Many people think that running forum competitions are a good way of building an online community. I disagree. I have seen many competitions that offer prizes to the member that makes the most posts each month – the forum is then deluged with useless posts such as ‘I agree’ or a couple of smilies, and that is that.
The user isn’t interested in contributing to the current discussions, they are just looking to get their post count up so they are closer to winning a prize. As a result, the forum gets filled with useless content over the course of a month (or however long the competition is running for), then all activity drops off once there is no longer an incentive to post.
I think forum competitions that encourage users to build their post count are a bad idea. They generally add no good content to your forum, they do not inspire interaction and debate, and they do not encourage new members to join – after all, when a potential new member takes a look around your forum they see posts with absolutely no content!
Other forum competitions I have seen include variations of this theme – prizes for the member that refers the most new members is a particularly popular one. Once again, I think these are a mistake – not only do you need to ensure your members aren’t trying to cheat the system by setting up duplicate memberships themselves, it is unlikely the new members will actually become valuable members of your community. Content is more important than your membership total.
If you need to offer incentives to your members to encourage participation in your forum, then you are doing something wrong. Concentrate on creating good content, spark up some decent conversations, promote a little suspense and court some controversy – the best members are those that post because they enjoy your community.
Forum competitions can do your community more harm than good and that is why I think they are a bad idea. Setting up a forum from scratch is tough, but competitions are not the way to go. Have you run competitions on your forum? How did they work out? Let me know by leaving a comment.