Marketing_Guy - 1:20 pm on Mar 14, 2013 (gmt 0)
I have a career advice site and used to run a forum on it and it was a headache. You'll probably find the handful of requests you get by email turn into hundreds or even thousands of requests as forum posts. Unless you are equipped to handle that volume (even with moderators to help out), you might find unmanageable.
Add to that, people complaining about companies (legal minefield) and quite a lot of spam to manage, running a forum is tough. Career advice is an emotional topic and giving people an open forum to vent their frustrations can be an eye opener.
I ended up removing the forum due to the volume of requests it was receiving - it was taking up far too much time to manage, even with some volunteer mods helping out (and the ad revenue was pretty poor).
It's also worth thinking about the effect not being able to answer more niche questions might have on your brand. I was woefully ill-equipped to deal with anything but basic queries, which left a lot of users having a bad experience (not having their questions answered satisfactorily).
You'd also get a lot of quite delicate topics being raised. It's not like a tech forum where everything is a professional topic - reading heart-wrenching stories of people losing their jobs, facing becoming homeless, dealing with bullying and so on - it can really take its toll and you've got to be prepared to manage that appropriately.
Aside from the really extreme stuff, you'll also need to deal with the community in general - keep a hold on arguments or other behavior that may cause issues (I used to have problems with resume writers arguing with each other about the best advice to give out - it got real messy!).
On the plus side, it can be rewarding and there are always loads of good people willing to help out moderating (look at all the mods here for example), and if you can setup a model that can be managed and maintained, they you're creating an immensely useful resource for people.
I think forums can be a pretty awesome tool - just need to proceed understanding just how much work is involved keeping a community alive.