I’ve often noticed that some online forums are entirely filled with questions, while others are entirely filled with statements. Here are couple of different thoughts about audiences about contribution vs. association.
A forum’s purpose is determined by the makeup of members, which constitutes the audience, and the mission it has to provide. The first forum that comes to mind are some of the LinkedIn Groups that I’m part of for “Finite Element Analysis” and “Computational Fluid Dynamics”. You may not be familiar with those, but they are specific approaches to solving physics problems using mathematics and software. In these particular groups, there is no real discussion. It’s people posting their work whenever possible, and hoping to be seen. Part of this is because LinkedIn has more active professionals than new grads, part of this is because these people have jobs whose whole point is to figure out the answers themselves, and part of this is because these topics are only well-understood by people with specific expertise. All those colliding factors lead to statement only forums.
The contrast to that is something like reddit.com/r/findapath. That is a forum where people go because they are lost. As a result, they are constantly seeking advice. They even describe it as “For those who have a hobby, passion, or passing whim that they want to make a living out of, but don’t know how they can get there. Wanderers and contributors alike are welcome.” They invite wanderers specifically. For a forum to have many questions, it needs those who have the questions as well as contributors. If it was all questions and no answers to them, it would fall apart.
The interesting thing to me is that forums with all questions fall apart less often than the ones with statements only. My thought on this is because if no one has any questions, why is a forum needed in the first place?
This comes to a point about marketing a community. “What questions or kinds of questions does it seek answer?” is a good starting point to developing it. Beyond that, “How do people find it if they didn’t know they needed it in the first place?” is a great second question to ask. Before diving in, answer those.