Finding out what the community needs before building the forum


(ruta ganusauskaite) #1

Hey all!

I’m running an online ecommerce forum which currently has a lot of traffic, but very low engagement. The thing is, the forum has become an alternative to our product’s support channel - people come in asking technical questions and leave as soon as they receive a reply from a staff member.

We’re currently working on a strategic plan on how to boost engagement, encourage more User Generated Content, etc. In other words, we’re about to rebuild the forum from scartch.

To start off, I believe finding out what our potential users really need is the initial step of the whole transformation. I’m thinking of launching a survey, asking our product’s users about their needs and expectations of the forum. Has anyone ever conducted such research? What questions would you recommend to ask?

Ideally, I’d love to find out what content they’d be interested in, what topics are the most senstivie to them, what format would be the most appealing, etc.

I’d appreciate a lot if you could share your experience on how you figured out what the potential user of your forum wants and needs.

Thanks <3

(Bo McGuffee) #2

I haven’t actually done any research like this. I do have a thought, however. When you’re collecting information about your members, it might not be a bad idea to figure out what their expertise and interests are. Then, you could contact them later to see if they would be interested in writing topics for you for the benefit of the community.

(Piper_Wilson) #3

I’m going to be following this thread with interest.

(Richard Millington) #4

Labas @ruta,

Sorry for not getting back to you, I’ve been in the USA the past week.

A few things here:

  1. Most forums have a high visit to participation ratio. When you say ‘low traffic’ - how low are we talking about?

  2. People in most forums usually leave when they have an answer…why would they stay? :slight_smile:

  3. We’ve done a LOOOTTT of user research, I’m doing some with two clients right now. There is generally two parts to this, what people say they want and what they haven’t realized they want. For example, with one client I asked “what do you most want to see in a community?”. They gave me a list of resources they wanted. I later asked "What frustrates you most in your work?". They gave a completely different set of options. It’s hard for some people to really imagine what’s possible in a community.

So I’d ask questions about their hopes and ambitions first before asking them want they want in the community.

Look for things they feel really passionate about that a community can solve. You generally want to know more about their daily work than their long-term hopes and ambitions. What are they working on day? What frustrated them yesterday? Where do they hope to be next year? What is the one thing that would change everything for them etc?

You also want to get a sense of whether this community is a function or an identity. When they describe themselves, do they do it through the prism of this identity? Or do they only visit the community when there is a question they want the answer to?