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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

How to create an active community?

Hi guys,

I have a software written mainly for business , but not the one that cost 5000 or more. My user base is about 1500 customers.

I am thinking to create a community of users somewhere, but I am not sure what option is the best:

1. Traditional forum software, like phpbb, SMF, e.t.c
- Looks dated.
- Lots of spam. I tried SMF in the past for one of my previous projects and it was really painful to adimin because of automated spamming.

2. Uservoice or GetSatisfaction.
+ Looks more modern.
+ As far as I understood people can login with their facebook/linkedin/twitter credentials (it is good). 
+ IMHO it is a  good choice for getting users suggestions (there is voting feature).
 But I am not sure if it is good for "user to user" support, when one user can answer the other user's question.

3. LinkedIn Groups: looks not bad  especially for business related software.
+ users are not anonymous
- I see a few companies who had their community at Linkedin and now they move the community to their own websites.
- It seems there is a way for competitors to run an Ad campaign at LI targeted to users of the particular Linkeditn group. And there is a risk of competitors using Linkedin InMail for sending their offers to my userbase.

What other advices can you give?
MatrixFailure Send private email
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
My advice would be to worry less about the technology and more about how you're going to get people to be active visitors - whats in in for them?

Most efforts to setup a user community fail because of this and become a ghost town.
Ryan Wheeler Send private email
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
On the technology side though this looks promising - http://www.discourse.org/
Ryan Wheeler Send private email
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Build a forum/community only if there is a pent up demand.

Forums can be a pain if you just create and forget it.

Early on, you can create a forum but don't expose the link publicly on your website. Instead put it inside your application and within the app you could have a menus like "Email support" or "Ask in Forum"

But have notifications sent so that you can reply quickly.

Have you looked at vanilla forums? It has plugins for Google and other social media signups. It is open source and very light weight
nilesh Send private email
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
First, you should be clear about why you want this. "Creating active community" is not a good goal. It's the difference between "I want to run" vs. "I want to be healthy and therefore I want to run" (but there are plenty of other activities to stay healthy other than running that you could do instead).

For users of my software, I wanted:

1. give users a way to ask me question, report bugs, provide feedback and for me to be able to respond and for those responses to be available in the future (to form a sort of FAQ archive)

2. to lessen my support load by allowing anyone to answer those question, not just me

I wrote a simple forum software to do that (http://forums.fofou.org/sumatrapdf).

While the result is a fairly active community, that was not my goal and I don't particularly care about that. Any method that would have given me 1 and 2 would be good.

UserVoice would not be a good tool for me, because it's really about people telling you what features they want and voting on them. A useful thing if that's what you want, but not what I wanted.

GetSatisfaction is closer, but when I looked at it way back, I was a bit confused by the UI and it's not cheap.

As others pointed out, forums are good for such things and I would add my +1 for http://vanillaforums.org/ or http://www.discourse.org/.

Then again maybe your specific goals are different than what forum software provides but it's impossible to tell if you describe them as "creating active community".
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Thank you guys for your answers.
I checked vanilla and discourse. Looks way better in compare with old forum software.

I understand that even the best forum software cannot create a community by itself. But I believe we should choose a good technology to increase chances of success.

One of my competitors uses old-style forum. And their results are not impressive at all. In their forum, they  have not more than 100-130 topics divided in a few sub-categories.
If you go into main sub-category you will find topics like "this doesn't work", "doesn't run properly", e.t.c. sometimes there are topics where problem is solved and a solution is provided.

I have impression I can easily make it better by better structuring the forum (like in UserVoice: suggestions, questions, problems)

As for the question why I need to create a community of users here are my thoughts:

This type of software products brings value to customers, but customers doesn't look actively for solution. And for half of customers the value it provides is not clear from the start.

So I think if I add a forum/community then

- prospects can see that many users actively use the software.
- prospects can see that software vendor answers questions.
- users will have a reason for returning to my website (new content every day)
- I can ask more actively for feedback. And ask what new functions are more important. Post surveys, e.t.c.
- I hope the forum can ease tech. support burden a little because for sure it will contain some typical question&answers.

Right now I don't have forum at all. So prospects can figure out that somebody actively uses the software  just from testimonials (real ones), case studies and published  logos of famous customers.
MatrixFailure Send private email
Thursday, March 14, 2013
$500/year for the cheapest hosted plan seems expensive:
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, March 15, 2013
It's open source, Andy: http://vanillaforums.org/download

Although Vanilla Forums has the same problem phpBB does. It's spam heaven (or hell, depending on your point of view).
Wyatt O'Day Send private email
Friday, March 15, 2013
I would just prefer not to have the hassle of installing, configuring and updating it myself. For that I would happily pay $200 dollars per year. Maybe I am just tight!
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, March 15, 2013
BTW I would probably be lucky to get 1k hits per month on a forum.
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, March 15, 2013
Slightly off topic but re: Vanilla Forums. I took a look at the pricing and it seems really odd to see "weekly backups" now. These days I expect the data is sharded and replicated without even thinking about it. Didn't realize my brain had been rewired so fast.

In fact it never even occurred to me to add anything about backup to my cloud sales pages, I thought everyone just assumed these days.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Friday, March 15, 2013
I have seen http://groupspaces.com/ recently, but not tried it.
Vladimir Prudnikov Send private email
Friday, March 29, 2013

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