Long time WebmasterWorld moderator, martinibuster, has an excellent blog post named Growing Forum Participation followed up with an excellent summary of the blog post at WebmasterWorld named Growing Forum Member Participation.
Martinibuster clearly describes how encouraging and enticing discussion in a forum is a lot more important than answering questions in a forum. This came to martinibuster when one of his top forum members began a new job that pulled his most authoritative member away from the forum. What he noticed was that members no longer received the bottom-line authoritative answer on a question posted in the forum. He noticed that a discussion began to brew in the forum threads and that more and more members we actively participating through discussion and opinions as opposed to answers.
Martinibuster thus feels that encouraging moderators to build discussion as opposed to answering questions is the way to go when growing forum participation and growing your forum numbers. Encouraging your lurkers (members who read threads but do not post in threads) to participate by reaching them, talking to them and asking for opinions that may inspire a lurker to become a participating member, is key. How do you do that? Give them confidence in expressing their opinion, it is not always about what you know but how you can express your opinion, that is important in a forum discussion.
What is even more inspiring about the WebmasterWorld thread is how Martinibuster ends the post. Yes, he encourages participation in his thread. He ends with a few open ended questions, asking other members "So what do you think?"
As you can imagine, since we track forum discussion and buzz every day here, this type of thread would excite me. Very nice Martinibuster, very very nice.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.