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Those who create a forum website typically aim to build online communities of like-minded people. Think of forum participation as a classroom discussion where students debate a topic, and the teacher steps in to provide insights, guidance, or corrections.
Forums act as social media sites, but are also useful for business and creative applications.
In short, an internet forum is a message board where users share information and opinions about a certain topic (usually related to the creator’s passion or business). A forum topic might be a service, product, hobby, or subject. This could entail home improvement, organic produce, zip lines, cats, world peace, art, or vlogging.
Forum creators (or assigned contributors and staff members) provide answers and input as needed; however, guests can — and should — search previously answered questions to see if the information they seek has already been provided.
Check out the WordPress.com forum as an example. Forums are not live chat rooms, but if run efficiently, they can promptly and politely provide answers and suggestions.
If your website or blog is attracting a lot of engagement (in the form of positive feedback or questions from site visitors) in its comments section or via email, it might be time to create a forum.
An outlet that promotes interactive discussions gives you somewhere to engage with followers or fans, build an understanding of (or support for) your brand, or to lead the conversation in a particular direction while expanding your own knowledge. Forums also normally experience a “watercooler effect,” where your community gathers to discuss a topic at hand, educating each other in the process.
Although you don’t need a lot of followers to start a forum website, a steady stream of traffic boosts user experiences.
Choosing a forum website builder or a platform
WordPress.org offers forum plugins, such as bbPress, that are required for forum interaction. Alternatively, a WordPress.com website can serve as a forum community’s home base. If you choose this option, it’s wise to keep your business website or blog separate from your forum website so that the latter page is solely a place for discussions. A free product on WordPress.com called P2, may suffice as a forum site.
For your main website or blog, it’s best to use a theme that supports custom designs or has the Advanced Design Customization feature included in WordPress.com Premium and Business plans. Such sites allow you to make custom call-to-action buttons.
By making a Forum button for your website, visitors can pivot from browsing your main site, to discussing your brand with others in just one click.
The goal of internet etiquette (or “netiquette”) is to keep forums and other interactive sites organized and civil. Make sure to set some ground rules.
For starters, explain that disrespectful or inflammatory posts are not welcome, and remind your community members to stay on topic and refrain from sharing private details.
As an example, look over the Best Practices and Community Standards page for the WordPress.com forum.
After you create a forum website, give users a reason to stay. Maintain a good reputation, reply diligently and respectfully, check-in regularly to monitor the tone of your forum, and remove any unacceptable posts before they upset other users.
Fizzle, a blog for independent creatives and entrepreneurs, suggests that you share weekly messages summarizing what’s new in your online community, while giving shout-outs to your forum’s most helpful, useful, or interesting posts.
With regular attention, your forum community members will become eager to spread your message and interact with your content.