interested.
Tying it together: Most of the info you have read in this article is probably not new information, however this last part is the reason I wrote it. The internet is not lacking content, its overflowing with it. You as a webmaster need to realize that in order for people to care about your site, you need to take that content and make it new, exciting, and interesting. If you have a blog, make it funny. If you have a shop, offer something that no one else does. Write an article that has never been written.
I know your thinking, “WOW, if it was only that easy”. I know it’s hard, but here is a checklist.
1. Define your goals.
2. Add content, bells, whistles, etc.
3. Sit down, and actually brainstorm, (my English teacher would be so proud). Write down anything that comes to mind, and anything you think may or may not work.
4. Narrow the list.
5. Get advice about the new, narrowed list.
6. Implement it.
7. See if it works.
8. If not, see step #3.
Just remember the magic word, innovation.