When running a popular forum, there is usually a desire to create a LOT of sticky threads. Some popular examples:
- Introduce yourself here!
- Forum rules and FAQs – READ BEFORE POSTING!
- Site announcements and updates
- The Idiot’s Guide to using this site
- List of informative links
We find that some sticky threads attract few posts. Other sticky threads are simply ignored by newbies who prefer to dive into the fray immediately. This behavior makes us wonder. Does it make sense to have a long list of threads taking up prime real estate at the top of your board?
We don’t think so. We prefer no sticky threads at all. This ensures that the hottest content always rises to the very top of the page.
However, we admit there are instances when a single sticky thread is warranted and there are even times when it makes sense to have multiple sticky threads. For example, let’s say you have a FAQ thread as a sticky thread and you’re running a contest and want to promote the contest too. That’s an understandable scenario, as long as the contest thread gets demoted when the contest is over.
By an large, we have found that users strongly prefer to have the hottest and most recent content at the very top of the page. Maybe your forum has a long list of sticky threads, some of which have not had a new post in a few months. Ask yourself if they are absolutely critical to using your forum or if you would be better served by letting the hottest content rise to the top of the thread list.
Earlier this week, we examined why unpopular forums require so much effort. One reason is that it’s easier for large crowds of people to generate compelling content than for a single individual or a small group. Let’s explore this notion in more detail.
We know that compelling content is usually controversial, provocative, or extreme in some way. However, many site owners simply don’t have time to create provocative content or they prefer to remain neutral because of their status as leaders in the community.
In other words, the court jester can entertain crowds in a way that a king cannot. It is exhausting to play the role of king and court jester at the same time. And, successful forum communities usually a have a large number of “court jesters” operating at the same time.
But it’s not just the court jester-types that make forum communities spring to life. In actuality, popular forum communities are filled with all types of people. It’s the variety of viewpoints, personal experiences, and character traits that make forum conversations so compelling. Large groups generate the best forum content because it is impossible for a single person or small group of people to emulate this vast array of personalities.
One helpful way to think about content generation for your forum is to borrow an analogy from the sales world. “Seeds, nets, and spears” is a phrase used to describe three types of leads that a company might use to generate sales. Putting this phrase into the context of forum software, we define each term as follows:
Seeds. Content added to your forum by the site owner or users. A seed compels other users to participate either by submitting a reply or creating their own thread. Seeds grow into threads and bring in future users via search engines.
Nets. A request or invitation to a large group of users to contribute to your forum. An example would be inviting subscribers to your newsletter to participate in the forum or putting a large advertisement for your forum on your main site to draw traffic to the forum.
Spears. A discussion led by a well respected authority in the community. One key to a successful forum is buy in from the site owner and other well known people in the community. The right person can act as a lightning rod that stimulates conversation.
The next time you’re thinking about ways to generate more activity in your forum, think about content generation strategies in terms of Seeds, Nets, and Spears. Note that these tactics are complementary. We recommend utilizing all three approaches in tandem.
Anyone who’s tried starting a forum community from scratch knows how challenging it is to create fresh new threads on a daily basis. It’s much easier when your forum has reached critical mass and hundreds or even thousands of users contribute to make your forum interesting. We have found that site owners often need help to bridge the gap between launching their forum and achieving “self propelling” status where the users take over content generation duties.
Ninja Post makes it easy for site owners to add content to their forum by creating a personalized news feed with Yahoo Pipes. This newsfeed pulls from related, relevant, and complementary sites selected by the site owner. Site owners can then visit the Newsfeed page in the admin panel (pictured below) and instantly post new and interesting threads to their forum. Adding content to your forum is as simple as a click of a mouse.
Above: Create a new thread from a list of recent news items. This newsfeed is related to college football and pulls relevant stories from ESPN College Football, The New York Times NCAA Football, and other related sources.