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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

What do i have to do to get people answering questions?
must learn more

 5:46 am on Mar 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have just started a forum on my site. I have seeded it and everything.

I have started getting many questions also. But, my problem is that I am the only one answering my questions. The users are not answering. They are just asking.

What do I need to do to get the users to "answer" questions? Is there any special motivation required?

Please give your best tips and suggestions and what has worked for you!

Thanks a lot!



 7:55 am on Mar 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

You have to make a deal with the devil at the crossroads in a
cotton field in Mississippi at midnight! (don't forget the dead chicken)

No help? Try spelling in out a little clearer that this is an
interactive forum and participation is required in both answering
asking questions.

It takes awhile to build it up and gain participants.

Your lucky that you have people asking questions. At least you have
one part of the equation

Have patience,if its a valid forum you will get your action


 3:07 pm on Mar 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

If it's about an area where you have a lot of knowledge, most of your visitors are likely learning from you and may not be in a position to answer many questions yet. If you notice a poster or two who seem to be at a higher knowledge level than others (their questions are more advanced, for example), you might mention to them privately that you could use some help - Even if they're not at your level, they could probably help with some of the noob questions.

And other posters will hopefully develop into question answerers as they gain more knowledge, if they see some doing it. There's one software forum where I'm the #2 question-answerer. Occasionally after I've responded to someone's question, the #1 question-answerer will pop on and say, "Ha, ha! I remember when I had to teach you that!" The thing is - it's true!

must learn more

 6:33 pm on Mar 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

hey thanks Beagle!


 5:23 pm on Apr 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

I had this problem on a new pet health related forum. You have to make a sticky explaining diplomatically, that this is a question AND answer forum. Advise them to participate in existing threads if possible BEFORE asking questions.

Use a auto-PM so when they join they get an auto-PM that says the same thing.

Just make sure it is worded simple and diplomatic.

This actually worked well for me, it is no longer a problem, but it was, it was a BIG problem at first. ;)


 12:38 am on Apr 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is an area where you have two conflicting forces tugging at you. First, if new members get a quick and helpful response, they are likely to be impressed by the forum and return. Second, if you jump in with an answer quickly, you are likely to prevent others from answering. This is particularly true if the others aren't as confident in their knowledge as you are.

I'd suggest waiting a bit to reply, and see if anyone else posts. (If not, then jump in!) If you already ARE waiting, and nobody is posting, some of the suggestions above may help draw people out.

One other approach is to not reply in excruciating detail - leave some room for others to jump in. (Years ago, I remember writing what I thought was a great reply to a question. Another member wrote something like, "rogerd painted every square inch of that wall." While his note was meant to be a compliment, it also showed that I had been so thorough as to kill the discussion.)

Good luck!


 1:48 am on Apr 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'd suggest waiting a bit to reply, and see if anyone else posts. (If not, then jump in!) If you already ARE waiting, and nobody is posting, some of the suggestions above may help draw people out.

Excellent rogerd! Good advice. You also could answer every other one, leave the odd one for a good while. (answer it too eventually if noone else does).

must learn more

 4:57 am on Apr 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks guys!

I will try the "waiting" ploy as well as the "sending a people a message when they join, that they should contribute!" I'll let you know how it goes!

Any other tips that have worked?


 4:45 pm on Apr 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

Great advice Rogerd... Never really thought about it that way... you can easily shoot yourself in the foot by taking all the glory... =)


 10:44 pm on Apr 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's really a delicate balance - you want to be sure new arrivals get answered in a useful way as quickly as possible, but you want others to participate, too. Eventually, you develop a feel for when a question will likely be answered by others, and when you might as well jump right in.

must learn more

 7:09 am on Apr 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thank you everybody!

But, on trying to figure out what exactly my problem is, this is what i have concluded:

My forum, is a forum of a very general nature. The questions are not of one particular type. As in, it is not a forum for "web masters" or a forum about "investing" or about "health" etc. It is an all in one "How to.." type forum.

Now, because of this: People who ask questions, generally ask very detailed "How to.." questions. The average lurking member does not really know about it. If there were a 1000 people on the site at any given time then i could say that some one or the other will know the answer. But, i have around 10 questions coming in every day right now and only about a 100 people who visit each day.

So, the people who are on the forum generally lack the knowledge to answer (the question of members lacking the "motivation"....does not come up that often!)

So, what do i do? I am answering all the answers that come in. But, not getting to much participation.

I doubt that the answer to this problem is some sort of quick fix. But, i would be happy if you could give me a direction or stratergy that i could use to get the forum up and running!

Waiting for your answers!


 2:09 pm on Apr 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Here's an idea: how about a home page feature that is something like, "Can you help with any of these questions?" with links to the unanswered topics. This would be difficult to automate (it wouldn't be hard to find posts with no answers automatically, but figuring out which were questions might be tougher), but even if you updated it daily it might both get answers and draw lurkers in. If you want to automate it, just display a list of threads with no replies.


 4:21 am on Apr 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Eventually, you develop a feel for when a question will likely be answered by others, and when you might as well jump right in.

Unconsciencously I think I've been doing this for years on my site... but never realized just how important it was. I do tend to find myself providing feedback on posts that I think need a push in the right direction... and others I leave alone because I know the community will be along to fill it with entertainment... ;-)


 12:46 pm on Apr 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've never ran a forum so I'm only guessing here...

Looking at whats on webmasterworld.com... you could create a library to cut down on duplicate posts, and perhaps post a notice that you're looking for some moderators to manage some of the forums (so at least your not answering everything yourself).

Some other forums I've used have posts which remain at the top - ones where you can set the rules etc for people posting: "Click Here before posting!" - telling people to check the library and remember to help answer other peoples questions where possible.

If you're technically minded, every time someone posts a question you could show a message that reads something like:

"Thanks for your post. While waiting for a reply why not see if you can share your expertise with any of these users..."

Then show the last 20 or so unanswered posts.

I think the key is also rewarding those who do post to encourage them to continue to do so. This is obviously done via different "levels" depending on how many posts a person has done (newbie, expert, etc).

But not answering straight away sounds like great advice to me. If others eventually answer then they'll begin to feel listened to/important and will hopefully go on to help answer others.

You should also make sure that on the immediately visible part of the homepage users can see some sample posts/forums without having to scroll - that way they instantly know that its not just an ask-a-question site but rather a join-in site.

If the site is making it very easy for people to ask a question upfront, perhaps the same should be done for "answer a question" - e.g. have a box with "Can you answer.." and show a randon question (or rotate several outstanding questions) - giving almost an equal weighting to the "ask a question" feature.

[edited by: TravelSite at 12:54 pm (utc) on April 6, 2007]


 3:40 pm on Apr 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's all about rewarding the users that help. Use a system of "user badges" and verbal rewards for every user that helps out.

At my site we have "experts", "contributors", and "authors".


 8:49 pm on Apr 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

One of the tricks at WW that would work for you is to create categories. If you are a general forum, then you can use "relationship" advice, saving/spending money and cars--three very popular topics that everyone has an opinion on. And, of course, politics.


 2:34 am on Apr 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'll second skyhawk133's & TravelSite's suggestions. Works well for WebmasterWorld. You can also try a "did this solve your question?" points system like Apple Discussions or Yahoo! Answers. People love racking up meaningless points.


 6:53 am on Apr 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

I installed a forum about 3 years ago, took about a year before it became really active. Almost overnight to tell you the truth but there may have been other factors in that, it's related to heating and this coincided with Katrina.

My advice is stick with it and it will come around if you have interest already. You only need to get a few "regulars" on board. I frequent many forums and a vast majority of the posts in all of them are answered by the "regulars".


 7:59 pm on Apr 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Forums need the right amount of prodding in the right direction.

I keep a section for a FAQ: it annoys long time members to answer the same noob questions in great detail. Once the FAq section exists, they'll point them over to it on their own and you can slowly step out of it.

Get a few of the most promising ones signed on as moderator: it also helps in them being involved in answering.

I typically try to give answers to things I know the community is bad at, such the more difficult answers. I'll do that without delay.

Easier questions I typically skip till it either has a few answers and I call it answered, or till I see a important part missed and I'll add it in the discussion.

Over time as members become more knowledgeable you typically see them start to answer, if i see a new one, I'll make sure to encourage them publicly.

I try to keep my admin rights for deleting spam, every so often fix a BBcode error in a member's post, or fix something else obviously broken.

Dealing with members starting a fight is the most tricky thing to do of them all.


 3:19 pm on Apr 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

Different template for different threads can also help, pm to see my experiments.



 10:45 am on Apr 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Make a section "Top Answerer" on homepage in which you display the picture of the member who answers most in day/week/month.

Many people want to show himself as superior.


 9:21 pm on Apr 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you've got a forum going that's getting so many questions and you are answering questions promptly, I'd say you are off to a great start. I started my own forum so I could answer repeat, previously emailed, questions one time for all and then just point new emailers with the same question to the thread instead of having to repeat the same answer again. It worked great and eventually members started answering questions, at first mainly answers I previously gave them and they were just repeating it for the newbie to save me some time(they noticed how busy I was answering questions and wanted to give back). Give it time, like I said, it sounds like you are off to a great start.

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