How to Turn Online Forums into Social Media Communities
Online forums are becoming more and more popular in Nigeria especially with the success of Nairaland. Nairaland.com has been around since 2003 and has grown to become the hottest web destination for topical and societal issues that concern everyone.
With almost 400,000 members, Nairaland is competing with Facebook’s Nigerian user base which is currently about 500, 000.
But some of these online forums have not been able to manage their communities with an Online Reputation Management (ORM) system; or have not built their community around social media tools and Web 2.0 technologies. In fact, I rarely use them, except perhaps for NigeriaVillageSquare.com
Personally, I find most of these online forums, especially the ones built under the vBulletin and SMF softwares that don’t have social media functions, sub-standard compared to what online forums around the world have become as a result of the social media revolution.
Generally, an online forum that wants to adopt web 2.0 tools and technologies should critically access and determine the web needs of its target audience. For example, if the target audience are people who just come around to find the latest gist, but hardly spend time on the site, then you may not need to bother about Web 2.0.
On the other hand, if your audience are web-savvy (i.e. they understand what it means to interact, discuss and network within an online forum), then you should critically consider investing some time and money in Web 2.0 tools and technologies for your site.
Below are 7 tips on how to turn your online forum into a social media community.
Adopt a Social Networking Approach
Social Networking is simply the major buzzword. Every Web 2.0 site on the web space seems to be adopting a social networking angle to their business. When your forum members can interact and network with other members and building networks through such relationships.
Allow Users Create Blogs
Blogs are more likely to get people’s attention, since they display information in a more organized way. Thus, for an online forum, users can write blogs on any topic and could be used to publish jobs, announcements, news, events, etc.
Use Social Media Applications
Social media sites such as Digg, Sturvs, Delicious, Muti, Technorati, Facebook, Twitter, etc are very useful Web 2.0 tools that could be integrated into online forums. Thus, content could move around the web space faster and easier when these tools are used effectively.
Create a Facebook/Twitter Page
Facebook is a great tool to build your online forum’s reputation and attract more fans and visits. A Twitter account will also do the magic.
Feeds have become a very popular Web 2.0 application that syndicates information into a reader for easy access. It is gradually replacing the email newsletters and can be accessed through Google Reader amongst others. Thus, an integration of post feeds and comments feeds will be a good fit.
These days, you can do virtually everything with mobile phones. An online forum that applies mobile 2.0 applications to inform users of the hottest news and announcements will be a hit.
Create a Rating System
To build successful online forums or communities that promote high-value conversations, there should be a post and comment rating system that rewards quality contributions to the community. Users’ comments can be rated to encourage meaningful conversations in the community.
I personally think that if these tips are applied in Nigerian online forums, there’ll be more meaningful participation, online collaboration and community engagement. Besides, it will encourage companies that want to target the online forum’s audience to advertise their products and brand.
Photo via: ApolloMediaBlog