This article details the advantages and disadvantages associated with having a discussion forum on your website!  

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Pros and cons of having a discussion forum

| by David Callan

Before going into the pros and cons of having a forum on a site let's first explain what forums actually are. Most of you are familiar with them but mightn't have heard the term 'forum' before. Well forums are just another name for discussion boards, message boards and other names. They enable users of a website to interact with each other by exchanging tips and discussing hot topics related to a websites theme.

Forums save information posted on a particular topic for other people to see at any time, this creates a discussion environment. Everything that gets posted gets read again and again. The fact that the discussion isn't real time means that it rarely turns into heated arguments as people are given time to research and consider their comments before replying, this makes for mostly high-quality discussion.

Forums allow you to create robust online communities even with low traffic volumes since people often return to the site on a regular basis to catch up on whats happened since then.

Now to continue onto the main bulk of this article, forums have five major benefits to a webmaster which include:

1. Allowing you to get educational information on your site.
2. Allowing you to increase traffic through repeat visitors.
3. Allowing you to capture email address and details of posters.
4. Allowing you to gain more creditability.
5. Allowing you to build relationship with visitors.

Having a medium to high traffic forum on a website will increase the value of it as members of forums are very knowledgeable about the topic at hand and they'll usually try to show this in their posts thus creating lots of information and tips which visitors to your site can use.

With lots of information and discussion being exchanged in your forums visitors will return again and again to see replies to their posts, read others posts and basically to see if anything has changed. This creates a sticky website which is what every webmaster wants, as new members join your forum your traffic will gradually grow week after week.

In most forums people who want to post have to register by giving their email address and names, this allows you to follow up and email them in the future with information about your product or service. They won't consider it as spam because they know who you are.

Forums allow you to gain creditability with your websites visitors as you can reply to posts that are looking for help and by doing this you're letting everyone know that you are an expert on the topic of your website. They're much more likely to buy from you if you know what you're talking about!

Building relationships with your visitors is easy with forums. If you post regularly and actively discuss different topics with your forum members then gradually you'll get to know them and more importantly they'll get to know you. People are much more likely to buy a product or service when someone they know sells or recommends it.

Onto the downside of having a forum. Creating successful forums is not by any sense of the word easy, they involve a tremendous amount of work to get them started. Nobody likes to post on an empty forum so you've to actively promote it and create lots of topics for discussion yourself, if these topics are interesting then you should get a few replies. You've to do this self posting on a continuous basis for months, sometimes weeks but mostly months before a steady flow of topics and replies are posted by your forums members.

That's only to get people talking, next you've to administer it or moderate it as it's usually called. This means making sure posts are appropriate and that members are not spamming your forum. This has to be done on a daily basis and if your forum gets busy it's going to be very time consuming. Once again the main disadvantage with forums is the amount of time and effort required to get them started and maintain them.

However don't let that put you off the idea, forums are great for increasing your traffic and increasing the profits you make on your website.

After the initial time involved to start it up and the time it takes to get people to talk you'll start to see the benefits that your forum is bringing and the time needed to maintain it will seem less and less each time you see your traffic and profits going up.