Why Start a Forum in 2019?
In last week's newsletter (Is This Going to Move the Needle? And When?), I mentioned how we're trying to do things that don't scale, while still making sure it is moving the needle long-term.
For a long time, maintaining a community in Slack and answering questions there was the right choice for us: We were able to answer fast and be approachable, which was a clear advantage compared to the big players Amazon and Google.
The problem with Slack, however, is that content gets lost quickly, so a lot of users are asking the same questions over and over again.
This is the reason why we decided to start our own discussion board based on Discourse, a great open source software which was pretty easy to set up. Here are some more reasons why we believe a forum can be a great next step for us:
Credibility: Developers tend to google a lot of stuff. Having search results with real people discussing things (as opposed to just some docs) increases trust that the framework is actually being used.
Framing: Although we love working with our community, it can be quite time-consuming. to answer questions every day. In Slack, it's just helping out with the long-term goal to build a great community. In the forum, it's doing this as well, but also creating valuable content for discovery (short-term satisfaction). Some simple things like this can make daily work more enjoyable and motivating.
Reduced friction: Starting an online discussion can be a great way to test out a tutorial or blog post before putting in all the work.
One Week In: Here's What I Learned
It. Is. Tough.
Getting started with a new forum can be extremely challenging. No one wants to participate in an empty forum. Fortunately, we already had a community, but it is still a lot of hard work until we are where we want to be.
We decided to do the following things to make the Jovo Community Forum a worthwhile place:
Seed initial discussions: We just started discussing about stuff that we think is interesting, like our recent Testing Tuesday episode, or voice apps for education. For us, it was important to "lead by example" and create interesting topics for anyone interested in voice, not only developer-related things.
Ask for help: Once there was a conversation happening, we reached out to active community members in Slack or Twitter and ask them if they would like to add something to the discussion.
Share nuggets: Once the discussion has some initial responses, we share it with others, for example by tweeting it. Shareability is one of the key benefits of a forum compared to Slack.
Some Early Results
We created the first forum post last Wednesday, so it's less than a week. However, we're quite happy with the results so far:
Those are just a few ideas. I'm curious what you think!