Taking your forum to the next level....

Discussion in 'Managing an Online Community' started by DaveL, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. DaveL

    DaveL Habitué

    Has anyone else looked at their forum and thought "How can I take this to the next level?"
    What did you decide in the end?
  2. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

    I feel most of my forums tend to find their own level regardless of the amount of effort I put in. That may sound a little negative but I'm more than happy if one of my forums is successful with minimal input from me.

    The one thing I can say which had a major, sustained impact was installing Tapatalk. That got me a lot of traffic on every forum I owned. Unfortunately Tapatalk's business practices became such that I had to remove it but it still gave me a good net gain. The reason for that was blindingly obvious. It added mobile functionality to a desktop product, something forums still haven't fully achieved ten years later.

    I think if you can find a vacant space to fill a forum will succeed with very little effort. On the other hand if there's competition even a major overhaul in terms of strategy or function may make no difference at all. In fact it may even lose you members who don't take well to change. There are many successful forums out there running on old platforms using the default skin.

    Reading this back, it doesn't sound too helpful but my experiences may well differ from other owners so it'll be interesting to see what they have to say :)
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  3. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

    It depends on what you mean by "the next level." Most people use it to mean grow membership and that is difficult.

    I agree with zappaDPJ completely. Like water, forums find their own level. The forums that tend to succeed are niche ones and therefore have a limited audience. It doesn't matter what tricks you employ, how you market or position it, or what technology you choose, you cannot grow the forum past that wall of interest.

    On the other hand, if by "the next level" you mean taking the forum beyond the threaded discussion, then yes, depending on the niche, there are things you can do. There are lots of examples, like adding special interest groups within it, adding discord for live chat, a YouTube channel, or even hosted real world events. You just need to be aware that everything you do beyond the core discussion of the forum runs the risk of taking away from the core discussion.
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  4. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

    In community management, there's a concept called the Community Lifecycle: Inception, Growth, Maturity, and Mitosis.

    It depends on where you are with your current lifecycle and what you'd like to accomplish.

    This is an educational blog post I wrote for Invision Community owners: https://invisioncommunity.com/news/...itys-lifecycle-to-increase-your-growth-r1139/
  5. cornnfedd

    cornnfedd Captain Futurama

    Took my laptop upstairs and loaded the website back up, definitely on the next level now...
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  6. overcast

    overcast Adherent

    New content. New people. More revenue. That's next level for me. Few design changes and few seconds up and down drop is not next level for me.
  7. sminc

    sminc Neophyte

  8. Ingenious

    Ingenious Fan

    I tend to agree with this and what zappaDPJ said, for me I can put in a disproportionate amount of time, effort and money and it doesn't affect things much (and is unsustainable), conversely if I coast along, things continue fine too. So I guess the lesson, at least for me, is my community is the sum of the effort of the people currently using it. If that effort declines, so will my community. It took somewhat of a hit to Facebook and I can see long term it - and many other forums - evolving to be "things that don't work on Facebook" which might not be what we want!

    Encouraging the people who do post has been key for me - we've all been on forums where you can spend hours taking part and get no response, no post likes, no encouragement (even with a busy and large admin/mod base who should all be prioritising engaging those who make the effort to post) and do we stay long? Nope. So the "next level" for me would be getting more personal and nurturing what community you do have - above bells and whistles and gimmicky features.

    On a technical front, "next level" for me would be a native forum app - it has to be done at some point.
  9. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

    I agree, I think this is essential for growth.
  10. Bluefish

    Bluefish Aspirant

    That "Community Lifecycle" is something I'd never seen. Interesting.

    So what's the definition of "next level?" I'm thinking most would say "increased activity" in someway, like new member, more posts, more topics created. But it could also be monetary. The next level of making your site profitable. Of course, all of it is interrelated. It's hard to do one without the other.

    For me, the next level would be making the forum more relevant in my community. For many years we had Administrators and Superintendents, and Police Officers addressing concerns and issues brought up in our forum. Now it's apparently beneath them to do so. I looked to see if that was one of the signs of a change in the community lifecycle, but didn't find it.
  11. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

    When you define 'next level', make sure it's defined as an objective that is achievable. A lot of legacy forum admins would say "more engagement!" But how? How will you achieve more engagement? Is it ...
    - By creating more emotive topics that draw in users and create a richer sense of community?
    - By writing authoritative articles that attract new users?
    - By redesigning your new member onboarding?
    - By retraining your moderators and staff and laying out new guidelines?

    A lot of forum admins see the top of the hill, but don't identify the strategies needed to actually climb the hill.
  12. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

    How about taking search to the next level by making it predictive. And allow search to build a user profile from the search terms entered and content read in order to offer up similar content (old and new) as something the member might also be interested in.

    Everyone seems agreed that their forum's advantage over other forms of social media is the wealth of rich data they've built up. Why then hide it away behind inadequate search engines that very few ordinary members use anyway.

    User search profiles would also benefit any forum that operates ecommerce.
  13. cornnfedd

    cornnfedd Captain Futurama

    I must have been drunk when I wrote that as I literally do not remember writing it, but just read my own comment and laughed.

    I need a new hobby...
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  14. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

    Here's a good article from FeverBee:

    I laid out my Vision 2020 plans to my superusers about a month ago. There were three broad goals that I wanted to pursue by next year. Without getting into too much detail:
    1. The first is a major expansion of new content. It would be a significant content expansion of my site to date to a related niche that I'm looking to grow into. There are four volunteers lined up, and I'm privately working with each of them beforehand before I bring us together.
    2. Another goal is to launch a section dedicated to a major language that's now the second biggest country in my analytics. I've held off on a language expansion for a long time because I hate, hate, hate forums with a dozen language boards that are all zombie towns. This will be a targeted and controlled language expansion where I have lots of content to share, a dedicated language moderator, and other resources to support this language expansion.
  15. dvduval

    dvduval Adherent

    I would say that I am somewhat limited by the popularity of the topic of my forum. In the last few years there has been somewhat of a decline. but it tends to go and waves that can last a decade and I'm sure another way of will be coming in the future so I don't really think too much about it. I just make sure I maintain it and keep up with the technology that might make people like it more.
  16. Cory

    Cory Enthusiast

    My board is a resource board, so to take it to the next level I try to think of creative code/skin solutions. Content is key, essentially, especially content that is relevant to your board.
  17. Jura

    Jura Devotee

    You can have a poorly run forum with cruddy customization and lazy administrators if you can figure a way to get normal members/guests to link to your forum/site own their own. You know like how people link to sites normally?
  18. Philpug

    Philpug Aspirant

    We are in that process right now. Moving to 2.x, adding new articles, reviews and a store. We told our developer to give is looks that are both evolutionary and revolutionary.
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