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Associations and Web-Based Discussion Forums

Here’s something you want to avoid on your website:

This Forum Is Empty

We get a lot of questions about online forums from associations thinking about adding one to their site.  Our advice, if they don’t have one, is this:

They need contextual focus.  For example, help guide forums can be quite useful.  News forums, on the other hand, usually don’t work so well.
They tend to need to be a subject area of long-term value.
They tend to be a LOT of work, cultivating and if successful, pruning.
If they don’t get that LOT of work, they tend to die very publicly on the web.

Also, social media provides a lot more regular eyeballs for almost any public forum.
And an members-only email listserv guarantees easy deliverability to a specific membership base.

Eyeballs and ease of use: that is what you want with your web-based forum.  Can your association provide both?

It’s not that forums can’t be successful.  But the example above isn’t uncommon for online public forums.  They aren’t set and forget, and they won’t be content generators without a LOT of stimulus.

Basically, an association needs to be confident that a content area has a nexus of contributors, and that those contributors AND the association’s staff will do what it takes to stimulate growth on the forum.  That will give the association the best chance for success with a web-based forum.

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Kessler Freedman, Inc.