In a recent post, we discussed structuring categories in a very large community forum. In this post, we’ll cover how you would deploy Vanilla when dozens of separate forums are required, i.e. when you want several separate forum instances that each have their own user database, distinct branding and unique configuration. Continue reading →
Here at Vanilla, we work hard to pair robust functionality with intuitive design. Why? Because our customers need simple ways to meet their complex needs.
Still, customers come to us with questions—not so much about how to use the software—but how to make the most of it. They’re ready to take their communities to the next level, and they see Vanilla as the catalyst for making that happen.
Does that sound familiar?
Today, we’re pleased to announce our first-ever training course: The Vanilla Certification Program.
In this course, you’ll learn how to use our software to become a rock-star community manager. After successfully completing the program, we’re confident Vanilla will become the #1 weapon in your community management arsenal.
We’ve specifically tailored the course content for whoever handles community management in your organization. It consists of three core components:
- Online video lectures designed to let you study at your own pace
- A live session with one of Vanilla’s seasoned product experts
- A comprehensive exam to prove you know your stuff
Here’s the course in sequence:
Module 1 – In this video lecture, we’ll give you a comprehensive introduction to Vanilla’s software. You’ll also learn how your customers interact with the forums.
Module 2 – In the second lecture, you’ll learn how to properly set up your community on Vanilla. Our instructor will share with you the best practices you need to build a solid foundation.
Module 3 – This third video lecture will show you important features for forum moderation and will teach you essential techniques for effectively managing discussions.
Module 4 – The fourth and final video lecture will acquaint you with Vanilla’s various administrative features so that you can confidently tweak your forum for optimal community interaction.
Module 5 – In this live web session, you’ll learn from one of our product experts about the philosophical, theoretical, and mindset issues that go into community management as well as how best to measure success. They’ll also get you ready for the final exam.
Final Exam – No, you’re not back in college. The final exam is designed to test what you’ve learned and help you identify areas for improvement. Trust us; you’ll do just fine.
Upon successful completion of the course, you’ll receive an official certificate documenting your proficiency in Vanilla. Print it out, put it on your wall, or take it to your boss and demand a raise. Whatever you do with it, you’ll have our official imprimatur as a certified Vanilla pro.
The cost of certification is $200 per person. Contact your Customer Success Manager for more information.
When setting up a community forum, the last thing you want is conversational chaos. A simple way to keep that from happening is to create categories. As your community grows, you’ll want to revisit your category structure to make sure it provides optimal usability.
Here’s what you need to know about structuring your forum:
Start Simple (Basic Categorization)
Fight the urge to over-categorize. In a new community, that’ll spread what little content you have too thin. The better move is to concentrate on a few categories and subdivide as your community grows.
Along similar lines, set your community home page to display recent discussions rather than a category listing. A list of recent and active discussions across all categories is more engaging, especially to the first time visitor, than a stark list of categories.
Adding Categories (Nesting and Sub-Categorization)
As your community grows, pay attention to discussion topics. When a topic seems to command sustained attention, consider giving it its own category. As the conversations continue to develop, you may want to subdivide categories. Vanilla lets you nest sub-categories several levels deep. The process is simple: just go to the category management page on your dashboard, click, and drag (see below)
Once you have a large number of categories, lots of traffic and lots of content, you might consider switching your homepage to display a list of categories instead of recent discussions. When making this decision, think from the perspective of your community members, and your community’s subject matter. This decision should not be made based on number of categories or traffic alone.
Higher-Level Organization (Sub-Communities)
If you manage a larger community, you may find yourself grappling with an array of conversations organized around multiple products or different languages. Vanilla’s sub-communities feature can help you make things easier for these different groups.
Let’s say you want to divide your community into three language groups: English, French, and German. Using sub-communities, you can create a unique set of categories for each. This way, you’ll spare your French members the difficulté of slogging through German Diskussion threads to find what they’re looking for.
When Categories Become Unwieldy (Flat Categorization)
There may come a time when your community has more categories than your members can handle. Rather than force them to scroll through dozens of nested categories, you can help them find what they’re looking for with ease. Use our Flat Categories feature to display your entire list of categories in alphabetical order. Members can then navigate directly to the topic that interests them. Even better, they can use the embedded quick search module to find their category immediately.
For more specifics on setting up your forum’s category structure, take a look at Vanilla’s Category Management Documentation.
Over the course of the last several months, the development team at Vanilla Forums has been working on a new set of product analytics for our community forum software. This undertaking has allowed the team to build a new data collection and storage infrastructure to better help you get insights into your community behaviours.
When building an analytics feature, the reports and visualizations are just the tip of the iceberg, most of the functionality exists below the surface. This was a significant project. Continue reading →