Implementing A Forum, Advantages of implementing a forum
Running a forum on your ecom site or thinking about starting a community to increase visitors and sales? - This thread over at HighRankings has some pretty good stuff to offer for anyone that's considering building a community for whatever reason.
JeffSmith NH is pretty new to this judging by his list of questions. One of those questions includes:
Other than the obvious benefit of adding a valuable service to clients, what are the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a forum? How does the forum impact SEO?
Following on are some great general tips and strategies for bootstrapping a community and maintaining a forum. There are lots of good posts but i'll quote you Renegade Master to give you an appetizer for this topic:
1) If your site has a topic for users to discuss, then it will be used. Product based forums will generally be drop-in/drop-out, a theme will guarantee returns.
2) Building loyalty when there is little activity will be tough, it's at this stage you'll have lots of work to do. You could try to be a little controversial, to encourage discussion, and get people returning to see replies to their posts and others to view the latest replies.
3) You will probably have many more browsers to posters. I haven't worked out a method for convertersion, let me know if you do. You could have a newby category for people to test posting and see how it works.
4) You should try to make the forum easy to use, have functions that show all posts since last login or last refresh. Allow users to unsubscribe from some categories they are not interested in.
5) I also think having less buttons and clutter is a good design, the design used at UKClimbing is good.
6) Allow some level of personalisation such as nicknames and profiles.
The general consensus runs along the lines of it's damn hard work but can potentially reap large rewards.
I can vouch for the hard work bit...