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  • Forums are dying. What to do

    For forum owners like me who have been running popular sites for 15+ years it's sad but traffic has been on a downward trend for years. I attribute it largely due to mobile friendly social media. Despite forums being a superior way of communication for almost any subject I think the writing is on the wall. How can you convince people to keep posting? You can't. Does anyone else feel the same way and see the same trend? What have you done?
    Danny
    My Site ---->www.montrealracing.com

  • #2
    Social media is popular because it allows people to talk about themselves in short bursts and not have to listen to anyone else. And that is all social media has become, an homage to self. One big "look at me!" It lacks substance or depth, which is exactly why forums still have a niche. It controls the content and the message. Forums offer more latitude. It ad bombs the you know what out of people. Forums have more control over advertisements.

    Think about all the things you hate about social media (or Google "things people hate about social media") and you'll get a good idea of why forums still have a place.

    My own forum is a niche social media doesn't even allow. That's how I personally keep people around. That and I have a zero tolerance policy for imbeciles. Social media is nothing but imbeciles.

    The other selling point right now is that social media is either selling personal data or being careless with it. Forums offer far more security while collecting far less personal data.

    Comment


    • #3
      Go mobile with your site. Either with the Apps that are available or the Responsive mode in vBulletin 5. On many vBulletin 5 sites, the majority of users are using their mobile and tablet devices to access the site.

      Embrace larger embedded images and media in your site as well.

      Move beyond Forums with curated content using the vBulletin 4.X Publishing Suite or vBulletin 5.
      Translations provided by Google.

      Wayne Luke
      The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud demonstration site.
      vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
      Vote for your favorite feature requests and the bugs you want to see fixed.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by [COLOR=#0000FF
        DannyITR;n4412589]For forum owners like me who have been running popular sites for 15+ years it's sad but traffic has been on a downward trend for years. I attribute it largely due to mobile friendly social media. Despite forums being a superior way of communication for almost any subject I think the writing is on the wall. How can you convince people to keep posting? You can't. Does anyone else feel the same way and see the same trend? What have you done?[/COLOR]
        HI,

        Nearly 83.000 members AND complaining. No i get it.... declining *is* where you're at & 15 years of observations, does indeed make me think.

        I'm a new forum owner, developing at present 1 member & that's a sister who currently hates me. AND~ you wouldn't believe the number of times I've just want'd to *uck it. { try putting a D there instead of an F, if you'd be so kind } feeling however not far off the mark.

        I *must* say though, that mY observations of all the BUSY Forum sites I've seen have like you been around for a long time, just as you have, i.e. before social media spotted its *week* link ~ NO SPACE for those *with* ~ long term * explorative nonsense. Naming them ALL as trolls, idiots or fools ~ as apposed to deep thinkers *with* something meaningful to say AND then using nothing more than 1 or 2 objections from so called *dedicated members*.... effectively said *uck off *with* an immediate ban.... following.

        Which again *i-MUST* say strikes mE as very odd indeed, FOR~ nigh on all the *deep* thinkers I've met...... have all said their conclusions have come about because they got into T*inking with issues rather than just thinking about them, they have also BAR NON~ attributed those conclusions to others who have recognised that in them AND gone that extra mental step ** AND ** accommodated ...... their trollish, idiotic and foolish... explorations. { some if indeed not all of which could prove highly amusing if not interesting AND ILLUMINATING as well }

        No wonder THE MEDIA~ saw an opportunity.......... I would have too, had i not spent my entire life in the space *between* MASTER ( ? ) Ignorant.

        As for *week* link~ is that not the HOPE of every forum owner, TO get AND RETAIN...... weekly... active members.?

        IT *is* mine !

        All of which brings me to another observation any can make on this forum~
        Specifically the issue of Guests~ ( Fools ) being able to post on forums. Something most here disguise as a desire to get more members BUT~ *i* as you and *U* can see, SEEM to think & T*ink, not quite the same way as others... sadly.

        SO~ to those that know~ How does one open a section of ones forum to *guests* only~ choice of avatar given, own topic titles allowed *with* 1 photo only allowed AND ABSOLUTELY NO ~ LINKS allowed.
        REST OF THE FORUM~ for members only ?

        Regards
        MASTER ? Ignorant.
        a.k.a. ~ x.its.tongue.MOM Click image for larger version

Name:	Photo on 22-07-2017 at 11.21.png
Views:	702
Size:	103.1 KB
ID:	4413067




        NOW~ I Come from a very specific point...... in *TOME*
        One that goes back to *before* Fishies.......Grew *Toes*

        BUT~ NOT to point before Fishies, recognised *point* ~To Nose
        OR *MOM*~Shiver'd AT ALL> D'Stars wanting to *own* ~*HER HOME*

        Comment


        • #5
          I have 14+ years community with 23M posts using vB 3.8. The traffic keep decreasing every year. Social media like FB & Insta took over our audience and it got worse with phone app chats/group such Whatsapp, Telegram . The key point here is Google is dominating the world of digital marketing. They are going to monopoly this business where all advertisers will using their or subsidiaries services. The world of forum won't be completely dying but they have to admit to spend all their cost without profits.

          Comment


          • #6
            Organic traffic is the thing you should focus on to bring more new members and posts. Don't expect social media to get more traffic from them, everyone used to say or suggest that but my forums are good with traffic from search engines than social networks and I only get very less traffic from social networks even I worked more on social network platforms.
            Web Hosting Forum - Learn web hosting and offering your web hosting plans for free!
            Tranh phong cảnh, tranh treo tường nghệ thuật đẹp!

            Comment


            • #7
              I have to say that since we started using push notifications, our forum traffic has grown again. I think one of the small but important things was that the social media apps were using push notifications, but forums were not. Times are changing, and there is room for forums to return to the forefront. I'm just hoping that we will soon be able to add push notifications to iOS devices as well.
              PHP Link Directory

              Comment


              • #8
                Expanding on my answer above-

                I'd argue that discussion forums are not dying. Reddit is basically a discussion forum with millions of users. Facebook Groups are discussion forums. Large gaming companies and platforms have extensive forums as their primary customer service outlet. Many forum sites are thriving. However, the medium is evolving.

                Can a small site rely only on forums or do they need to focus more on building a community? A mom and pop diner doesn't win customers by directly competing with the franchise restaurant across the street. They win by being unique and providing good service. This builds a loyal following and community for the business. For most users on this site, you are the mom and pop diner. You want to provide unique content and be better at providing service than the big sites on the web. Maybe the idea of what a discussion forum includes needs to change. As a small site, you want to build a real community. Why do many small community sites struggle?
                • Lack of Content
                • Lack of advertising revenue
                • Lack of Search Ranking
                • Lack of Mobility

                Dealing With Content

                When building a community site, you should be focusing on a content niche that have knowledge about and are personally interested in. Not something that you think will make money. For instance, if you know how to build and restore a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 from rims to roof, then that should be your topic. You should not open a site trying to handle every classic car model. As time goes on, you can expand if your community demands it. Don't build a site around a topic you know very little about.

                Your community should have unique content in the form of Articles and Blogs. This static content should be given a higher priority for search engine indexing. It should be fresh with 2-3 Articles and/or Blog Entries a week. It should be relevant to your knowledge and content niche. It shouldn't rehashed or click-bait. It should be shareable to various media platforms. Use bold and colorful images inline within your articles and blogs. Images draw people into the content. Share your content on your social media platform pages. Don't let all users create articles or blogs on your site. This can dilute your value. Find trusted individuals that can help you create quality content.

                Maybe it is time to lower the importance of your own forum and embrace your community. Using tools like Groups (available in the vBulletin 4 Publishing Suite and vBulletin 5 Connect) you can do this. Groups allow your users to create their own sub-communities on your site. The Group Owner controls who participates, moderates discussion, and maintains the group. This removes a lot of daily busy work from the administrator of a site and increases the volunteer staff of your site. So if you have a site about the 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 and a sub-group of individuals want to talk about restoring their 1950 Ford Trucks then instead of creating a new forum for this encourage them to create a Group.

                When you do use forums start small. Don't open a new site with 30 different sub-topics with only a couple posts in each sub-topic areas. Or worse, nothing in the sub-topic area. Start with a few different broadly defined forums and funnel traffic into them. As the discussions grow, create new sub-topics and move discussions into those areas. If a sub-topic withers, then remove it and move its content elsewhere.

                Also encourage the use of media. Have people create galleries of their projects as they relate to your site. Instead of restricting them to small images allow large colorful images in these galleries. People carry smart phones with great cameras. They want to show off their work and photos.

                Advertising Revenue

                Advertising Revenue is skewed towards larger sites with staff to manage this aspect. The great majority of web advertising has been absorbed by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. These companies allow people to earn small bits of revenue through different programs like Google Adsense or Amazon's Affiliate programs. However, these programs aren't viable to make a living wage off of for most individual sites. They can provide a few dollars here and there. The primary purpose of these programs is to make money for Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

                Instead of trying to make money with these sites, you need to be creating about making money with your site. Ideas include:
                • Sponsorships from related businesses. You can probably sell them advertising for a lower price than they would pay on a larger site. Take advantage of this.
                • Paid Subscriptions. You can offer more posting privileges or the ability to post classified ads on your site. If your niche is specific enough, then people will pay for exclusive content as well.
                • Using Services like Patreon. This would be similar to Paid Subscriptions but Patreon is a separate Social Media site where creators and artists are paid for their content.
                • Establish a market place on your site. Going back to the idea of restoring a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500, there are people who want parts and people who have parts. Connect them. Get the parts sold. Take a cut. Either for listing the ad or from the sale.

                Search Ranking

                This ties back into content. Your forum discussions are most likely not going to reach the top rankings for specific keywords. There are a couple of reasons for this.
                1. Search Engine Rankings are saturated. There are billions of sites struggling to get your keywords.
                2. Forum Discussions are often discounted in Search Engine Rankings. This is because they are frequently spammed or the content isn't highly relevant. User signatures also degrade your content by linking to unrelated topics or social media pages. This is considered temporary content.

                Site owners should worry less about the number of topics and posts in their forums than they do with the content they (and appointed users) create on your site. Instead you want your users to discuss the content provided on your site. You also want people to share your content. This isn't going to happen as much with forum discussions. However if you have quality articles and blogs on your site, people will be more likely to share them within their sphere of influence on Social Media. Other similar sites are also more likely to link back to your content. This brings both new eyes and traffic to your site. It will increase your rankings over time.

                Mobility

                The Web is increasingly mobile. People are accessing the web from Phones and Tablets more than PCs these days. Take advantage of this with a display that adjusts to the user's device. Don't force the user to adjust to your display. With the vBulletin 4 Publishing Suite, a basic mobile style was introduced. It worked fine for its place in history but wasn't without issues. Eventually, we introduced mobile apps to work around some of those issues. With vBulletin 5 Connect, the entire system is mobile friendly. A lot of work has been put into the system to account for the Mobile Web. The apps still exist if you want exposure in the various marketplaces and additional features like push notifications but the software adjusts to the user's display out of the box. This is the way forward.



                In closing, your community can thrive. It will involve some planning, work to implement and thought about how to build it and what features to use. However, you can build a successful community.
                Translations provided by Google.

                Wayne Luke
                The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud demonstration site.
                vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
                Vote for your favorite feature requests and the bugs you want to see fixed.

                Comment


                • In Omnibus
                  In Omnibus commented
                  Editing a comment
                  This is a great post. You should make it an article or a blog so it's more easily located by other customers.

                • BTMike
                  BTMike commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Wayne, thank you for the well written post. It gave me some things to consider and reinforced a few of my own beliefs.

              • #9
                Originally posted by In Omnibus View Post
                Social media is popular because it allows people to talk about themselves in short bursts and not have to listen to anyone else. And that is all social media has become, an homage to self. One big "look at me!" It lacks substance or depth, which is exactly why forums still have a niche. It controls the content and the message. Forums offer more latitude. It ad bombs the you know what out of people. Forums have more control over advertisements.

                Think about all the things you hate about social media (or Google "things people hate about social media") and you'll get a good idea of why forums still have a place.

                My own forum is a niche social media doesn't even allow. That's how I personally keep people around. That and I have a zero tolerance policy for imbeciles. Social media is nothing but imbeciles.

                The other selling point right now is that social media is either selling personal data or being careless with it. Forums offer far more security while collecting far less personal data.

                Over the years I have lost lots of sleep over imbeciles and or trolls, its pretty stupid I know, but one thing I have observed. With the social media these days being so strong, my number of trolls is non existent. They seem to hang out in the "See Me" world, and I'm ok with that and I sleep better

                My site was from day one a niche, my desire was the sharing of technical information in the industry that it serves, the social non technical discussions grew up until social media peaked while the technical discussions were the backbone and now over 21 years later, it is still the backbone. I worked in that industry for over 30 years, having the knowledge and experience in your niche is important.

                The in depth technical discussions still occur regularly, I have a core group that is very helpful to new techs and I'm good with that. but its like pulling teeth to get anybody to post in a off topic discussion, I'm not sure that is healthy.

                My tolerance for trolls is very low, I have always meant business and I think those in the industry do appreciate the place to come where we tend to keep the trouble makers and spammers out.

                The community is still relevant, I still get new members every day but its not like it was, I'm ok with that. I think we have solid technical content and being the eternal optimist that I am, I believe things will one day swing back a bit and I will be able to maintain a nice balance when that happens. I'm in this for the long haul.

                I believe one huge key to this will be the continued efforts of us as vBulletin site admins to pass on our needs to the vBulletin developers, and for vBulletin developers to continue to keep their ears and eyes open, feel our needs and make them happen for us, while passing on what they learn from the successful community operators.

                Cheers

                Comment


                • #10
                  Views 20 ~ 14/05/19
                  Yesterday, 11:01am

                  Expanding on my answer above-

                  I'd argue that discussion forums are not dying. Reddit is basically a discussion forum with millions of users. Facebook Groups are discussion forums. Large gaming companies and platforms have extensive forums as their primary customer service outlet. Many forum sites are thriving. However, the medium is evolving.

                  Can a small site rely only on forums or do they need to focus more on building a community? A mom and pop diner doesn't win customers by directly competing with the franchise restaurant across the street. They win by being unique and providing good service. This builds a loyal following and community for the business. For most users on this site, you are the mom and pop diner. You want to provide unique content and be better at providing service than the big sites on the web. Maybe the idea of what a discussion forum includes needs to change. As a small site, you want to build a real community. Why do many small community sites struggle?

                  Lack of Content

                  Lack of advertising revenue

                  Lack of Search Ranking

                  Lack of Mobility

                  Dealing With Content

                  When building a community site, you should be focusing on a content niche that have knowledge about and are personally interested in. Not something that you think will make money. For instance, if you know how to build and restore a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 from rims to roof, then that should be your topic. You should not open a site trying to handle every classic car model. As time goes on, you can expand if your community demands it. Don't build a site around a topic you know very little about.

                  Your community should have unique content in the form of Articles and Blogs. This static content should be given a higher priority for search engine indexing. It should be fresh with 2-3 Articles and/or Blog Entries a week. It should be relevant to your knowledge and content niche. It shouldn't rehashed or click-bait. It should be shareable to various media platforms. Use bold and colorful images inline within your articles and blogs. Images draw people into the content. Share your content on your social media platform pages. Don't let all users create articles or blogs on your site. This can dilute your value. Find trusted individuals that can help you create quality content.

                  Maybe it is time to lower the importance of your own forum and embrace your community. Using tools like Groups (available in the vBulletin 4 Publishing Suite and vBulletin 5 Connect) you can do this. Groups allow your users to create their own sub-communities on your site. The Group Owner controls who participates, moderates discussion, and maintains the group. This removes a lot of daily busy work from the administrator of a site and increases the volunteer staff of your site. So if you have a site about the 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 and a sub-group of individuals want to talk about restoring their 1950 Ford Trucks then instead of creating a new forum for this encourage them to create a Group.

                  When you do use forums start small. Don't open a new site with 30 different sub-topics with only a couple posts in each sub-topic areas. Or worse, nothing in the sub-topic area. Start with a few different broadly defined forums and funnel traffic into them. As the discussions grow, create new sub-topics and move discussions into those areas. If a sub-topic withers, then remove it and move its content elsewhere.

                  Also encourage the use of media. Have people create galleries of their projects as they relate to your site. Instead of restricting them to small images allow large colorful images in these galleries. People carry smart phones with great cameras. They want to show off their work and photos.

                  Advertising Revenue

                  Advertising Revenue is skewed towards larger sites with staff to manage this aspect. The great majority of web advertising has been absorbed by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. These companies allow people to earn small bits of revenue through different programs like Google Adsense or Amazon's Affiliate programs. However, these programs aren't viable to make a living wage off of for most individual sites. They can provide a few dollars here and there. The primary purpose of these programs is to make money for Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

                  Instead of trying to make money with these sites, you need to be creating about making money with your site. Ideas include:

                  Sponsorships from related businesses. You can probably sell them advertising for a lower price than they would pay on a larger site. Take advantage of this.

                  Paid Subscriptions. You can offer more posting privileges or the ability to post classified ads on your site. If your niche is specific enough, then people will pay for exclusive content as well.

                  Using Services like Patreon. This would be similar to Paid Subscriptions but Patreon is a separate Social Media site where creators and artists are paid for their content.

                  Establish a market place on your site. Going back to the idea of restoring a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500, there are people who want parts and people who have parts. Connect them. Get the parts sold. Take a cut. Either for listing the ad or from the sale.

                  Search Ranking

                  This ties back into content. Your forum discussions are most likely not going to reach the top rankings for specific keywords. There are a couple of reasons for this.

                  Search Engine Rankings are saturated. There are billions of sites struggling to get your keywords.

                  Forum Discussions are often discounted in Search Engine Rankings. This is because they are frequently spammed or the content isn't highly relevant. User signatures also degrade your content by linking to unrelated topics or social media pages. This is considered temporary content.

                  Site owners should worry less about the number of topics and posts in their forums than they do with the content they (and appointed users) create on your site. Instead you want your users to discuss the content provided on your site. You also want people to share your content. This isn't going to happen as much with forum discussions. However if you have quality articles and blogs on your site, people will be more likely to share them within their sphere of influence on Social Media. Other similar sites are also more likely to link back to your content. This brings both new eyes and traffic to your site. It will increase your rankings over time

                  Mobility

                  The Web is increasingly mobile. People are accessing the web from Phones and Tablets more than PCs these days. Take advantage of this with a display that adjusts to the user's device. Don't force the user to adjust to your display. With the vBulletin 4 Publishing Suite, a basic mobile style was introduced. It worked fine for its place in history but wasn't without issues. Eventually, we introduced mobile apps to work around some of those issues. With vBulletin 5 Connect, the entire system is mobile friendly. A lot of work has been put into the system to account for the Mobile Web. The apps still exist if you want exposure in the various marketplaces and additional features like push notifications but the software adjusts to the user's display out of the box. This is the way forward.

                  In closing, your community can thrive. It will involve some planning, work to implement and thought about how to build it and what features to use. However, you can build a successful community.
                  Click image for larger version  Name:	sheetA copy 2.png Views:	0 Size:	36.8 KB ID:	4415148
                  Click image for larger version  Name:	Elephant teardrop.png Views:	0 Size:	193.3 KB ID:	4415151

                  Need Time to consider this ~ BUT~ *feel* the above to be just as, even if not MORE important .

                  SO~ be kind & wait for it. If you'd be so good.

                  IF however any of you feel *U* need a booster ~ try coping and pasting the above submission of Waynes.

                  THEN~ see if the Editor could not be MORE conducive to REAL CONTENT ~ If it wasn't STUCK to the top all the time, instead fo being a Floating HELP to long CONTENT.
                  NOW~ I Come from a very specific point...... in *TOME*
                  One that goes back to *before* Fishies.......Grew *Toes*

                  BUT~ NOT to point before Fishies, recognised *point* ~To Nose
                  OR *MOM*~Shiver'd AT ALL> D'Stars wanting to *own* ~*HER HOME*

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Originally posted by x.its.tongue.MOM View Post
                    THEN~ see if the Editor could not be MORE conducive to REAL CONTENT ~ If it wasn't STUCK to the top all the time, instead fo being a Floating HELP to long CONTENT.[/COLOR][/TD]
                    When creating long form content, the editor is the main focus of the page. It also highly customizable by the end user and remembers these settings for future use. When replying to content that has been created the editor is open and available at the bottom of the content.

                    The only place that the editor is at the top of the page is the user's profile. The user profile is not a suitable place to post meaningful content. This would more suitable to short-form social media style content.



                    One thing I do with my content is write it in a text editor. Specifically I use a Microsoft's Visual Studio Code. I've added several extensions to the editor so that that it can handle a formatting style called Markdown. Then when I am ready to post it, I tell the editor to convert my markdown to HTML for posting. This is a much easier format for me than using BBCode or a heavy editing tool like MS Word.
                    Last edited by Wayne Luke; Tue 14th May '19, 2:07pm.
                    Translations provided by Google.

                    Wayne Luke
                    The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud demonstration site.
                    vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
                    Vote for your favorite feature requests and the bugs you want to see fixed.

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      I am having the same problem with people who want to access my forums. They do not want to participate in anything. Anyways, I am doing what needs to be done, and am removing inactive members.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Originally posted by Mohammed Abu Risha View Post
                        They do not want to participate in anything.
                        It is estimated that about 1% of visitors to forums will become active on the site. This is after about 8-10% of visitors actually completing registration. Small focused communities are the outliers here. They tend to covert more visitors to registered users if they have good information sharing.

                        The more traffic that you can get from people interested in your topic, the better your odds.
                        Translations provided by Google.

                        Wayne Luke
                        The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud demonstration site.
                        vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
                        Vote for your favorite feature requests and the bugs you want to see fixed.

                        Comment


                        • Mohammed Abu Risha
                          Mohammed Abu Risha commented
                          Editing a comment
                          People (hundreds) approach me for training. The best way for me to train them is through the forums. Their best way is an approach which I like to call "a take-away approach". I am resisting that and said to them in the forums "My forums, my way, my road". By the way, I am grateful for vbulletin. The translation community in the Arab world knows about me simply through vbulletin boards. It is 100% through participation in several forums that I became an international consultant. Thumbs up for the good work!

                        • Wayne Luke
                          Wayne Luke commented
                          Editing a comment
                          If people are approaching you to be trained, then you should use Paid Subscriptions and set up payment systems so they can access the information and classes you develop.

                      • #14
                        Originally posted by Wayne Luke View Post
                        Eventually, we introduced mobile apps to work around some of those issues. With vBulletin 5 Connect, the entire system is mobile friendly.
                        Does the vBulletin mobile app offer any functionality beyond the vBulletin 5 responsive design?

                        To put it another way - if I am running vBulletin 5, is there any reason to get the app as well?

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          The main purpose of the Mobile Suite is to provide users with a lower bandwidth option on their phones. Only data is transferred on each page load. The interface is built into the App when it is compiled. As the site owner, a presence in the different app stores can provide an advertising benefit if people are searching for your topic.

                          If those are benefits for your community, then purchasing the mobile suite can help you.
                          Translations provided by Google.

                          Wayne Luke
                          The Rabid Badger - a vBulletin Cloud demonstration site.
                          vBulletin 5 API - Full / Mobile
                          Vote for your favorite feature requests and the bugs you want to see fixed.

                          Comment

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