Community forums are a lot of fun, and I would guess that you are an active member of at least two.
You've probably thought about starting a forum for your podcast. This can often be an amazing thing for your podcast. Consider the following before you launch a forum for your podcast.
5 benefits of a forum
- A forum turns your listeners into a community.
- A forum enables your community to engage with each other.
- A forum will attract new people and boost SEO.
- A forum provides another avenue for feedback from your audience.
- A forum empowers your community to help each other and frees your focus.
When you have a topic that inspires a lot of interaction
Some topics and niches are naturally more interactive than others. I've seen and experienced this especially with TV-show related podcasts.
This can apply to almost any topic where people will have passionate and varying opinions, theories, and observations.
When you get more feedback than you can handle
Are you being overloaded with feedback from your audience? Sometimes, this will be with questions and feedback that only you can answer. But other times, the feedback will be general opinions, requests for validity, and stuff that you may not be interested or available to handle.
When you have a forum, you can point your audience to share their thoughts, theories, opinions, observations, and questions there. They'll receive more conversation and more contributions than you may have been able to give by yourself.
When you have enough time to moderate
Running forums are no picnic. Get ready for technical problems, spammers, requests for features and sections, and peacemaking.
If you choose the right forum software and configure it well, you can eliminate many technical problems. Make sure you know what you want your forum to do and don't feel like you have to adhere to the latest request.
Also have clearly stated, easily accessible rules that will guide the interaction.
When you have people you can trust to moderate
Have you gotten to know some of your audience members enough that you can trust them to properly represent your podcast's brand? These people can be priceless team members to assist in moderating your forum.
Find someone just as passionate about the topic as you, and someone who is already active in the forums. Give them authority to handle the smaller issues.
When your post comments are starting new conversations
Comments on your blog posts and shownotes are a lot of fun. But they should generally be focused on the theme of that post or podcast episode. If you're receiving too many comments to keep track of, or especially if the comments are regularly on different topics, this is a great time to start a forum. You can point people there to start their new conversations and invite others to join.
When a neutral-ground forum isn't enough
A forum is a lot of work, but can also relieve a lot of burden. Before you start your own forum, consider whether there's a better place for your audience to go where they may already be.
For me, I regularly participate in several podcasting-focused communities (TAP118) and encourage my listeners to go there. This also has the benefit of exposing me to a broader audience and not just my own followers.
Top forum software
- vBulletin is the premium, $249 standalone forum software. It's the best of the best and is used and trusted by many large companies and communities.
- phpBB is a free standalone forum software. It has been around for a long time and is very powerful and extensible. But it's commonly targeted by spammers and its theme and plugin structure is horrendous.
- Simple Machines Forum (SMF) is also a free standalone forum software. It's easier than phpBB but almost just as extensible.
- bbPress is a free forum plugin for WordPress. It's the easiest to manage and it integrates well with your current WordPress theme and plugins.
If you consider different software, I highly recommend you pick something that works with the Tapatalk mobile forum app.
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Great podcast today! I never really thought of having a forum surrounding my podcast, but it’s amazing how your mind goes when you listen to a podcast while you are laying down and resting your eyes.
I am familiar with another free solution called simplepress which is used by the creators of wishlist member in their Insider Membership site. It automatically connects to your wordpress account and gravatar, and when I downloaded it for one of my marketing training sites I am creating it looked VERY extensive. I’m actually looking forward to putting it together!
Anyways, keep up the good work, and thanks for being one of my go to podcasting mentors (You, Dave, Ray, and Cliff!)
Thank you, Danielle!
I’ve always heard when you have 1000 listeners per episode is when you should think about it. I know the three forums I started (using simple press) eventually all get taken over by spam.
I remember hearing that, too. 1,000 is a good number. ONCE podcast was up to 2,000 or 3,000 when I thought it was time for the forum.
Another cool forum software that I used fr a while is simple press at simple-press.com (free)
Excellent show, Daniel.
My show has around 500 listeners, but we have a healthy and active forum. Our community has been getting stronger and more unified thanks to the interaction on the site.
I’m running PHPBB for the forum. I looked at trying BBPress, but I couldn’t get it to actually work. I do agree that managing plugins for PHPBB is far more of a hassle than it should be. I installed a couple of plugins and a theme, and all I need to do now is the occasional user admin.
I use the question option in user registration, and I’ve not had a single spammer so far (knock on wood) in the 8 or so months we’ve been running it.
My site: http://www.mu-podcat.com
The forum: http://www.mu-podcat.com/campus
I’ve had maybe 4 spammers get through in the year I’ve been running the forum.
I’ve been using a Facebook group as a “poor man’s” forum. It works fairly well, though obviously non-facebook users wouldn’t have access.
That works, too. But yeah, you miss the openness for people not on Facebook.
I’ve also found Facebook groups to be really difficult to track separate conversations and threads.
Hey, Daniel. Great info this episode. One option that I didn’t hear is the free forum services option.
Places like delphiforums.com or atopica.com offer free forum services. Then a website can link to the forums.
Kind of a poor man’s solution maybe. But I had actually started my forums long before a podcast for them was even thought about.
Those are good suggestions. Vanilla Forums is another good option. But I just can’t, in good conscience, recommend a service hosted by someone else on a website you don’t own and control.
You can self-host Vanilla. I LOVE it. My “real” job is installing and configuring Vanilla communities.
Daniel, what about BuddyPress, which is also a free plug-in for WordPress (and is actually MADE by WordPress)?
BuddyPress is a social network, not just a forum. I’m using it now on one of my sites, but using bbPress for the forums. Faithfully,
Daniel J. Lewis
OK… I had heard of it, but didn’t know much. Thanks!