When developing your forum it is easy to have only one target – to get as many members as you can. A successful forums needs to have a huge number of members, right? Not necessarily.
What makes a good forum?
It is easy to surf the Web and come across a forum with a huge number of members. Quite often you may be jealous of that site’s achievements. How often do you spend digging a little deeper, though? Just because a forum has hundreds or even thousands of members, it doesn’t necessarily make it a good forum.
Firstly, the majority of that forum’s members may be automated spam registrations. They may even be fake members, designed to encourage people to join the community. None of the listed members may actually visit the forum anymore. All these reasons are evidence that a forum that appears popular or of a high quality, may not necessarily be so.
The reason I am telling you all this is because I know how easy it is to be disheartened when you feel your forum is making little progress in attracting new members. Of course an online community needs members, but it is far better to have a small number of active members than to have thousands of members who never actually visit or contribute.
A good forum doesn’t need a huge number of members. It simply needs members who are passionate about the community, enjoy contributing, and write posts of a good quality. If your community has these qualities, your member count will naturally grow as new visitors recognise your forum as a great place to be.
Work to your own goals, not everyone else’s
The pressure for a forum developer to attract members is huge – everyone else seems to measure the success of a forum based on its member count, so surely you must do the same, right? Wrong! You should always work to your own goals. Your forum is a success if you meet your own goals – not anybody else’s.
Your goal may be to have a friendly, approachable community where everyone gets along with minimal conflict. Your goal may be to get to the point where most member posts are at least 250 words in length. Whatever your goals are, they should never focus solely on membership numbers.
Post counts and post quality are more important than member count
There is no point in having 50,000 members if only 200 of those members actually contribute. In this case, your real member count isn’t 50,000 – it is 200, and you are deceiving your visitors if you tell them otherwise. I am not a believer in measuring a forum’s success by its member count. At the Just Chat message boards, we have less than 1,500 members but have a post count of almost 300,000 – in my eyes, these are good figures for a general subject community.
What makes a forum good is the number of posts each member makes, the quality of the posts within your community, and your forum’s atmosphere or personality. Sure, a member count may be an initial attraction for a first time visitor to your community, but it is the factors I just mentioned that will determine whether they actually stick around.
Next time you are feeling dejected about a low member count, just remember – it is a statistic that hardly matters. Focus on the quality of your community, rather than its numbers. You will then be more motivated and end up with a community that is far more attractive to visitors.