Create a Forum and Build Your Own Online Community
This post was last updated on July 27, 2020.
It's safe to say that forums have existed since the beginning of time. Well, more like the beginning of the internet (which is basically the same). Online forums allow virtual communities to come together to share knowledge and enthusiasm. By adding an online forum to your website, you can greatly increase user engagement and grow your online community. In addition, creating a forum is valuable in boosting your website’s content and adds an element of fun for your site visitors.
In this article we’ll introduce the features of Wix Forum, as well as dive into the benefits of adding a forum to your website and the best practices for doing so. Like other features in the Wix website builder, setting up your forum is simple, intuitive and free of charge.
Meet Wix Forum – your online community builder
After adding the Wix Forum app to your website in the Wix Editor, you can easily customize the layout, set up admin capabilities and define the content and interests of your community. Here are some of the highlights that make Wix Forum so good:
It’s 100% mobile friendly, with a beautiful mobile design.
Users sign up, log in and participation is easy and intuitive.
You can choose a classic forum layout or a fancy cards display – both layouts are customizable.
A rich text editor allows you and your forum members to add beautiful posts, including images.
Managing the forum is simple, so being an admin requires minimal effort.
Each member gets a profile page that documents their forum activity.
Why create a forum in the first place?
There are many reasons to create a forum or a forum website. Believe it or not, forum members are not strictly identified with Justin Bieber fans or Minecraft enthusiasts. If you search the web, you will find flourishing forums dedicated to almost every theme or niche, from military history to interior design.
The primary benefit of creating a forum is to build a community around a shared interest. Your forum will be providing this community with a space to exchange ideas, compare experiences and also enjoy a conversation with people who share a particular profession, hobby or worldview.
An online forum also opens a new channel of communication between the site owner and site visitors. Newsletters and site comments are excellent for engaging with visitors, but both tend to place an emphasis on one side of the discussion. A forum, on the other hand, allows for user engagement that is more open and organic. The forum moderator or admin retains control over the platform, but an eye-level discussion is free to develop as long as participants abide by the rules.
Finally, creating a forum can improve your site’s SEO. Think of it as an additional source of website content that can be indexed by search engines. As long as it is active, and as long as your members make good contributions to the discussion, the forum essentially creates frequent, high-quality content that search engines love.
How to make a forum
Now that you know the benefits of adding a forum to your website, let’s discuss the steps you need to take to get started. Here’s how to create a forum:
Choose a forum software
Define your forum’s theme
Be clear about the rules
Encourage active participation
Promote your forum regularly
Enhance your forum with special features
01. Choose a forum software
You can start creating a forum by simply choosing a forum software. By selecting a forum maker that fully integrates with your professional website, you can build interest in your site and keep website visitors engaged with your project, organization or brand.
02. Define your forum’s theme
Think about the specific themes that bring your members together and that might offer them a shared sense of community. Which issues are important, useful or entertaining in their eyes? Choose a general topic that broadly resonates with your audience, and then set up various discussion threads by creating forum categories.
03. Be clear about the rules
As forum admin, you need to set the tone and determine what would be considered appropriate or inappropriate behavior in your community. Create an introductory post in which you list the rules for the community, and then pin the post to the top of a forum category.
04. Encourage active participation
Forums thrive on discussion. If your members are just passive observers, there won’t be much action going on. You can encourage them to participate by posing questions, commenting on other people’s posts or soliciting a specific member’s opinion. Try to get a sense of what makes your members respond, whether it’s opening up a compelling discussion, starting a poll, or reviewing events that are relevant to your community.
You can also encourage users to ask questions of their own by creating a Q&A forum. This helps strengthen your forum community by allowing members to build discussions organically and learn from one another’s insights. It’s also a useful way for brands to create a support channel, talk about new releases and build personal connections with clients.
05. Promote your forum regularly
When you first create a forum, you’ll need to attract as many new members as possible by promoting your forum on external platforms. Use your personal or business social media channels to highlight specific threads and, if some members are particularly active, ask them to promote your forum within their own networks. If you run a newsletter, use it to invite subscribers to visit the forum. You can also drive engagement by sending out notifications that update all members on new posts, replies and likes.
06. Enhance your forum with special features
Once you’ve learned the basics of how to make a forum, you can provide more value to users with special features that benefit both you and your community.
First, you can reward your participants with member badges as they go from new users to forum experts. This increases your community members’ engagement, as it encourages them to participate consistently in forum discussions. You can customize badges to match the look and feel or your website, as well as assign different badges for different roles (e.g., teacher and student).
Second, you can earn money from your forum by creating pricing plans. This involves restricting forum access to selected members. While it’s a good idea to keep some conversations open for general access, you can offer exclusive membership to categories that cater to a specific niche.
Best practices for creating a forum
The ongoing contribution of content by forum members is what gives a forum its character. Here are the most effective ways to maintain a vibrant, dynamic online community.
Stay on track: A sense of shared interest among participants is the glue that holds your community together. Make sure that the discussions you start, the questions you raise, and the visual materials you upload are directly related to your forum’s theme.
Don’t over-thread: Creating multiple discussion threads with different focal points is a great way to create a forum, but you should be careful not to set up too many of them. When too many threads are available, visitors (especially first-time visitors) can get overwhelmed. Too many topics may also lead to a situation in which some threads have only very little conversation going on in them. It’s better to narrow down the options and keep a lively discussion going.
Make it beautiful: While forums thrive on words, their look and feel is also important. Make sure your forum is consistent with your website design overall, as members will feel more at home on a forum that’s visually pleasing, user-friendly and resonates with their interests. By customizing the layout, fonts, colors and more, you can design your forum in a way that reflects your project or brand and attracts new members.
Be a present admin: As the forum’s administrator, you have a responsibility to participate actively and contribute your own content to the community’s discussions. Be proactive, answer questions, start conversations and encourage community members to share their thoughts.
Stay informed: As the admin, you also need to show expertise and authority in your field. Keeping up to date on the latest news, developments and trends will help you add high-quality content to your community and keep your members interested in what you have to say. Turn your forum into a reliable source of information and your community will reward you with traffic.
How to maintain a strong forum website
When considering how to make a forum, you’ll need to think not just about the content you’ll want to include, but also about the practices you’ll need to avoid. As any savvy forum admin will tell you, you’ll need to stay alert to keep your forum running strong. Remember to regularly check for the following elements, as this will ensure a safe, friendly and positive community:
Spammers: Spammy content is not only annoying, but it can cause SEO problems. Search engines like Google can penalize you for spammy posts on your site if you don’t weed them out.
Trolls: As forum admin, you bear the responsibility to ensure that all forum members are safe, and you owe it to them to keep trolls away.
Uninspiring content: Make sure that the discussions taking place on your forum remain interesting, fun and engaging. The key is to stay committed as the admin of your forum. If you regularly participate in discussions, take a proactive approach, raise relevant and interesting issues and acknowledge valuable and contributing members, you’ll provide your community with a forum they’ll love.
By Rebecca Strehlow
Wix Blog Writer