How customer and user forums can help build your business

Thanks to Chris for sharing at our latest meetup how his jobs forum has grown into Wikijobs today.

Just like everything in life, it is never good to compare your fledgling start-up with a company that has been building over 7 years. But by delving a little deeper you find the problems, dilemmas and hard work are just the same for everyone at the beginning.

How it began:

In 2007 Wikijobs started their forum – and like every community they had to build members quickly. After all no one wants to be the first at the party.

So a combination of posting themselves and linking their community on other sites helped them build a user base quickly, “Build bridges into your site so it is no longer an Island”.

Here are the 3 key pieces of advice that came from Chris:

1.  Content is King: The posts they made in their own community were detailed and useful – lots of advice on getting a job. Advice that could not be found elsewhere on the web. This drew people in.

And here is the piece of advice I wish I had a year ago – whether you are writing blog posts or your forum is generating great advice, it is this content that draws people to your community.

So if you are starting your community, one  easy first step could be to start a blog and allow people to make comments. It will not only help you develop the tone for your business, but begin to draw people to your idea. Their comments will provide valuable customer insight (as well as being the start of a forum).

For WikiJobs, their growing forum posts helped them create the content and articles and brought people in – like example questions for tests run by the big companies for recruitment. All crowdsourced by the community.

2.  Email is still vital. Email people and let them know what is going on in the community and encourage them to participate. So pick a platform where that email data is yours! There are a lot of off-the shelf platforms that can help you do that (Drupal, Buddypress etc). 

Email keeps your customers hooked.

3. Once you have a community you can sell. The size of their community attracts advertisers and their community also use 3rd party products (like practice psychometric tests) from which they get a good affiliate fee. So once you have a community of size there are ways to monetise. 

They also reward their community for bringing friends into the community.

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