3 questions to ask when choosing community forum software

Don’t choose a community forum software provider until you’ve answered these questions. When you have a hundred different options, how do you make the right choice? It’s not always easy to choose the right community forum software for your brand. And given just how important brand communities are; you don’t want to make the wrong choice either! If you’re not sure which community software will work best for you, we’ve put together this handy checklist of questions to support you with making that all important decision.

Question #1. Why do I need community forum software?

Let the interrogation begin! Let’s start with the question of why. For this, we recommend using the five whys technique, where you keep asking the question of why (that’s right, five times!) until you get to the core of the problem. This will help you figure out if community forum software is right for you. Here’s an example: Why? Because customer engagement is low Why? Because no one’s seeing my posts on social media Why? Because I don’t have enough followers WHY? Because there are too many brands to compete with But WHY?!?! Because I’m entirely reliant on Facebook Yep, it’s probably time you had a community of your own.  Okay, that’s probably an over-simplified example. But the point is to get to the root of the problem. That way, you can set the right expectations. Per our example, you might think you need to grow your following on Facebook because you’re not getting enough customers coming from social media. But, in the end, the problem probably isn’t the lack of followers, but the fact your followers aren’t even noticing your posts.

Question #2. What sort of technical skills will I need?

The build versus buy argument aside, a lot of software isn’t exactly easy to learn. That’s why some brands just stick to the big networks like Facebook or Instagram, but then they also have limited options for branding their community homepages and engaging with their audiences.  Luckily, things have changed. With modern software, you can even create a highly sophisticated online community without ever writing a line of code, but that doesn’t mean technical skills are no longer relevant! For example, some community forum software can take months to fully roll out, especially when you want to include extra capabilities like online payments and livestreaming. On the other hand, a white-label mobile app like Disciple is pretty much ready to go out of the box – all you need to do is choose your theme, upload your branding, and select your menu items. That’s pretty much it. Ask yourself what sort of skills you might need and whether they’re available to you. If you have the budget for it, you can always hire someone to help you roll out modern forum software, but if you’re running a small business, do you really have the time or money for that?

Question #3. How will it help me achieve my goals?

Let’s say your main goal is to increase customer engagement. Instead of remaining unseen among all the noise of social media or enjoying the brief high when a post gets the occasional ‘like’, you’re looking for meaningful engagement. You want your members to start talking, sharing your content and each other’s. You want them to provide feedback you can act on, perhaps even help you come up with the next great idea for a new product. How’s your shiny new community forum software going to do that? Here’s a few possibilities you might be looking for:

  • It will be more consistent with my branding, with the same colours and fonts

  • It will create exclusivity by connecting my audience in a community of its own

  • It will help me reach a wider audience with online events

  • It will help me build trust by having more control over my data

  • It will let my audience engage without being bombarded with other companies’ ads.

Final words

Of course, each of these questions leads to many more, but they provide an important starting point to help you make a shortlist of community forum software vendors. Don’t be afraid to ask them to any potential vendor either. A decent provider should be more than willing to help guide you in the right direction, as well as help you determine whether their solution is a good fit for your needs.

  • Set the right expectations by getting to the root of the problem

  • Decide on a budget, and figure out what sort of skills (if any) you need

  • Make sure the features can match your community goals