The challenges of a fan forum, part 2

Yesterday we talked about the challenges of running a busy message board. But what if that’s the problem you wished you had? What if your message board is a stagnant ghost town and you can practically hear the e-crickets chirping?

I’ve also been a member of unsuccessful message boards. Some of those boards were healthy for a time. They faded as long-time members lost interest, left, and weren’t replaced. Others never got off the ground, despite the efforts of the original members.

If a group or message board board moves slowly, people will stop checking it regularly. They’ll only check it once in a while, or lose interest in checking it at all, if they feel that nobody is ever responding to them, or that there isn’t likely to be any new and interesting content since their last visit. This is why blogs that update several times a week generally get more traffic than blogs that update monthly, or randomly. When a board is active, or when a blog update often, readers know there’s usually something new for them to see.

I found that many people balk when they are told from above that “there is a message board for X and we expect you to be active on it.” It’s hard to make a mandatory work-based message board into a fun and appealing place to socialize.

It’s the same if you set up a board and then feel that you have to make it be active, even if you’re only talking to yourself. If the board is a chore, it won’t feel like a community in your living room–it’ll be the online equivalent of an awkward meet-and-greet at work, where you put in your time and then go to do something else that’s either rewarding or fun.

If you’ve got your heart set on running a message board, the best thing to do would be to invite a number of people you socialize with anyway – perhaps your local writer’s group, or a board for area writers who write the same sort of fiction you do, or some people you know from conventions. If you would be chatting and communicating with these people anyway, then setting up a board that can double as a fan-forum for all the members might be a workable option–depending on their interest and preferred method of communication. You might find that some people prefer Twitter, or Facebook, or e-mail, over message boards.

Fortunately, a message board forum isn’t your only option.

Come back tomorrow for some alternatives to setting up your own message board.

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