So you have a great idea for a new community, and the subject of your community is something you are passionate about. Your next decision is what kind of community your new site will be: a forum or a blog?
A forum as an online community
For most of us, when we think ‘online community’, we immediately think of forums. This is because of the sheer number of them out there, and the general familiarity most of us have with them. Regardless of the forum software used, they are all very similar from a user perspective – there is a list of topics, and within those topics are threads and posts written by members of the community.
When forums have reached critical mass, they run pretty much on auto-pilot – members create the content whilst the community developer can reduce their involvement in the site. Unfortunately, it can take a very long time for a forum to reach this stage. A new forum has no members and no content. You can’t attract new members without content, and you can’t generate content without members, right? Well, kind of…
Without content, you’ll never attract members. It’s as simple as that. However, you can generate content without members. You simply do it yourself. Whether you choose to create posts and threads using your own user name or do so under the guise of a few aliases, it doesn’t really matter – the important thing is that you are creating content.
This process will need to continue for as long as it takes for you to attract enough members who interact and create content by themselves. Until then, you will need to create new threads and write new posts in order to convert visitors into members and encourage members to get involved and interact on the forum.
Forums are easy to establish, but extremely challenging to develop into a success. You need time, motivation, dedication and a long-term commitment.
A blog as an online community
Not everyone will agree with me when I argue that a blog is an online community – those people see a blog as a one-way communication medium where the writer of the blog publishes their content for the visitor to read. Someone who thinks in this way is missing out on the true nature and purpose of a blog: to prompt discussion and the sharing of ideas.
Blogs come with commenting systems for a reason. Not all bloggers engage with their readers and not all bloggers even encourage readers to comment. This is a big mistake – the commenting system can create a real community around a blog. Comments can generate discussion and create new ideas. They can inspire the blog author, helping them to come up with ideas for future articles. Comments can add significant value to a blog and really make it stand out from the crowd.
When starting a new community, basing it around a blog is not a bad idea. By starting out as a blog, you will learn the following:
- Is there a demand for a new community on the subject you have chosen?
- How keen are your target audience to really interact and talk about the subject?
- Can you remain motivated and put in the work required to make the site a success?
You should never decide to start a forum because you don’t have the time to create and maintain a blog, or because you think that creating a forum is easier and less time consuming. Let me tell you now – creating a brand new forum from scratch is far more time consuming than creating a successful blog.
A successful blog needs the author to create high quality content on a regular basis. A new forum needs the author to create high quality content on a regular basis as well as attract and retain a large number of visitors to post and create new threads. Your involvement will need to continue on a regular basis before the forum will be able to stand on its own two feet.
A blog may well be the best way to start off your new community; there’s nothing wrong with changing over to a forum based community in the future, or with you adding a forum to the blog once you have the traffic and enough active members.
Do you consider a blog to be an online community? Do you believe that forums are the only basis for an online community? Did you consider starting off with a blog, or was a forum your immediate and only consideration? Share your thoughts and opinions on this article by leaving a comment below.