Social Media is a powerful tool. Almost every week a new social media site is popping up. It can easily make a business owner go crazy. Sadly, it seems, lost in this conversation is the original social media: the community. Community software or forums have been around since the beginning of the internet. It’s a place for like-minded individuals to talk about topics or a topic that interests them. Even since the beginning, though, starting a community was not as easy as just getting a great script or software on your server. Running a community can be a full time job — don’t kid yourself. If you think you just set it up and your customers will come, I have some bad news for you. You are dreaming. The truth is, you need to do more than build it. You need to plan it, promote it, and monitor it. Before your head starts to spin let’s really break it down to the issues you need to consider.
Should I Even Have A Community?
Should you build it? This really is the the first question. I think there are quite a few businesses that can benefit from a community, especially as forum software companies start to make it easier with SSO (single Sign on) with Social Media credentials. At the same time, there are some niches where it may not make sense — or you may need to be creative. For example a company selling piping to plumbers, might want to create a plumbing forum. The broader the appeal, but staying within a global niche should give you a better chance to succeed.
Do you have the know how ?
Once you have determined it makes sense to have a community or you have your niche in mind, you need to consider: Do I have the technological know how? If you do not have an IT team, or your website is super basic, you might want to opt for a hosted solution. In most cases, I would think you do not have the time to muck around in the code. Your business is selling, not the infrastructure of a community. Vanilla Forums has a 30 day free trial, and some great plans to see if it’s the right fit for you.
Do you have the staff/time?
Next comes the question about staff. Who will promote your board? Who will moderate your board? These are things to consider too. Either you will need to spend some time and do it yourself, hire someone or best of all seek out a solution provider that offers that too.
If you are set on doing it yourself, and just because you asked so nicely, my personal choices for DIY forum hosting is Vanilla. This is not because I work there. I have used them all (SMF, MyBB,PHPbb,Xenforo, ect). Each offers you something different, but I always came back to Vanilla for it’s simplicity. It’ s easy for you to setup, painless to manage and makes member enagement even easier. If you are not sure, I recommend you download some different software. Free demo’s are nice, but having full access to test on your own server is better.
I Have My Forum Now What?
You have your community. Yeah! Now what. Getting a community is easy, making it work is the hard part. One great resource which I recommend highly is a book called Buzzing Communities. It’s a great guide if you want to understand about running a community and all the work involved. If you are not the person running the community, it makes a nice gift for the person that will.
In the end, should you decide to create a community, the most important attribute will be patience. A community takes time to grow and create. If you do it right, a community can blossom like a beautiful flower. It can be a very rewarding experience, and a way for your customers to engage with you even deeper.
Print This Post