Like most aspects of the Internet, forums have their supporters and detractors. When utilized properly, they can be great outlets for sharing ideas and discussing meaningful topics. In fact, some of you freelancers out there might even have a side gig as a moderator for this sort of thing!
With the emergence (and subsequent prevalence) of social media, forums took a bit of a backseat. After all, aren’t comment sections pretty much little forums in their own right? Well, yes, but forums still have the edge when it comes to categorizing discussions and acting as Q&A/support modules. So, if you’re a freelancer who wants to bring a little something extra to your website, a forum page might be something worth looking into.
Consider audience numbers and niches.
Even if you’re already dedicated to the idea of implementing a forum, there needs to be an element of realism to the prospect. For this, get thee to your website statistics page! What sort of traffic are you getting? How many people are subscribed to your blog and/or email list? If those numbers are small, then you might want to wait on the forum idea.
Remember, to make it as a freelancer, you need to exude an air of authority. Your website can be excellent in both design and content, but if you put a forum page up and there’s no real activity, that can degrade your credibility. It’s usually easier to generate an active forum from a current audience and grow from there, as opposed to starting a forum and hoping that people will naturally show up.
FYI: Discord is a popular forum alternative.
As for niches, some, of course, lend themselves better to this format than others. Writers/editors/academics sometimes gravitate towards forums. Meanwhile, YouTube often takes precedence for media professionals. Forums, in the more traditional sense, tend to do their best when centered around self-improvement/lifestyle sorts of topics.
Moving forward with your forum…
Yes, realism is necessary from a business point of view, but if your heart is set on creating a forum for your website, then don’t let anything stop you. Do, however, find ways to set your forum apart from any others within your niche – prove to your audience that this is THE place to have worthwhile conversations.
Tip: Check out “Tools to Add a Forum to Your Blog,” an article by Susan Gunelius for Lifewire.
Keep things intriguing by allowing some conversation threads to be public so that people get an idea of who’s participating and what’s being said before they decide to join. At the same time, however, have several resource-based topics (such as freebies from your niche) that are members-only.
You might want to start off moderating the forum yourself, then delegate some moderation privileges to members who prove trustworthy. After all, you want to create an environment in which all members feel safe and respected for whatever views they choose to (politely!) share.
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