Member turnover is one of the biggest and most recurring problems of running a forum in any niche, market or subject matter.
It’s the very nature of the internet: even if you think you’ve secured another member, there are a million and one other things calling their name out on the wide, wide web. Turnover is a fact of life, so just respect the reality and learn to cope: you’re dealing with constant competition for the time and attention of your users. But there are methods you can use to keep it at bay.
While a bit of monthly turnover is unavoidable, even for the best and most established forums, if your turnover surpasses your member acquisitions month after month, other members will eventually notice that your once-bustling forum is becoming a ghost town.
And since humans are naturally prone to getting valuable info from their peers, even your most loyal member will eventually throw in the towel, given sufficient pressure. They may have to be the only one left before they wake up… but they will.
While addressing that unavoidable reality, be proactive. Here are three extremely valuable and effective strategies for slashing member turnover in your forum.
1. Offer Time-Based Forum Incentives
One way to prevent member turnover is to give your members a sense of constant forward progress. The human brain is actually what’s known as a “servo-mechanism”, which basically translates to “goal-seeking mechanism”. This means your brain is hardwired to search for worthwhile goals and figure out ways to attain them.
When you set up time-based privileges for your members (and let them know, preferably in your terms and conditions) you give your members automatic “sign-posts” to mentally aim for in the back of their minds as they contribute on your site. For instance, all members should be able to create posts and reply to threads. But you should strongly consider barring thread creation to members who haven’t met a certain time threshold.
Your particular time threshold can and should vary depending on your niche. For instance, a forum on brain surgery will require quite different procedures than a forum on pet ownership. The threshold for the former might be two or three months, while an appropriate threshold for the pet forum might be a week or two. Use your discretion.
Apart from offering time-based privileges, consider time-based gifts as well. Do you run a finance forum? Consider sending a copy of a popular finance book to forum members once they hit one year of membership.
That’s just one idea though. Depending on your niche, audience and level of creativity, your options for time-based incentives are limitless.
2. Make Sure Your User Interface Is Simple
When you’re designing your forum’s interface or working with a third party to do so, keep simplicity constantly in mind. When a person has signed up to be part of a specialty service (which a forum inherently is, even if it’s free) they tend to have a very short fuse when it comes to recurring annoyances.
A lot of this is intuitive and not hard to come by if you just think about things that you personally value in your own online experiences. For instance, give your readers the option to save their username and password, so they don’t have to type it in manually every time they come to your forum. Give people the option to customize the size and color in which the font on their page appears. (Some people have bad eyes or just have different color preferences, etc.)
These are just two ideas out of potentially thousands. Just be mindful of how critical user experience is to preventing member turnover, and be extremely careful in that stage of your planning.
3. Avoid Hard Political Stances
This tip for preventing member turnover is as simple as it is effective. When people encounter political stances they disagree with, things can get heated pretty quickly, especially with digital anonymity factoring in. Even those who don’t get heated will probably feel alienated at one point or another. That’s why adopting a strict political stance on your forum is a bad idea if you’re looking to prevent turnover.
The other component to this is that people are naturally (and quite rightly) put off by hard political stances appearing where they don’t belong. If you run a forum on computer repair, it doesn’t matter what your political leanings are, or those of your members. What does matter is that you’re masterful around computer repair.
For multiple reasons, avoid unnecessary political intrusions at all costs if you want to keep member turnover low. It will do nothing but harm your metrics in the long run.
Member turnover is one of the biggest issues faced by forum owners today. With hundreds or even thousands of different online sources vying for individuals’ attention, they may not even remember a week later that they signed up for your community.
Proactively implement these strategies and others to keep your community going strong.