3 tips to organising your forums when you start a new online group

When I first started work at a district council.  There was a corridor with a number of green doors. None of them had a label to say what was in them.  You could open one of them and find yourself in a busy room with lots of people going about their work.  Or you could open another and it would be a cupboard or an empty room. I just never knew what was going to be behind the door.

So as a new member of staff it was a bit intimidating walking into a busy room not knowing what they were doing.  And a bit weird if I went into the empty room. 

Would you wait in there hoping someone else may arrive?

You can get the same thing in Forums.  The facilitator creates dozens of categories and forums, on every subject they can think off.  Hoping this will encourage participation.

Instead, it creates confusion and can be intimidating for new members, especially if categories have no content.  What I like to call Doughnut categories. Its down to the shape and looking like a zero.

Or even worse.  You may have a really active discussions going on one category.  But because you have added loads of new categories. This is now on the second page.  And who goes to the second page. I bet most of you don’t make it to the second page for a google search very often.


Causing this topic to become inactive very quickly


So here are 3 tips for you to try out.

  1. Don't build "empty rooms" - limit your number of categories at first.  Maybe start with no categories and slowIy add them when discussions naturally will fit into a category.
  2. Don't overseed - in many new online groups, the forums are full of posts by the facilitators, hoping to spark conversation.  If you have to "seed," do it sparingly or ask key members of the groups to post it for you or for them to ask the questions as this will encourage other members to participate.  You can cheat a little by asking questions that you know members know the answer to. 
  3. Lead by example, as facilitators of the online groups, the way you ask and respond to questions will create the tone for the group and others will follow.   Look to ask and respond in a positive tone and others’ will follow your behaviour.


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