As a message board publisher there will be times when you'll need to "prime the pump" with regard to fresh content. When your board is new, making a focused effort to populate content is a necessity. And, as your forum grows, there will probably be other times you'll want to introduce new material to stimulate discussion.
While every message board owner would love to preside over a thriving community engaged in provocative dialogue, it does take some planning and execution to get there. To that end, some thought should be given to defining the content and perspective your community will promote. It bears mentioning that while this chore is often overlooked in the planning process, the more clearly you define the core "personality" of your community prelaunch, the easier it will be to market your site and attract members in the future.
A clearly defined theme provides two distinct advantages: By promoting a niche interest, you increase your message board's visibility in the search engines as a specialized "authority" site: Secondly, you make it easier for people to determine if their interests are the same as yours. Niche communities, while often small, tend to have a more passionate following where enthusiasts will seek your forum out vs. you having to find and attract them.
Once you've settled on the identity and subject of your message board, the next step is to decide which topics will best support that identity.
The first topics you post to your board should be limited to a short list of the most interesting and compelling issues that relate to the core subject. Resist the urge to create lots of topic categories until they're necessary or members request them. When visitors see a message board with a huge list of categories it can be daunting and discourage them from participating. Also, excessive categories can dilute thread and post counts making the forum appear less active.
If you're passionate about the subject of your message board, generating that first content should take little effort and even be enjoyable. Consider choosing a topic you would have liked reading about when you first got interested in the subject. Next, create some content that's a little more provocative and insightful. Perhaps write about current events or developments related to your board's topic. As you continue posting content and marketing your site, your forum community will grow and begin to offer considerable content for users to browse.
On a side note, try to make posts long enough to be informative but short enough so readers won't stray or lose interest.
To help generate a steady stream of engaging content that will keep people interested, we've assembled a list of ideas top publishers use to bolster their offerings. Consider using some or all of the following suggestions as they apply to your community:
- Develop an editorial calendar: One useful technique is to think longer term about content management. Consider setting time aside on a weekly or even monthly basis to review board content and map out a direction and schedule for the introduction of new topics. Reviewing current discussion trends in your message board will also help you to stay abreast of your community's interests and brainstorm new topics accordingly.
- Schedule topics in advance: To build on the previous suggestion, scheduling topics in advance provides the opportunity to develop ideas more fully over time so they're better when you finally post them to your community.
- Make a list of interesting things you've discovered about your topic: Whether it's an amusing YouTube video, a provocative article making the rounds on the internet or some fantastic discovery in the news, gathering a few interesting links into a bullet-point posting is a fun way to keep your board fresh without spending a lot of time or energy.
- Map (mastermind) ideas: Start with either brand new content ideas or refer to interesting topics previously discussed in the forum and then brainstorm ways those subjects can be expanded into new topics. Then, take those new ideas and think about ways they too can be expanded into different, new posts. This technique can potentially help you identify countless new topics to write about.
- Turn research into content: any time you spend searching for answers or information relating to your message board's topic, take notes of everything you come across and turn that into content. If this information is valuable or compelling to you, there's a good chance it will be meaningful to others who share your same interests.
- Review posts made by forum members: Not surprisingly, this can often be a goldmine of ideas for new content. By reviewing the posts of your forum members, you can often find information or opinions that spark ideas for compelling new discussion topics.
- Interview an expert: invite a recognized authority in your niche to drop by your forum for an interview to share their opinions and expertise with your community. This is a great way to give your readers a relevant expert's opinion and perhaps even learn something about the topic yourself.
While the list above is by no means exhaustive, it will hopefully equip you with some new tools to continue building content. As an added bonus, the list below describes different types of perspectives forum publishers take when formulating new posts. Experiment with some of these and you might find they open up the hidden writer in you. Sift this list for ideas to craft additional new content:
- Instructional Posts: Instructional posts explain how to do something. Try adapting this perspective to your writing and you might be surprised at the response. Instructional content is some of the most sought after and viewed content on the internet.
- Reviews: Another highly searched for term on the web is 'review'. Reviews come in every variety and can cover a broad range of topics. Provide an insightful opinion on an issue relating to your board and ask readers for theirs.
- Top 10 (or 5, 7, etc) Lists: One of the easiest, and most provocative posts to submit are ranking lists. They're popular with readers, can easily be expanded into subsequent posts, and are always reliable for stimulating responses from the community.
- Profiles: Pick an interesting personality in your niche and do a little research on them to present to your readers. Illuminate how they've reached their position and write about the characteristics and habits they have that others in your niche might like to develop.
- Rant: Get passionate, say what's on your mind and tell it like it is. Rants are great for starting discussions and can be fun if done in the right spirit. Just be aware they can also spark a flaming thread. Be sensitive to your community but have a little fun in the process.
- Link Posts: The 'link post' is always popular and is simply a matter of finding a quality post on another message board or blog. Link to it with an explanation of why you're linking and include a personal comment or a quote from the post. Adding a comments makes these posts more engaging and useful to your readers.
- 'Problem' posts: Another popular theme constantly searched in Google is that of the problem/solution format. If there is a genuine problem relating to your forum's main topic, bring it to light and begin a discussion about possible remedies. This is where the power of the community can shine as people contribute suggestions, observations and personal experiences as they relate to the 'problem' you've showcased.
Now that you've reviewed a few "best practices" for generating fresh forum content, it's time for the real fun to begin. Start your engines and begin writing!
Hopefully this article has provided a future reference for the continued creation of engaging content for your message board. Stay tuned for our next installment in this series on building a successful, self sustaining forum where we'll discuss more tips, tactics and strategies. Thanks for reading!