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Jordan Miller
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How to inspire your community's members to engage

So you’re a small/medium sized business who purchased one of our plans and launched a new community. The topics, replies and views will start to rack up any time now, right? Riiight?!

Perhaps you’re a major brand wanting to give your customers a place to connect, ask questions and get more information, but aren't sure how to inspire them to join.

Maybe you haven’t even pulled the trigger and launched a new community just yet because you fear your hard work won’t be seen so what’s the point? 

You feel confident nailing down the color scheme, header, navigation and forum categories, but the dreaded “0 replies” is casting a gloomy shadow over your bright and shiny new community. A lack of initial momentum is one of the scariest hurdles a new community builder faces. 

Here are a few tips to kick off your community in style and start receiving engagement right away.
 

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Be visible.

As your community’s leader, it’s important to be accessible to your members. Make yourself available to them so they know you’re willing to lend a hand. This helps forge meaningful connections with your community and fosters trust. 

Being visible looks like creating topics, responding to members’ posts, answering private messages, enabling a contact form and including a profile photo.  


Use your voice.

You can’t expect your members to speak up if there isn’t a community leader or brand ambassador doing so first. Lead by example and use your voice in your own community.

This is also a great opportunity to shape the tone of your community, whether that’s informative, casual, snarky or funny. 

The tone of your community: 

  • Sets a precedent for how members respond. 
  • Broadcasts your brand’s values.
  • Defines how a member can connect.
  • Inspires guests to silently react.

Expressing your community’s tone adds character, helping you differentiate from competitors. 


Create content that invokes an emotional response.

This is one of the best kept secrets! Creating content that inspires a feeling from your members is a surefire way to keep them continually participating and returning. 

It's one thing to make content, it's another to create valuable content. Value enhances a member’s life, quantified by whether it produces a positive effect.

Publish content that invokes an emotional response and watch how quickly your engagement rate climbs.


Provide a great user experience.

Generally speaking, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but when it comes to community building, a slick user interface helps facilitate a great user experience. 

In case you missed our blog post about the importance of your brand’s look and feel, creating an immersive visual experience for your community matters. 

A few quick design tips:

  • Ensure your navigation is easy to use
  • Employ a beautiful color scheme that reflects your community’s tone
  • Add spacing in between components 
  • Include a logo


Promote your community

You likely have some type of presence on social media. Use that as a tool to drive traffic to your community (versus what most people do: use social media as the be-all and end-all for promotion). 

If you have a following on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll want to entice and mobilize your existing base to join your community. 

Do this by being visible, using your voice, creating content that invokes an emotional response and offering a great user experience (see what I did there?). 


How do you engage your community? Drop us a line in the comments. We’d love to engage with you!

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If you have a following on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll want to entice and mobilize your existing base to join your community. 

I do this on a daily basis for one of my communities (not based on IPS software lol) and will begin to do so on another of my revived communities in the coming days - I do this on Twitter.  The reactions to my Tweets are great with lots of likes and a few comments here and there, but, engagement through my community is non-existent.  Not even one single solitary soul out of hundreds of followers has registered and attempted to strike up a conversation.  Content?  There's oodles of it and all of it what these followers purport to be interested in.  So, being vocal, adding loads of content and promoting on SM leads to 'zilch'.

I couldn't help but noticed your opening statement as being geared towards businesses - they have a different agenda to those wanting to create social content such as music, games, movies, politics and other such mainstream activities that people engage with every day.  They're out there (cue Twilight Zone music) but they are not on forum communities, they're on SM and that's where they are glued to.  The key point is how to dissolve that glue so they can become unstuck and move their tents elsewhere - like our forums.

There's no real major faults with the software, in fact it is streets ahead of SM.  The issue is people and they will always gravitate to where there the majority of other people are and they won't budge.

Here is an example of what I post every single day on Twitter and then retweet it later in my day so as to catch those just waking up elsewhere in the world.  I try to make it eye-catching and always make a comment, ask a question and provide a link to the album being mentioned:

acdc_highway_to_hell.jpg.6b77164093aa6d38e62f19dcb77fd619.jpg

To date - I have Tweeted 154 albums by various artists.  I add a large number of albums each week and the end result is comments and likes on Twitter, zip, nada, nix, nowt on the site itself.

So, content is important but when that content can be seen pretty much everywhere else on the Internet, why bother moving from where everyone else is?

There are two options open to people wanting to start a new site (not a business) keep plugging away and try hard to get people to sign up, or don't bother in the first place, save yourself a boatload of time and money and just join everyone else on SM.  For me that second option is not even an option, so I keep plugging away.

For businesses it's different as you already have a client base that you are selling to, so a community based site would be great for customer services, etc.  Much like this IPS site where clients are serviced and can get support.  Outside of that bubble the situation is totally different.  For sites outside the business bubble, if already established they may have a core who keep the place looking alive, for newbies it's a different story.  Such is the way of the world, which is fast becoming a crazy place, or as the film title said - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World 🙂

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1 hour ago, Davyc said:

So, being vocal, adding loads of content and promoting on SM leads to 'zilch'.

Going to have to respectfully disagree 😇.  
 

1 hour ago, Davyc said:

Here is an example of what I post every single day on Twitter and then retweet it later in my day so as to catch those just waking up elsewhere in the world.  I try to make it eye-catching and always make a comment, ask a question and provide a link to the album being mentioned:

One of the most important ingredients missing is... does it invoke an emotion? A great addition in that example would be to explain to followers why you chose that as album of the day, what the record means to you and how you've leaned on it over the years. 

 

1 hour ago, Davyc said:

For me that second option is not even an option, so I keep plugging away.

That's what I like to hear! 

 

1 hour ago, Davyc said:

For businesses it's different as you already have a client base that you are selling to, so a community based site would be great for customer services, etc. 

Yes! But keep in mind there are also tons of new start-ups that could also benefit from having a community. 

 

All in all, awesome comment @Davyc. Greatly appreciate you engaging here and on the Hump Day post. Sending you good vibes 💫 

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11 hours ago, Jordan Miller said:

Going to have to respectfully disagree

All I can say is that the evidence speaks for itself - some others may have success, but I've yet to hear it.  I've been doing this for over 20 years and the landscape now compared to even 10 years ago is completely different and regrettably SM is the root cause for the empty corridors in forum sites.  As I mentioned it's no fault of the software, nor the commitment of site creators, it's people, or the lack thereof, that show little or no interest. Sad, but that's the way it is and this is echoed across platforms and across the Internet.  Established sites may offer a different view, but there's a huge difference between being established and just starting out.  For businesses, whether established or just starting, the landscape is different but even they have a tendency to gravitate to SM because that's where their clients are too 🙂  

Edited by Davyc
Spelling lol
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There is an underlying, more important question regarding the question whether social media promotion works: 
Does guest traffic create conversions (i.e. registrations and active members) on the specific website? If yes, then creating more traffic (e.g. through social media posts) creates more conversions. If the answer is “no”, then all attempts to create more traffic are pointless. Wether it’s paid ads, social media posts, newsletters or whatever. The website must first deliver something that users would want to or even need to sign up for. 

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38 minutes ago, opentype said:

The website must first deliver something that users would want to or even need to sign up for. 

That is key to opening any site - you have to deliver what others will want and, importantly, want to get involved with.  So, this begs the question can an inspired site creator generate something that is not on SM that people will gravitate towards?  That's a big question to which the answer is most likely no.  Even businesses are taking to SM to promote their wares simply because that's where most people are.  There is a place for niche markets but for those interested in what they would have to offer it then becomes a logistical problem of letting them know you exist and to do that you have to know where 'they' are now.  It may be on SM but simply going on SM doesn't mean that you will be found.

There will be loads of ideas propagated as to 'how' to engage with people, there has been for many, many years - but for most people they just don't work.  The huge graveyard of abandoned sites out there is testament to this.  This is why I do what I do for my own personal pleasure and if by doing what I do, someone else gets something out of it, then I'm happy.  But people should not be under the illusion that there is a 'magic bullet' that will help out.  All of the things mentioned I've tried over the years since SM took hold and none of them have worked for me.  The big issue is that people are consumers now, not contributors, and the Internet has pandered to their needs by generating huge amounts of material that they can consume, so why would they want to contribute when it is easier for them to just meet up with people in a place that everyone goes to.

The important issue at hand is that IPS had geared it's model towards business - big business.  The small fry may still hold a place in the developers hearts, after all it's thanks to them that IPS is where it's at now, but in all seriousness the contribution of the small fry pales in comparison as to what can be gained from big business.  I'm not saying that they don't care, rather it's a case of doing what needs to be done to survive and grow the business.  Hobbyists are no longer the cash pot they once were, and IPS's ambitions have grown alongside the software.

It's a matter of being realistic - it's one thing to fly the corporate flag and make all the right noises, but it's really important to be clear who those noises are aimed at.

If anyone is going to buy the IPS software (and there is no better) and open a site, do it for yourself and for the pleasure you will get from creating something special and close to your own heart, but be under no illusion that you will attract many hundreds or thousands of people - it won't happen.  I tend to me more pragmatic in my old age and I can see which way the wind blows, but, if by some miracle someone can come up with something so unique that loads will want to partake, I say good luck to you and I'll join up as soon as I know about it 🙂

Edited by Davyc
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@Davyc this is only partially true, what you say. 

I am often asked how to compete with social media. This is a wrong question.

The wrong question: how to compete with social media and try them to do in my community the same they can do on social media?
The correct question: how to exploit social media to promote something in my community they would not or cannot do on social media?

Some suggestions:

  • they want to discuss something that require them to be anonymous. Like medical issues, NSFW, games... There are many topics, that people do not like to associate with their real names. These are still perfect niches for the communities. 
  • they need extended support from experts including knowledge base, tutorials, guides, docs.
  • they would like to share something where they can control the access for (e.g. paid files, videos, music)
  • they look for access to exclusive content through membership site (courses, coaching etc.)
  • they need a place, where they can collect things (links, offers, companies, reviews, events) and can contribute to the data
  • they eager to promote themselves or their products and services by contributing to your community (showcases, interviews, use cases)
  • they look for competitions, raffles, quizzes,  crowdfunding, voting - just to name some apps from Marketplace
  • ... (add here your unique point)

All these points above are not covered (or only poor) on social media. These are the added values that make the communities still strong. Even start-ups. Even from zero. This is where the journey goes in my humble opinion. 

Edited by Sonya*
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@Sonya* everything you say is true 'if' you are a business or service provider, but again this does not apply to hobbyists.  And it's never about competing with SM because there is no competition, SM has almost everything else beat hands down.  Not because it's better or that it offers everything you mention, but because that's where everyone is who wishes to engage with others.  There is an abundance of sites out there that cover all the things you mention.  It's a consumer's market and if you can provide what consumers want then, most likely, you're a business.

Take this very community - I would hazard that there are thousands of registered members (I know there were before IPS stopped showing the numbers) but only a very tiny proportion actively engage with others in topics such as this, most will probably only visit for support.

Even if you offer something that people cannot do, or even would not do, on SM is no guarantee that they will visit your site, providing they know about it and can find it. The issue that has been mentioned a number of times often seems to take a back seat when, in fact, it is probably the second reason after SM why people don't want to engage in forums - mobile phones.  SM is suited to that medium whereas forums can be difficult to navigate on a mobile.  Gone are the days of the desktop, even the once preferred replacement the laptop is being superseded by mobiles.  It's easy, and practical, to have a mobile sitting next to you on your desk at work watching for comments, posts, likes, etc on SM and react to them swiftly and this carries forward into home life where people rely on their mobile phones for contact with the outside world.  This is taken from a Google search:

Quote

On average, Americans check their phones 344 times per day. (That's once every 4 minutes!)

I believe that statement is quite profound.  So, I say again that all the fine words, all the inspiring methods to get traction, they don't work for the average Joe who wants to carve out a little space in a vast ocean of content on the Internet.  I wish it were otherwise, but at some point we have to be realistic and understand that this is not the age of the forum community anymore.  Do it for yourself, do it for the pleasure of creating something that you feel passionate about, but be under no illusion that what you do is going to set the world on fire.  If you're a business intent on selling something then having a community for support issues and suggestions is probably fine providing you have a reasonable budget for promotion and advertising, otherwise it falls back to creating something for personal pleasure.

I'd love to hear from community admins who have succeeded in creating a vibrant and active community, rather than the fine words of 'how to'.  When I say vibrant and active I mean with more than a handful of die-hard active members.  Add them here and say when you started, how many members you have in total and how many are active on a regular basis. Provide a link so we can see what it is you are providing.  These will be more useful to prospective and current admins - when you see something in action it speaks far louder than words.

13 hours ago, Jordan Miller said:

One of the most important ingredients missing is... does it invoke an emotion? A great addition in that example would be to explain to followers why you chose that as album of the day, what the record means to you and how you've leaned on it over the years. 

I missed the above bit, but I did say in my original post that I add a comment, question and a link to the album and I get comments, likes and retweets from others that follow me, but they have no desire to go further by registering.  Why that is, well, it's an unknown.  The other issue with Twitter is the limited number of characters that can be used so it's not easy to give a blow by blow reason for choosing the album 🙂

Edited by Davyc
Darned spelling again lol
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15 minutes ago, Davyc said:

These will be more useful to prospective and current admins - when you see something in action it speaks far louder than words.

No no no! Looking at at the successes doesn’t teach you how to do it. This is a common misconception with an entire industry of “coaches” build around it. 
If you have some time, watch what this video teaches about the “survivorship bias”. 

 

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6 minutes ago, Davyc said:

everything you say is true 'if' you are a business or service provider, but again this does not apply to hobbyists.

Why? 🤨

1 hour ago, Davyc said:

The big issue is that people are consumers now, not contributors

They contribute every day tons of content to social media. Social media would die, if they would only consume.

I understand your points. Pure forums (general subjects, harmless hobbies and so on) as we have known them a while ago are indeed an old school. They do not have added value. Everything you have there, you can have on social media. Faster, easier, more comfortable. But it does not mean, nobody would contribute outside.

I try with an example. I am a bookworm. I used to have a dozen bookshelves here full of technical literature and novels. Then I have discovered kindle. I can take 50 books now just in my lady bag. I can have another 50 if I have an internet connection. It took a while till I have decided to sell my beloved books. Surprise! Nobody wanted to have them. Even not for free. I had to dispose of them in a paper container. Now, are the books dead? The classic printing company would say yes. The e-book producer would say it's booming.

Change is a blink angle. Do not try to recover something you have done for the last 10 years 😉. Try to do something new. It won't be the same, but it doesn't have to be worse. It can even be better.

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1 minute ago, opentype said:

No no no! Looking at at the successes doesn’t teach you how to do it.

I humbly disagree, learning by the success of others is a positive way forward.  I'm not advocating that their success can be your success, rather it is a yardstick from which to judge your way forward.  The old adage of 'if you can do it, I can do it better' doesn't hold water.  What I'm looking for is successful sites that have managed to buck the SM trend and illustrate that it 'can be done'.  If that illustration is not forthcoming then we end up scratching our heads and wondering what we have done wrong, and as it often the case, it's not a question of wrong doing rather a circumstance that is unavoidable.

Videos and words are great and teach the theory, but in this case theory doesn't always translate into reality.  So, again I call upon anyone who has successfully opened a thriving community within, say the last couple of years.  If no one can do that, then all the fine words and great intentions are meaningless.

I hate to be disparaging and appear to give the impression that forums are dead ducks, but the truth is, for most people, they are.  I hate to think of the expense people go to buying the software, buying third party apps, paying a six monthly fee for updates, support and services, paying for domain names, hosting and all the hard work that goes into creating something they believe to be worthwhile only to see it fail and witness the huge disappointment that follows.

If anyone can provide a sure fire, indisputable, way forward to generating traction then I am all ears, but repeating the same old same old isn't useful; seen it, heard it, tried it, done it all and even bought the T-Shirt over many years, and nada.  I'm quite happy plodding away in my own backyard tending my own garden and doing what I do for the pleasure it brings me, but my expectations of having a thriving and vibrant community are a distant memory and dream that will not materialise.  I do hope that as trends often have a way going full circle that the day forum communities become the mainstay of the Internet again will happen, but probably not in my lifetime.

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2 minutes ago, Sonya* said:

Why?

Social Media and a dependency on mobile phones - period.

2 minutes ago, Sonya* said:

Try to do something new. It won't be the same, but it doesn't have to be worse. It can even be better.

It's pretty difficult to do something new with 'old school' (quoting you lol) software.  We can tweak and fiddle and add features similar to SM, but it's still old software and not conducive to the new world order out there that is dominating people's lives, I say that last with a bitter taste in my mouth because it has dumbed people down to the point where meaningful online conversations are a non-starter.

With regards to your books, I too had a huge collection at one time (close to 3,000 of them) and they took up the entire spare bedroom; I too then discovered Kindle and now I have pretty close to those 3,000 books on a tiny little device no bigger than a book; and I love it.  But I feel for the community of people involved in the creation and distribution of books who are 'old school' and for the art that may eventually be lost.  It's called progress, but I often wonder at what price this so-called progress is inflicting.

Believe me, I do wish it were otherwise, but we can't ignore the realities and bury our heads to what it actually happening out there.  

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1 minute ago, Davyc said:

We can tweak and fiddle and add features similar to SM

I have a different approach. I do not try to be similar to SM. 

2 minutes ago, Davyc said:

we can't ignore the realities and bury our heads to what it actually happening out there

Not to be angry, but creating another forum and then complaining that no one comes is indeed ignoring reality. Figuring out an added value and see how the "old school" software can help you to offer it to your members - is progress. I am happy, the times are so complicated by now, that only few people can create something outstanding. Less competition for me. 🙂 There are tons of chances outside social media. Period 😄

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1 hour ago, Sonya* said:

but creating another forum and then complaining that no one comes is indeed ignoring reality

That's the point though, I'm not complaining simply realising the fact that forums are not the golden chalice that they used to be and anyone 'new' who opens a site and has great expectations of it is going to be disappointed.  I'm not bothered whether anyone joins my sites or not, I create my sites for my own pleasure.  And I have no expectations, simply that I open a site and if anyone wants to partake they will be made very welcome.  But spinning up the same old rhetoric on how to make your community work is becoming really tired as it does not inspire nor do any of the tactics mentioned actually work; at least not for the simple hobbyist who wants to engage with people who like the same things they do, the issue is that everyone is on SM so they will not come to an unknown site made by someone they do not know

1 hour ago, Sonya* said:

There are tons of chances outside social media.

Name them, show examples using the IPS (or any other forum) software - it's easy to say these things, but proving them is not so easy. Show new sites that have been around for only a year or so, not established sites with a long history.

1 hour ago, Sonya* said:

I have a different approach. I do not try to be similar to SM. 

I never advocated that we should be, simply that the developers are attempting to adopt tweaks that mimic SM but they are just not enough to draw people away from SM.  These are all old debated issues that get dusted off every now and then, but the spin is exactly the same and it just doesn't work.  We need to face up to that fact and no matter what is done to forum community software it has had its day and the new king on the block is SM and, at present, there is nothing that can compete with it or shift it off #1 position.  In the end it's what people want and where they gravitate to and the only people truly interested in using forum community software are those old school stalwarts that understand it from the inside out.  I'm really happy to be proved wrong, but I've yet to see it.  I really am sorry to be such a damp squib, but that's the way I see it and that's the way it is; would that it were otherwise.

I believe that's why IPS is more interested in Enterprise and Corporate clients and pitch their wares in that direction and I can't blame them because they want to survive and the little hobbyist sites that used to spring up in volume are no more and cannot provide a living for the IPS staff. That's life, you do what you have to do to survive.

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1 hour ago, Davyc said:

I believe that's why IPS is more interested in Enterprise and Corporate clients …

Regarding their advertising, maybe. But it is actually not really reflected in the product itself. The apps and the features are still very much rooted in the traditional niche/hobby forum world and continue to work well there. There is some advanced stuff for something like a corporate support community, but most of the features are still typical for niche communities, like a forum for a car brand with user galleries, clubs, discussions to maintain the specific models and so on. It can still work well, but starting fresh now will mean a significant investment. Real-world example: My youngest community project started in 2016 with social media and apps already well established. (In fact, I created it specifically because I was so annoyed by people in that niche using Facebook groups.) Building the community website took 4 years until I even started to monetize it. Now it has over 100,000 members and pays for itself. (The secret was what I said in my first post: I added something to the website that users in my niche needed so much that they would register to get it. All other tips – as mentioned in the original blog post – are correct and useful too, but that one thing was 90% of the success.)

1023237509_Bildschirmfoto2022-03-01um15_07_26.thumb.png.dfa3cae3fea7cc5918d919f92a65b7bb.png

 

1 hour ago, Davyc said:

the new king on the block is SM

I argued before that the distinction between forums and social media is misleading, as it is about scale not type of website:
https://invisioncommunity.com/forums/topic/447615-the-future-of-forums-lets-talk/?do=findComment&comment=2856772

Pointing to the “king” is kind of irrelevant to me, just as the indie hard rock band doesn’t point to Justin Bieber album sales. If the band is happy and their audience is happy, the big players don’t matter. Niche communties are small(er) by definition. Nothing wrong with that. Chances are, the most active members of our communities stay loyal to us for years to come while they might have already deleted their Facebook account. 😉 

Edited by opentype
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@opentype I appreciate your insight into your own success and applaud you for your efforts to develop your community, but I would argue in your case that you are the exception rather than the rule.

As for the software itself from IPS, of course it can facilitate the smaller niche community creators, that's what it was initially created for and still follows that model as far as the software is concerned, but IPS as a company has larger ambitions than small communities and the lucrative world and call of the Corporates has seen a significant shift in their model.  There's nothing wrong with that, a company must do what it must to survive.

You are correct also in stating that the cost of starting up new is significant, which is what I pointed to in an earlier post.  I see post after post after post on various sites from site creators (Admins) almost pleading for answers as to how they can grow their communities and the silence is mostly deafening; where someone does raise their voice, the rhetoric is exactly the same as it appears here.  People do follow the advice, I have myself in the past, but no one comes back and shouts of their success.

Your comparisons to bands and Bieber is rather strange as the analogy is out of context and stating that Social Media is irrelevant is a dangerous statement to make in terms of someone wishing to start up their own site. You can discount SM but you can't ignore it.  As one platform begins to grow stale another pops up to take its place, such as the amazingly fast rise of TikTok in the face of strong competition.

I understand the desire to stand behind forum communities and defend them in the face of adversity, if I could see such a stand making a significant difference I would be doing the same, but the sad reality is that people are just not interested anymore.  In little enclaves and niches that no one else is bothering about, maybe they flourish, but in the main they fail.  No one likes talking to an empty room, so unless you have a number of people behind you willing to register and post regularly and create that core of interest, then that room will remain empty.  

It actually pains me to be having this discussion because I am all for forums and I want to see them flourish, but I will not encourage someone to invest a not so insignificant amount of time and money in something that will not even get off the starting blocks.  It is fundamentally wrong to do so.  The Internet is awash with information, articles and platforms that facilitate the needs of the masses and that's where you will find them.

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52 minutes ago, Davyc said:

In little enclaves and niches that no one else is bothering about, maybe they flourish, but in the main they fail.

That’s where your argumentation falls apart, because it is directly contradicting itself. When they “flourish” in the niche they are made for, they are by definition not “failing”. They aren’t even meant for “the main”. They never were. Websites “for the main” aren’t built with stock community software. They usually use custom code and millions in venture capital.  

1 hour ago, Davyc said:

  I see post after post after post on various sites from site creators (Admins) almost pleading for answers as to how they can grow their communities and the silence is mostly deafening; where someone does raise their voice, the rhetoric is exactly the same as it appears here.

Because this type of generic advice is the only advice possible to give in such a situation. Wether it’s for “how to grow a community”, “how to get fit”, “how to become an actor” or whatever. There are no safe plans to follow for any of that. Of course people can just give helpful tips along the way, which might encourage small improvements. The foundational issues won’t be in a forum reply or blog post. The purpose for a community and what gives it the necessary momentum for growth will be highly specific to the niche and the personal skills of the people involved. And it might even be a matter of luck (as a result of creating enough opportunities), as explained in the video I posted earlier. 

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3 hours ago, opentype said:

That’s where your argumentation falls apart, because it is directly contradicting itself.

That was my bad grammar - little niches may flourish, but in the main sites outside of those niches fail is what I meant; that was my bad lol.

Of course the advice given is generic, which is why in the realm of forums it predominantly fails; there are exceptions, there are in all walks of life.  This is my point about this topic, the advice is old hat that has been churned out over and over, not just on here but on just about every other forum software community (that's the forum developers community to be clear lol).  In reality there is no specific and effective advice that will lead to the success of a site, they will stand or fall by the interest Joe Public shows in them, which is pretty slim pickings as we speak.  It's sad, but that's the way it is.  Of course if anyone wishes to go ahead and just go for it, then hats off to them and I just hope you don't regret it and that you do succeed and that you don't feel that you have wasted a lot of time and money.

It's a pretty easy course for me because I've already expended the money and I have more time on my hands now that I'm retired and I do it for the fun 🙂

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Here's a question. If SM is apparently so dominant, why are there 8.9 billion google searches made every single day (63% of those on mobile)? That's a lot of people searching for a lot of things which apparently they aren't finding on social media. 

Edited by Dll
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4 hours ago, Dll said:

If SM is apparently so dominant

SM is dominant in terms of it superseding forums.  There may be 8.9 billion searches but what are they searching for?  It's easy to throw figures around without any direction as to what those people are searching for and whether they are finding what they are searching for and where they are finding it.  Just because SM is top of the list of what people are using to come together doesn't mean that it attempts to provide everything, everywhere for everyone.  This discussion is focussed on the impact that SM has on forum based communities and what can be done to combat that dominance - the soundbites here are the same everywhere and they only work if you already have a core to engage with - the issue is how to cultivate that core in the first place.  The advice given is not helpful to those who do not have a core to engage with because the options give do not work.  Again, I am directing this to those who are hobbyists and not businesses who will already have a core client base in which to engage with.  The opening line of this topic is:

Quote

So you’re a small/medium sized business

It directly isolates the discussion in favour of businesses and does not address the issues of hobbyists.  I was asked to participate in this discussion directly by the topic author @Jordan Miller as he intimated that he was interested in my thoughts.  I've laid these out as clearly as I can based on observation and experience and how the landscape for forum communities has changed for the worse.  Now, I understand that there are always exceptions to the rule, but real world examples that sit outside the exceptions are not forthcoming to bolster the belief that forums are thriving.   I've also said repeatedly that I wish it were otherwise, so this is not me beating down on forum communities, it's simply accepting that things are not as rosy as some would lead others to believe.

I truly feel for those upcoming admins who are going to shell out a boatload of cash, not to mention time, creating a little enclave on the Internet that they hope will become a hive of activity - it's irresponsible to say that they will achieve their goals where the reality is that they will not, and the graveyard of abandoned sites out there are testament to this.

Again, speaking for myself, I've already shelled out that boatload of cash so to do nothing would be a waste of that money, so I carve out my little corner on the Internet for my own personal gratification and if anyone else derives pleasure from my efforts then that makes me happy.  But I would never, and I mean 'never' shell out more cash to start afresh.  If I did feel the urge to do so then I would go with one of the free options rather than the expense of IPS or its direct competitors.  If that did happen to take off (in my dreams) then I would consider moving to a more robust platform.  And that would be my advice to anyone considering starting up (businesses notwithstanding) 🙂

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That difference between business and hobby is a red herring. It’s relevant in regards to financing a community website, but hardly in terms of starting one. If I start a community as business venture, I still have zero members just as a hobby site. 

I also think that the search volume matters, because it is still a big opportunity to get traffic to communities. When I search on Google, I am not ending up in Facebook or What’sApp groups or on Discord. Traditional communities can still work well here. 

Apart from that, this is only going in circles. Yes, those tips are about nurturing an existing community. That’s why the title is How to inspire your community's members to engage. Everything else is something else. Coming up with a concept for a community that users will want to sign up for won’t be in an article. That’s something the owner of each community needs to find and try out. It’s easy to blame social media when it doesn’t work out, but the growth of IPS with 27,000 current IPS clients who pay their renewals every 6 months currently doesn’t give the appearance that social media is taking over. 

Edited by opentype
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On 3/1/2022 at 1:07 AM, opentype said:

There is an underlying, more important question regarding the question whether social media promotion works: 
Does guest traffic create conversions (i.e. registrations and active members) on the specific website? If yes, then creating more traffic (e.g. through social media posts) creates more conversions. If the answer is “no”, then all attempts to create more traffic are pointless. Wether it’s paid ads, social media posts, newsletters or whatever. The website must first deliver something that users would want to or even need to sign up for. 

Thanks for weighing in! From my own personal experience, social media can be a super powerful tool to convert guests to members. I do think it depends on the niche, but I see on a daily basis how a community leader can make social media work for your community. 

In my own community, guests can view a few topics per day before being asked to register. They tend to register because they find the topics valuable. They also spark an emotion. Therefore, registrations continue to climb! A lot of these people found my community because of the shares on social media. 🤓 

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4 hours ago, opentype said:

It’s easy to blame social media when it doesn’t work out, but the growth of IPS with 27,000 current IPS clients who pay their renewals every 6 months currently doesn’t give the appearance that social media is taking over. 

That statement doesn't imply successful or member centric communities that have a core - it's a number, period.  I have two IPS communities with zero members, so your argument based on those numbers means nothing, much as the number of Google searches.

2 hours ago, Jordan Miller said:

They also spark an emotion.

Define an emotion that can be sparked.  I'm at a loss with this statement that has popped up here and there.  If you mean something that could compel a response then I understand that, but that is a generic term because what can compel one person can often be glossed over by another.

I don't wish to get into circular rhetoric because there is a huge element of defensiveness that implies a denial that everything in the forum world is wonderful, thriving and still relevant.  In some circumstances that may be so, but if you want to throw numbers around list the number of thriving forums that have been around for the last two years - not before.  If you can't do that then the continuation of this is pointless at it will become a plethora of argument and counter-argument leading absolutely nowhere because you won't convince me that forums are thriving and can easily be introduced to the users of the Internet and I won't convince you otherwise.  I was asked to give my thoughts on this topic and I've done so. Let those wanting to set up a forum community site find out for themselves - perhaps they will come back here and let us know 🙂

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44 minutes ago, Davyc said:

That statement doesn't imply successful or member centric communities that have a core - it's a number, period.  I have two IPS communities with zero members, so your argument based on those numbers means nothing, much as the number of Google searches.

Define an emotion that can be sparked.  I'm at a loss with this statement that has popped up here and there.  If you mean something that could compel a response then I understand that, but that is a generic term because what can compel one person can often be glossed over by another.

I don't wish to get into circular rhetoric because there is a huge element of defensiveness that implies a denial that everything in the forum world is wonderful, thriving and still relevant.  In some circumstances that may be so, but if you want to throw numbers around list the number of thriving forums that have been around for the last two years - not before.  If you can't do that then the continuation of this is pointless at it will become a plethora of argument and counter-argument leading absolutely nowhere because you won't convince me that forums are thriving and can easily be introduced to the users of the Internet and I won't convince you otherwise.  I was asked to give my thoughts on this topic and I've done so. Let those wanting to set up a forum community site find out for themselves - perhaps they will come back here and let us know 🙂

Appreciate you weighing in! That's the beauty of a community - that we can engage in ongoing discussions and share our perspectives. 🙏 

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10 hours ago, Davyc said:

a denial that everything in the forum world is wonderful, thriving 

Okay, I am out. That’s just so dishonest. No one is saying that everything is “wonderful” and that a new community will certainly be thriving in 2 years time. It’s just a straw-man argument, which disrespects us and renders every minute people have invested here trying to make valid and useful points useless. You turn our arguments into a joke by exaggerating them to ridiculous proportions. 
The people who run successful communities are certainly not the ones in denial about running successful communities. That doesn’t work, by definition. It would be much more useful to take in our advice instead of trying to argue against it and trying to explain it away with denying numbers, calling everything an exception that doesn’t fit your narrative and so on. 

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