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Tips and strategies on making a forum facility successful?



I have two linked questions.

1. What tips and strategies you have on making our in house Management Development site forum successful?

2.  When running a forum and commenting facility - what does good look like?  e.g. if an average of site revisits is 5 per person, if that good?

One Response

  1. I have been involved with the

    I have been involved with the implementation of many in-house company intranets and the cry ‘we must have a forum’ is usually high on the shopping list.  The reality is though that many forums fail to gain momentum and critical mass. I sense from your question that this may be the issue here?

    I have also done some teaching on collaborative technologies and as you probably know there have been forums around since the birth of the internet. These are often driven by a strong ‘community of interest’ where like minded people come together to chat and exchange.  It is a reality of life I feel that quite often the fact that people work together is simply NOT ENOUGH to make a genuine ‘community of interest’. That may be difficult to swallow but it is the reality of most employees perspective. No genuine community of interest = no viable forum.

    That said, I have seen some very successful staff forums and to some extent you are on safer ground here with yours as its specific and topic based i.e. Management Development.

    Some critical success factors to consider to make your forum vibrant.

    Create forums with a REAL reason to exist and for people to visit, read and contribute. This may be a permanent forum or a short life or task specific forum. Keep asking ‘why does this forum exist, what is it achieving?’

    Create threads with a real purpose, with a plan and an outcome. “We are evaluating some new training software. We need your ideas and suggestions. We will consider the suggestions and feedback with planned actions.” “ Lets share ideas about the best way to keep a learning log.”

    Don’t let threads drift – manage threads and close them down when they have achieved your purpose. ‘Thanks for your contributions on the new testing software for induction – we have selected a new product X and this will be rolled out across the summer.’

    Segment your forums into smaller communities if helpful – I have been doing some work in the NHS recently on their new leadership programme. They have leadership training targeted at all sorts of levels – top managers, middle managers, clinical mangers, aspiring leaders. So in your example consider creating a series of management development forums targeted at specific groups.  Someone taking first steps into supervision will have a different range of interests than a senior leader.

    Be clear about the rules. In general trust people to be sensible but be firm if they step out of line. People need to feel ‘safe’ to speak their minds – this is a tricky one and candidly is one of the primary reasons work place forums often just do not work. Staff think ‘Big Brother’ is watching and listening !

    Have a facilitator. This role can be explicit or behind the scenes – seeding forums, creating threads, updating actions. This takes time and needs to be planned in someone’s day job though.

    Consider a forum with a ‘subscribe’ facility – this basically gives subscribers email updates  where they can monitor forums and specific threads when they are updated – much more likely to participate and read if they get an email summarising things happening of interest. This ‘any answers’ forum has just this facility of course.

    In terms of your second question I think that’s much harder. A forum can be successful with a small number of users coming back regularly and often.  Alternatively a wider and bigger user  base dipping in infrequently (when they have a specific question or need )can also be deemed success. 

    At the end of the day a forum is likely to be judged best by its overall impact on management development (in your case example ) outcomes rather than purely on visitor numbers and revisits to the forum itself.

    Hope this helps a little.

    Stewart Long

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