(Astroblogging)–You know a blog is “alive” when it hosts a conversation. You’re not just posting articles about the cardinal square or the astrological topic of the day. Readers are actually commenting. This level of participation in turn helps motivate you to write the next blog post, because you know some people actually care what you have to say.
If you have already built a community on your blog – if you have regulars who even talk to each other in the comments section – it may be time to introduce a forum. That way, your core readers can start their own topics, they’re not just relying on you to spark the conversations.
There are many advantages to hosting a forum on your astrology blog:
- It boosts page views.
- User-generated content can bring you more search engine traffic.
- It increases retention. Readers who are involved in a small community feel more invested, they feel like they have a home.
- Having a forum gives you a deeper understanding of your readers, which provides data to help you write blog posts more customized to their needs.
- Integrating a forum into a blog can be a technical challenge, especially if you want the forum to maintain the look and feel of your blog. A standard vBulletin board (image) looks nothing like a blog. ElsaElsa does a good job of integrating a forum that fits in with the style of her blog. It appears from looking at the source code that she uses bbPress, which integrates with WordPress blogs. On Sasstrology, I use bbPress within a larger BuddyPress installation. (BuddyPress is a social networking platform within WordPress).
- You have to moderate discussions. If you are not intimately involved with your forum, it can get out of control. Face it, when members are allowed to be anonymous, sometimes their darker selves come out. Nastiness ensues. When I first started my forum, I had to learn the hard way that a set of community guidelines is essential to prevent the forum from turning into a cesspool of spam and personal attacks. If your community is large enough and you have mentally stable members who are committed to its health, you can enlist them to become moderators, and give them privileges from the backend of your forum software to delete posts that violate the forum rules.
Comment below: What is your experience with forums within blogs? Do you think it’s worth the trouble for your own blog?
About the Author
Jeffrey Kishner is publisher of Sasstrology.com.
I’ve been wondering lately about paid forums. I know you considered one for Sasstrology. Forums take up so much time with maintenance and moderation, I’ve been wondering if charging would deter spammers/trolls/troublemakers and keep the pool of members “cleaner.” The downside is that there would be fewer members, and you’d have to work hard to make the forum worth the money. The upside is that you know the people who sign up really want to be there and are truly interested in the discussions.
One more thing- have you seen the vanilla forum? It’s so easy to embed. It doesn’t have many fancy features, but it’s free and you can customize it. I’ve been testing it out here: http://astrofix.vanillaforums.com/
You would have to already have a very strong community for members to be willing to pay to be forum members. You’d have to offer some “expert” knowledge that your readers could not access anywhere else, in my opinion.