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EXECUTION Help with building a forum based on a mid-traffic niche site

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John_Wick

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Hi guys,

I have been running in circles and postponing the difficult task of building a forum on an existing directory site these days. So, trying my luck to see if I can tap into the power of FastLane thinking and organize my thoughts here...

My question: how to turn a yellow page-like site into a Yelp-like platform?

Some quick context
1. Existing traffic is there: the niche site has 100k to 150k unique visitors per month
2. Limited engagement from a directory: limited to information, which institutions cite as a reference and people check out as a guide post for influence of a publication
3. Proven model existed: There is an established site with a community (like a niched-down quora, with with way lower quality and people)
4. Display ads revenue stabilized: My site earns from adsense / Ezoic
5. The search intent of the visitors: a) getting published, b) checking / confirming the score of a publication, c) browsing for ideas

My objectives: add more value by facilitating people to tap the power of a community and in the process help users increase their influence and enhance their career

My thought process: I thought of sourcing some articles and build a lead magnet for email list - but who wants another email these days? Plus, I have always wanted to tap the scale potential of using crowd / UGC, so a platform seems idea seems ideal.

I guess there are a couple of options (but, there should be a lot more...)
  • option 1: simply enable discussion function based on existing directory pages (I don't prefer this - because there is another site doing this with limited success) - and this incremental change a) won't really help their intent, b) rely on "us" for input, and as a result c) limits growth potential
  • option 2: turn the landing page upside down to encourage people to enter another page/site within the site (with gamifications to build up their profiles and store their publications for career enhancement purposes (like GitHub - but I'm getting ahead of myself...)
  • option 3: don't build anything, just redirect them to a facebook group (not preferred... mainly I don't want to build a house on someone else's land)
My challenges:
1) How to use XenForo: I know this the fastlane forum is built on Xenforo, but I don't see the rich social features or how I can create those gamification rules
2) Is XenForo the answer? Sites like Indie Hackers: Work Together to Build Profitable Online Businesses offers a more "modern" view and functions (like search and view upvotes); but again... where do I start...?
3) What will be a good place to start...? Anyone has experience going through this journey...?

Any thoughts or questions will be appreciated...

Thanks.
John






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Kid

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What will be a good place to start...? Anyone has experience going through this journey...?

Find out if any of those ideas are something people actually want before you attempt to build them.
 
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Genius01

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Interesting. I'll be following your journey. I've also been seriously mulling creating a forum in a very different direction from yours or FLF (mainly location based) for a long time now.

Find out if any of those ideas are something people actually want before you attempt to build them.
I second this, if it's possible.
Is there a way you can validate that your existing traffic want what you want to build?
Though I get that it might be difficult to do this, for a forum.
 

Andy Black

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@MJ DeMarco mentioned in another thread that he wouldn’t choose Xenforo if he was starting again. I can’t remember what MJ recommended. MJ?
 

mindsetferg

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Is the challenge "integrating" a web forum with your current site while keeping the users profiles or what is the main difficulty you foresee?

Because building a forum from scratch is as easy as using phpbb that you can install from CPanl much like you would install wordpress. You can either start a new subdomain on your domain such as forum.website.com and install the files there.

I started the forum www.mindsetmattersfirst.com in just a few minutes.

When I say a few minutes, I mean the installation and getting on is simple. The customization takes a bit longer though.

Step 1) Access your hosting (cpanel?)
Step 2) Create a subdomain, not a new page
Step 3) Install forum technology into that domain directory

Or if that is too difficult, buy up a new domain name extension of your website like www.websitenameforum.com and just advertise it as a new extension from your current website.
 

aeden

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MJ DeMarco

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John_Wick

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@mindsetferg Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. Love your ideas that make building a forum more accessible. I can foresee the following challenges / concerns.

1. Customization - where do I start?
When I say I don't know where to start when I look at Xenforo, I mean, the installation doesn't seem to have the features that one see on FastLane, e.g., multi quote, reactions, @author name to facilitate and encourage engagement in the community. I think I need to take some more time to study one solution at a time like what comes with the cost, and what I need to customize myself. But, there are bigger challenges below...

@Andy Black @aeden Thanks for helping!
@MJ DeMarco Thanks a lot for those two ideas. Will look into it.
@404profound I think you are addressing MJ. Not sure.

2. Compatibility (CraftCMS) I might also need to consider the forum plugins / solutions that could work integrate with CraftCMS, since I read there could be some double log-in issues if not integrated well.

3. Testing / Validating Needs - How do I know people want what I'm trying to create
@Genius01 @Kid I acknowledge this can be an issue, and I frame this challenge as such: how will I approach this to prevent myself from creating something no one wants and if I shall do that, then let it NOT cost me an arm and a leg.
I know there two other major forum sites. I have also had an in-depth conversation with one user each respectively. It's actually tempting hubris to think I can create something "better". But, I have read enough to know better not to do that. The question IMO is how will my site serve a different need.

4. [Moderation / Value Creation] - another challenge is how will I design the forum mechanism so people with answers will give them.

People don't want a forum, people want their problems solved.

The reason I want to create a forum in the first place is so my answers to those users on email become a more scalable value unit. But, then people don't always read comments - they are busy and lazy like me. But engagement and experience still matter.

For example, on FF, my love for FF went down a bit when I saw a random link to my question as the first response. Then Andy chimped in, then the legendary MJ came. My love for the site is back again.

So, how do I replicate that experience on my site. Would I have moderators like Andy and SMEs like MJ? I can't be that all the time, then where do I find them? Why would they give it damn?

5. Differentiation - How would my site be different?
As I mentioned, there is another forum live in the same niche, which aims to allow users to build up their the publications profile much like LinkedIn. There is another less well-known one but with more stickiness that allows users to let others review on a work-in-a-progress. My concern is more on how am I going to position this and serve a different purpose than a moderately better version of "Me Too". (And the "better" value is too subjective for me to know what is working and what is not.)

Thanks to all of your questions and comments.
 

Genius01

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Invision or Discourse. Xenforo sucks.
MJ, care to expatiate on this?
As in, why you think Invision or Discourse is much better, and what are the pros and cons of each, and why Xenforo sucks so bad in this modern day.
It will be a great resource for anyone looking to create a forum in 2020 and beyond, .....hearing things from the perspective of someone with a load of experience in running a quality forum, who has researched the available options, ....rather than some random reviews on the web which may or may not be biased.

And people can point others to the post in future if anybody asks questions related to choosing forum software.

If you have already done a post like this, I'll be glad if you could point me to it, or give me hints as to what keywords to search to find it.
I have already Google searched the forum using keywords: site:thefastlaneforum.com MJ DeMarco discourse invision xenforo forum software.
And only found this comment where you gave some good insight as to why Xenforo wasn't working for you anymore-
WEB SCHOOL - Websites desperately needing a redesign...

But you didn't discuss the pros and cons of the currently available options in that post, that's why I'm asking.
I think it will be of great help to anyone interested in starting a forum.
Thanks in advance.

PS: And if for any reason you aren't disposed towards creating such a post, that's also fine. Please don't stress yourself unduly. You've already given faaar more than enough value in your everyday contributions and moderation of the forum.
Cheers.
 

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Andy Black

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So, how do I replicate that experience on my site. Would I have moderators like Andy and SMEs like MJ? I can't be that all the time, then where do I find them? Why would they give it damn?
I'm pretty much always one of the most active in a Facebook group or forum when I join. Two paid forums waived my membership fee as a thank-you, and presumably to keep me around. Maybe you can find the active folks in other places and invite them into your community Maybe you can reward the most active members somehow?
 

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