Although social media giants have seemingly replaced old-fashioned forums, it looks like they’re making a comeback. There are many reasons why membership forums are increasingly popular — and many reasons you might want to implement one in your membership site too.
Why would you do it? And if you decide to do it, how do you set it up?
You have questions, we have answers. Read on and find out more.
Why Would You Want a Membership Forum?
It might seem like online forums are a thing of the past, but they can be incredibly valuable for your membership site. Here’s why:
Social media is too large
Social media is considered to be the more modern offspring of online forums. However, the most well-known social media sites have several issues:
- They are too large for actual communities to be formed (even in closed-knit groups, like Facebook groups, for example)
- They have issues regarding data collection, cookies, and advertising (as their entire model is built on collecting data about users and serving them with seemingly suitable ads)
- It’s hard for a membership site owner to cut through the noise
- They are often public, which may make group/ community members feel exposed
Membership forums offer a dialogue-based alternative to social media. No frills, no fuss, just discussing the topic of interest. And if you need any proof of how social media has not taken over online forums, think of how popular Reddit is. People go there for information, so why not create a similar forum for your members focused on your specific niche?
No spam, just value
Online forums can be a goldmine for people interested in a specific topic. Instead of searching their questions on Google (and finding general answers to their questions), they can go to an online forum and discuss their issues with other people interested in the same topic. This type of interaction is very human and is much preferred to searching for answers online, particularly when you’re looking for other people who’ve had a similar experience/ question as you have.
Plus, membership forums are far less likely to be spammed with ads and other unwanted content. With some moderation, you can keep membership forums clean, tidy, and in line with your own views of what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
Creating a community around your site
Membership forums are a great way to build an actual community around your site and content. People can connect with each other, share their experiences, ask questions, give advice, and generally just chat about the topic. This adds a social layer to your membership site that can be incredibly valuable for members and you, as the owner.
Giving members a chance to connect
We’re social animals, even when we’re online. Membership forums can help you enable your members to connect on a deeper level. They can exchange ideas, ask questions, and generally just support each other in whatever endeavor they’re pursuing related to your content or niche. This is a great way to make people loyal to your membership site and personal brand, as well as make them feel part of a community.
Improved engagement for your content
Membership forums are also a great way to promote your content without making it feel like a pushy move. You can start discussions about your content, answer related questions, and generally just create a dialogue around the topics of interest. This is far more organic than other methods of promotion or engagement, and people will likely appreciate being able to connect with each other through your membership site.
An additional channel for your customer support
Having a membership forum can also be a great way to handle customer support. If someone needs help with something related to your content, they can ask questions in the forum, and other members will likely come to the rescue. This is especially helpful if you’re unable to provide customer support yourself or if it’s an issue that other people have dealt with in the past.
Generate new content ideas
User-generated content is always a great source of inspiration and ideas. By having a membership forum, you can get a better understanding of what your members are interested in and use that to determine new content ideas. Plus, this is a great way to create additional content for your membership site without spending too much time researching or creating something from scratch.
Building authority in your niche
The more laser-focused, clean, and value-driven your membership forum is, the more likely you’ll attract experts to it. And when that happens, your entire membership site will be associated with industry authority, adding value to your overall offering.
How to Set Up a Membership Forum
If you’ve decided membership forums are for you, then you’ll be very happy to learn that setting up a membership forum is fairly easy. All you need is a good membership site plugin that can integrate with a community add-on.
For example, Ultimate Membership Pro is integrated with BuddyPress, out of the box. What this means is that you can connect your Content Management System (WordPress), your membership site plugin (Ultimate Membership Pro), and your forum (BuddyPress) in a seamless, hassle-free way.
There’s more to it: BuddyPress isn’t your usual “forum” builder, but a way to create a microsocial media-like environment on your site, where each member can create their own user profiles, add other members as friends, and even message each other.
Once you have a membership plugin and the BuddyPress add-on, you’ll only need to customize it according to your needs. Everything is code-free, so you don’t have to learn how to program to get things going and reap all the benefits membership forums have to offer.
Membership forums are not for everyone. But if you want to:
- Create a sense of community around your membership site
- Improve engagement with your content
- Provide additional customer support and learning opportunities
- Generate new content ideas
- Build authority in your niche
…Then adding a membership forum to your site is the way to go. With the right plugin and add-on, you can easily create a community of experts and loyal members that will benefit your membership site in more ways than one.
Keep in mind that a forum comes with responsibility, too: you must make sure you moderate it, ensure everyone is adhering to the rules, and that all members feel respected and appreciated. Furthermore, you should have enough members on your site to actually start conversations in your forum (so if you’re just getting started with your membership site, you might want to wait a bit until you implement your forum.)
All in all, however, membership forums can be a great asset to your membership site, so they’re more than worth considering!