Launching a forum is really hard. You set up the software, provide initial content, send invitations to your users, then wait…and typically nothing happens.

You know the statistics  – 70% of your forum visitors lurk, 20% join a conversation and only 1% regularly contribute.

So how do you tip this statistic, especially at the initial stages where there is little activity on your forum? You can try a top-down approach of advertising your forum presence to your user community, or you can try a bottoms-up approach of enticing users without them knowing that you are doing this. Let me explain how this works.

First, I don’t often mention the word forum, but instead I try to lure folks into using a forum. As a forum moderator, I identify questions from customers that go unanswered for a day or so and route these questions by email to the customer or the internal SME that I know can answer them.

My email typically goes like this – “Hi Dan, I have Marie from Orbital Bank who has a question that I was hoping you could answer. Just click on the link (insert forum link) to provide your answer.”

Few customers and no internal employee will ignore another customer’s question, and I normally get a reply posted right into the forum.

The purpose of a forum is to get employees and customers to connect. Without mentioning the word forum, I’ve hooked my customer as once a customer has started a dialog with another customer they tend to stay in virtual contact, and use this communication channel again.

Emailing one customer at a time with the URL to the forum and a call to action is a stickier way to get your customers and internal employees hooked on forums than any top down approach.

So can you tell me what works for you?