We have been struggling to maintain a healthy forum for years now. The idea to have a forum came about because it seemed "everyone else did it" - in hindsight, we are a more upscale storefront than a lot of the peers.
The buyers in our circles generally don't spend a lot of time in the forums, it's the sellers/suppliers who are the chatty one's, and it's often negative "why don't you have x feature like the other companies", or general questions that should ideally be resolved by the "Help" pages.
We tried briefly making the suppliers area private, but since it's the most active section it looked really elitist to the general visitor to see this walled-off section with today's date, and everything else kind of stagnant.
Has anyone here had similar questions run through their heads:
- "why I am spending time babysitting people and their personalities, when this is a business and our idea is to sell things"
- "why should potential buyers see low post counts/old post dates/silly forum threads and be turned off"
I guess it would be a big crime these days to be a socially open website, and then close down major sections of the forum. However, one of our similar sites has absolutely no problems turning sales, and does not have a forum.
There would be some SEO benefit to maintaining the forums even as archives.. but not huge.
Decisions decisions. :)