How can you get members posting in forums when you're just getting started?

When you’re just getting a forum going how can you get members to start actually posting questions and contributing answers? It seems easier when there’s already a backlog of some questions/answers that provide value but when just getting started there aren’t examples for members to go off of and it can feel so empty.

This is something I’m working on and have tried a few things but just feel like it’s dragging.

Some things I’ve tried:

  1. Weekly newsletter highlighting key forums (people don’t tend to click or if they do, they don’t contribute much)
  2. Working with super members to ask them to get more discussions started (they’ve said it’s just hard for them to come up with ideas if they don’t have questions)
  3. I’m currently in the Rosieland forum collective where we’re taking a few minutes to each post a question here. I like this approach but wonder how we get people to continue to respond over time.

What have you tried that has (or hasn’t) worked?

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I don’t have experience in this but I know a guy that runs a successful entrepreneur forum. He said it took him about a year of constantly posting and having discussions by himself before it worked on its own.

This was because people would always have something different, something new, something valuable to see when they come on the site every day. I will say that the downside is that he locked himself into a certain type of culture early on and is finding it hard to get out of it now.

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One thing I do a lot is to find an interesting tweet (or equivalent) and use it as a starting point or part of a discussion.

Normally I would link to it, embed or screenshot it as a way to credit people.

I would then add my own thoughts to it and ask additional questions about it.

For an extra oomph effect, I may add a comment to the original tweet and link back to the forum post. Even if people don’t join or comment, it starts to raise awareness of the forum.

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:bulb: Another idea:

Host an event where people do an activity to contribute to the forum. :rofl:

When I’ve worked in corporate social, we would create a cascade schedule ahead of big announcements. We detailed out what account would post the announcement first, followed by a schedule of RTs, replies, links, etc to get the ball rolling.

I think in the early days, a LOT of behind the scenes coaxing, asking, incentivizing is often needed to get people to adopt a new behavior and part of their daily rhythm.

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Two tips:

  1. Start with a small beta group of users who are already familiar with you/your brand/your mission. Get them using the platform for a couple of months before you launch to the wider community. They will create content, they will become invested, and they will be there to support engagement when the rest arrive.
  2. Make sure you have a very clear idea of who your ideal audience are and what motivates them. Intrinsic motivation is the key. You need to work out what it is that you are solving for your members and play hard to that. How To Get Members To Stay Engaged In An Online Community (short video) | FeverBee
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