Populating a brand new discussion board: what's your strategy?

Ok, let me get this straight guys: we are considering starting up a discussion board on our website, in order to drive traffic. The topic that our service covers is quite mainstream, so we’re sure people will interact a lot.

However, there is one thing we have doubts about: how to kick-off the forum? A bulletin board with ZERO discussions on each category might act as a big put off for people to come and start discussing.

Did you hire a community manager? Did you do pay people to interact with each other? Or…?

Come up with 30 topics. Post one per day for a month. Post on a blog that “on our discussion board [so and so] asked, …” with a link.

Then have another of your team and/or an acquaintance have a go at answering each question each day.

Please take this the way it’s intended (helpful); I’m not trying to be rude.

Why? What makes you sure? What evidence do you have to support that theory?

Just some hopefully thought-provoking questions :smile:


To get the evidence suggested by @tnorthcutt, how about a simple page telling your visitors that a discussion board is in the works? Place a prominent link to that page elsewhere on the site and track the number of clickthroughs to that page. (Actual clicks, not bots.)

You could even go so far as to put a simple form on that page with a check box for each board topic you are considering and ask people to vote for the boards they want most.

The number of clickthroughs will tell you if people will at least look at the boards, the number of form submissions will tell you if anyone your audience is likely to participate.

If you do not have enough traffic to make the above trial work you might consider seeding a just a few main topic boards to get things going then add new boards as warranted by traffic and participation levels.

If you’re that sure that people will participate, then just put it up empty (except for one “hello welcome to our new forum blah blah…” post, and maybe a couple other seed posts). It will take a bit of time, but it will grow.

A few thoughts:

  • I wouldn’t fake it. Fake questions and fake replies by friends look way dumber than an empty forum. People have a pretty good radar for that stuff. Don’t fake it, it’s a bigger turn off than just being genuine.
  • Use only one category at first. That way all activity will go in one place and it will look denser. Then, as it grows, you’ll see what categories should be broken out. An empty forum doesn’t look amazing, but an empty forum with 17 categories and sub-categories looks really bad.
  • If you have an app or anything already on your site that requires a login, make it so logging in to your app automatically logs in to the forums. Probably the biggest hurdle to participation is having to go through the whole account creation thing.
  • If you want to accelerate things you might try setting up a contest or drawing of some sort. To win you have to register with the forums and have the best reply to X (be creative here). Naturally be transparent about the fact that you are doing this to help boost membership of your brand new forum.
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No worries, I see your point, and actually thanks for the question. It makes me think :slight_smile:

We assume we are going to generate interactions because the topic we cover is quite a social issue within the country. People need advice to get out from the situation we are trying to address. An evidence is that there is plenty of related discussion groups on Facebook: these have ridiculous amount of members and a lot of interaction.

We are trying to reproduce that, and offer a free-service on the side too.

What we are really going to need is community managers and discussion “kick-offers”.

A launch page asking what topics they would like to be covered? That would be a good idea actually, thanks :wink:

Thanks Oliver. Good points there.

The social login integration is the key. That’s why we’re using Disqus for the blog.