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The pros and cons of adding a forum to your website
By David Callan
28th February 2003
Before going into the pros and cons of having a forum on a site, lets first explain what forums are,most of you are familiarize with them but might not have heard the term 'forum' before. Well forums are just another name for discussion boards,message board and other names. They enable users of a website to interact with each other by exchanging tips and discussing hot topics related to a websites theme.
Forums saves information posted on a particulare topic for other people to see, at any time. This creates a discussion environment. Everything that gets posted gets read again and again. The fact that the 'discussion' isn't time-sensitive means that it rarely heats up into heated arguments and often has high-quality discussion. It gives people time to research and/or consider their comments.
It also means you can create a robust community even with lower traffic volumes, since people can return to the site weekly and 'catch up' on what's happened since then.
Well you see above that we have touched on the pros of forum building or community building, but lets going into these and other pros or advantages a bit more as well a discussing some cons.
Forums have five main benefits to a webmaster which include:
* Getting educational information on your site
Having a medium traffic forum on a website will increase the value of it, as members of forums are very knowledgeable about the topic at hand, and they will usually try to show this in their post creating a lot of information and tips which visitors to your site can use.
With lots of information and discussion being exchanged in your forums visitors will return again and again, to see replies to their posts, read others posts, basically to see if anything has changed. This creates a sticky website, which is what every webmaster wants, as new members join your forum your traffic gradually grows week after week.
In most forums, people who want to post have to register by giving their email address and names, this allows you to follow up, and email them in the future with information about your product or service. They won't consider it as spam because they know who you are.
Forums allow you to gain creditability with your websites visitors as you can reply to posts that are looking for help and by doing this you are letting everyone know that you are an expert on the topic of your website. They are much more likely to buy from you if you know what you are talking about!
Building relationships with your visitors is easy with forums, if you post regularly and actively discuss different topics with your forum members then gradually you will get to know them, and more importantly they will get to know you. People are much more likely to buy a product or service when someone they know has recommended it.
On to the downside of having a forum, i.e. - the cons, creating successful forums is not by any sense of the word easy, they involve a tremendous amount of work to get them started. Nobody likes to post on any empty forum so you have to actively promote it and create lots of topics for discussion yourself, if these topics are interesting then you should so a few posts but you have to do this on a continuos basis for months, sometimes weeks, but mostly months.
That's only to get people talking, next you have to administer it or moderate it as it is usually called. This means making sure posts are appropriate and that members are not spamming your forum (not using just to advertise their website and product, without actually discussing anything). This has to be done on a daily basis and if your forum gets busy it's going to be very time consuming. Once again the main con or disadvantage with forums is the amount of time and effort required to get it started and maintain it.
However don't let that put you off the idea, forums are great for increasing your traffic and increasing the profits you make on your website.
After the initial time involved to start it up and get people to talk, you will start to see the benefits that your forum is bringing, and the time needed to maintain it will seem less and less each time you see you traffic and profits going up.
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