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Should I Start a Forum?

Discussion in 'Forum Management' started by Charlie L, Aug 18, 2014.

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  1. So I've been quite interested in the 'digital nomad' movement for about a year now. For those who don't know, a digital nomad (DN) is someone who works online and can work from anywhere with an internet connection. The most obvious example of a DN would be a freelance web designer or writer, but there are a whole array of other things people do to make money on the road.

    Anyway, I've always quite liked the idea of owning a forum, and a good one for the DN community does not as yet exist. There is a forum (Google 'digital nomad forum') but it's a bit naff and no one's posted in 2 months.

    One concern I have is the potential size of the forum - are there enough DNs (or potential DNs) who want to talk about stuff to justify the existence of a forum? Will there just be one post a month? The digital nomad sub-reddit is fairly active (one thread a day on average, I would say).

    The hardest thing, of course, will be gaining traction (i.e. users). I don't have a large personal following to leverage, any contacts or a huge marketing budget. Essentially, my strategy would be to tell as many relevant people as possible about it and hope it catches on. :D Which doesn't sound like the most sophisticated marketing strategy ever, I must admit.

    But then, the costs of getting started would not be great. You can buy forum software for a couple of hundred bucks, and I should be able to configure everything myself.

    Worst case scenario: I lose $500 and a bunch of my time, time I could have spent on other, more proven, projects.

    Best case scenario: I create something that people actually use and eventually find a way to make a bit of money from it.

  2. Hi Charlie,

    I have been running discussion forums since 2001. I've created dozens of them, some not so successful, some very successful (tens of thousands of members).

    I definitely think there is room for a forum on being a digital nomad. I am one myself and I know there are many people like me who work on the internet and travel.

    You are right that the hardest part of running a discussion forum is getting it started. It can take months or even years for a forum to gain traction. Having a budget to promote your forum and get people registering and creating discussions can help.

    Ideally, you want a way to push traffic to your forum. A blog or a large social media following is perfect for this. However, don't be put off if you don't have that. At the start of a forum's life, the most important thing is an active administrator (or team) or actively respond to posts and ensure that the forum is growing in the way they want.

    Take ProBlogger for example. He is one of the best bloggers out there, but he still has a lot to learn about running a forum. I remember he launched his ProBlogger forum a few years ago. I signed up in order to network with other bloggers. He got thousands of people registering in the forums in just a few weeks because of his influence. It was marketed as a way to learn from professional bloggers and learn from others etc.

    Sadly, it wasn't like that. Darren was too busy to actually participate in the forum. So what you had was hundreds of beginner bloggers every day asking questions and no one giving answers. The ones that did give answers were other beginners who didn't really know what they were talking about. I hope the situation is different now, but it is unlikely the situation has improved unless he is more active there himself.

    Once a forum has become established, administrators can take a step back from posting so much if they choose the right moderators and ensure that everything is set up correctly. The difficult part is reaching that point. Rise Forums, for example, is far from reaching the point where I can take a step back and not get involved day to day (not saying I want that to happen as I enjoy posting here - but you get my point).

    My advice is that if you have the time to run a forum, go for it. I have no doubt you can make it a success if you work on it every day and interact with members. You can start a forum fairly cheaply. This forum runs on premium forum software that costs $140, but there are many good free alternatives out there. Worst case scenario is that you lose a bit of your time, but even if that happens, I believe you will have learned a lot from the experience.

    I'll do my best to answer any questions you have about maintaining a forum on here too :)

  3. Great reply by Kevin.

    That's sure good idea of forum, but better if you can research a bit more on your topic. I suggest you to find answer why digital nomad forum didn't succeed. If the answer is lack of interest by members on this topic then it's better to stay away but if answer is lack of administration and promotion then sure go for it.
    First, You should have lot of time to visit your forum regularly and keep eye on posts. So if your busy person then it will be hard for you to keep track on entire forum. This is not big problem if your forum is small but as members grows problem starts, the solution is put good moderators who can keep your forum according to your rules. Now if you put moderators on duty then another problem arise is tracking if moderators is doing their job honestly.

    I run forum myself and these are the some common issue i face.

    Don't hesitate to try if you see potential. If you fail you will learn lot of things but if you succeed you will inspire others with your fortune
  4. Kevin, I'm adding this comment here after asking you about a Forum for my site beneath a different post but this comment is more relevant here although it IS related to my other post/question.

    THANKS for the info above. Sooo important to get the above distinctions up front before going off willy-nilly to start a forum!

    MY Forum question (in the other post today) - is about "managing" my forum so it's not an OPEN TO ALL COMERS type of forum. I'm a Pro-Blogger forum member & totally get what you said about that.

    So - I my Forum is is by invitation only I'll only invite those who I can see through other means are a "good fit" and whom I WANT to engage with to help. Ie; their questions will then be relevant to my "niche/s" and will give me enormous insights into the biggest / most regular issues & probes they need help with. Those can then become my trainings & even my building topics to garner new prospects who are struggling with the same stuff as those who are already on my list/s.

    Does this make sense?
  5. Hey Sassy,

    Can you please post this as a new discussion. This thread was started by Charlie as he is looking for feedback on starting a forum. We should try and keep everything on topic so that he gets the feedback he needs :)

  6. Hi Charlie,

    This sounds like a great idea and there should be a real audience for it if you can promote it well enough.

    Have you thought about adding a social element to it using something like BuddyPress? Might make it a bit more 21st century and relevant to the younger crowd.

    If you started the ball rolling with a digital nomad blog, interviewing successful nomads, covering work on the road tips and trips, that might be easier to then launch a forum off the back of, rather than starting forum cold.

    I'm not sure how many private nomad type forums there are, such as the tropical MBA/Dynamite circle and things like that you might end up competing with.

    Good luck!
  7. Good advice, Joe! Especially about starting off with a blog and launching the forum on the back of that.

    As far as I know, the Dynamite Circle is the only private, paid-for community of its kind.
  8. There is a private community on the Making it Anywhere blog which might be a similar type of thing but obviously a lot newer.
  9. True, though I haven't noticed them mention it much recently.
  10. Forums for me are really hard to manage and grow it

    I would stick with blogs and offering any services on micro niche sites which can generate good income.
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