How do i make my community more than a forum?

Ronan Wall
16 replies
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of forums, like this one : ). And I'll build a forum on my product. But I feel that if all i do is add a forum to my site, then i won’t succeed in building an active and engaged community. I want to build the product around the community and to do that I need to figure out what community ‘products / platforms’ I should offer For context; I’m building an advisory platform (Dosen) that supports the knowledge community. It integrates all of the tools required for anyone with expertise to operate as an advisor (scheduling, video, payments, promotion etc). I'm very aware of how lonely independent consulting can be. It’s hard to get advice about challenges like pricing, promotion, delivering a quality service etc as those in the same role are technically ‘competitors’. I want Dosen to be a place where experts can feel comfortable supporting one another through advice, referrals and growing the industry as a whole So what product / features / activities worked for you to build your communities? Would also love to hear from any community builders on PH : )


Kshitij Choudhary
One way to make it engaging is to make something exactly like makers/ where your members could share what they are working on every day with the rest of community and get rewarded virtually for that (badges, points etc). But yeah starting a community is easier than growing one or even maintaining one, you'd need something constant. One thing I am planning to try on my own Community platform for designers — is to sort out two different segments of users, the ones who are willing to give value (generally experts in your field, might even start with just yourself) and the ones who are seeking that value (generally beginners in any field, they are much more active on these communities). I have seen this kind of strategy work for Peter Levels, Daniel Vassilo, Traf and a bunch more people on Twitter. I definitely think you should reach out to some of the community managers (eg, Rosie from IndieHackers) to learn about how they keep their communities engaging.
Ronan Wall
Thx @kshitij_choudhary really helpful. I like the 'what are you working on today' concept, low effort no messaging to manage. I'm going through the features here to create an options list for my members to choose form. What they like I'll build
Lorthemar Theiron
You can rely on already-established community platforms so people can find them easier. A subreddit and a discord server might seem to obvious but are good ways to build a community quicker.
Ronan Wall
@lorthemar_theiron I agree, I was thinking of good communities that I could API to my product to allow my members engage with them but through their Dosen account eg a feed of related Quora questions. Any you recommend?
@lorthemar_theiron I agree with Lorthemar here, might be easier to go where your community already is, perhaps linkedin? I'm on there a lot and there are groups you can create on certain topics, or post to those groups to engage with them on the topics you're interested in. Linkedin can be a bit of beauty pagent though, with a lot of professionals selling themselves hard. Creating community needs careful moderation so it doesn't turn into a place to spam. Another model worth thinking about is stack overflow, they have a system for surfacing the best answers to posed questions.
Ryan Hoover
A forum is a great place to start. What I would do is try to identify patterns or common needs people are trying to fill using your forum. You might want to either (1) expand the product to serve that use case better or (2) pivot the entire focus to that need. An example: There were plenty of sneakerhead subreddits of people buying/selling sneakers, well before Goat (and others) created a marketplace and community just for that interaction.
Ronan Wall
Thanks @rrhoover that echoes something a mentor said to me recently when I asked them the same question ‘the community IS your product’
Davis Baer
I’m building my community on Circle 😊
a forum is just a type of tool, one focused on the content, not the person whereas a social network is typically focused on the user (as the "hero" of the experience). like PH. duh. the content / product is the hero. sounds like a forum will work, giving folks tools / techniques / strategies to get that type of work done. ... but, does that make a community? ... ultimately, the test is whether random folks stop and help your other members... like what folks are doing on this thread of yours. ... can you get folks to do that? and behave like that? if you can, you win. it's not about features or activities; it's about intent, direction, and a shared mission / goal.
Ronan Wall
@8bit Such a good point. I'm now trying to build my product in a way that makes it v easy to help other members, recognizes their efforts and creates community goals. I have a few more weeks of work before i get to something i'll build but will share once i do. Be great to get further thoughts then
Ollie Forsyth
V happy to chat about community. I run a community of 500 VC’s (also head of community at Draper Esprit VC) - best to DM me on twitter ✌️
I’d add gatherings — weekly or biweekly get togethers. Done right, this will speed up connection and increase engagement. Accountability groups, quiet working sessions, happy hours. If you do something with guest speakers, add in lots of time for discussing the content in small groups.
Ronan Wall
@daniellexo really nice idea. I'll be somewhat limited with this for the next 12 months or so but couldn't agree more that an in person meeting is a great way to build connection within a community