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I'm curious, at what point do you think it is a good idea to make a forum for your webcomic? There's not much that's sadder or more depressing than an empty set of forums that get 1 post every 2 months.

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I'm curious, at what point do you think it is a good idea to make a forum for your webcomic? There's not much that's sadder or more depressing than an empty set of forums that get 1 post every 2 months.

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

True but a forum or a shoutbox is useful to get any feedback at all. Try getting a forum on a site like talkaboutcomics where there's already a vibrant community - you might get some spill-over visitors who check out your comic through your forum. Plus folks won't have to re-register just to post on your one-comic board.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

kjc's picture

I had a similar discussion with one of the creators of www.TwilightAgency.com - so, what do ya'll think makes a forum popular and active? I have several ideas, but I'd like to hear what creators and other fans have to say. -kjc

Well seeing as I've never run a forum I can't exactly be certain but what I observed about forums that succeed in the past is Admin participation. The admin must be active in the forum all the time. Otherwise the forum will not succeed. That, I think, is the biggest factor. Of course the Admin also has to be a likable person who actually helps the boards, a sadistic or chaotic admin who breaks their own rules will kill the board faster than anything.

I agree totally. I've been trying to build up a decent readership on my forum, and I have a few dedicated fans. But timely responses to feedback are one great way to encourage folks to come back! And plugs by word-of-mouth don't hurt either.

-Seth

Well, I have absolutely no idea how to make a successful forum. As evidenced by my failure so far. (And the fact that during the SQL server crash, my old forum name was deleted and I've still been unable to attain my moderator status, although, I still try to moderate to the best of my ability. Even then, there isn't anything to moderate.)
Although, I think one should start a forum when there is the largest possibility of more people visiting it. If there is only two or three people posting, the forum will never get anywhere, because people will always want to have more people to interact with.

kjc's picture

I guess I should open the question wider. Forum popularity seems to be one way to measure a comic's overall popularity. You can measure by hits, but that seems sort of barren/boring (from what people tell me - I am one of the few non-comic-creators around here). Measuring popularity by feedback seems to be more important as it provides a better measure of how the comic is doing.

Feedback can take many forms - emailing direct to the creator, linking, hyping in a random forum, participating in the comic's own forum. I'm sure there are others.

Some topics I've noticed in forums, newsboxes, and blog-like newsboxes with comments enabled that generate conversation (and therefore help you get more of an idea of how many people are reading the comic and how engaged they are by it) are political issues, bonding (over something popular in the comic like watching movies or playing video games), chit-chat conversational stuff, plot questions, arcane knowledge (like classical allusions), and the ever-popular "why the comic will be delayed" stuff.

I've also seen specific questions from the creator more readily answered than the generic ones. So if a creator says "what do you think?" they don't hear much back, but if the creator says "what do you think about this shading technique versus that one?" they sometimes get more response.

So forum participation, feedback, popularity, and engaging your readers are all part of a larger picture of getting the word out about your comic and improving it.

Hmm. This is a little disjointed, sorry. -kjc

not a comic-creator? Well, you're plugging something in your sig. That's the real unifier around these parts! ^_^

Feedback is great if you want to know what sort of people read your comic/go to your site. I checked the boards for EGM(gaming magazine) once, and the topic on top was "have the EGM members left us!?" because the people that joined were so juvenile that the people that worked on the mag didn't want to chat with them. I don't know what its like out there now nor do I imagine this sort of thing is common with webcomic forums, but, should I become fortunate enough to be popular enough to have a successful forum, I hope I like the people that join up. =\

If I made one now, I know I'd like the people that join up, because the only people that would are me buddies.

rezo~

My forums are literally dead at the moment. Somethings up with MySql on our server. On the whole posting thing, mine are usually just this massive collection of links to other sites. The problem is that it's mostly my friends posting when they're up and none of my actual out of state fans post. That and it's very hard to encourage them to do so. I suppose when they come back up I should try starting more interesting topics. That and invite you guys to come in! :)

It migth be an idea to maybe get together and share a forum, like www.ponju.net. That way you can pool your fans together and share readers. :)

My forums are back up, so everybody come by and revive the poor things for me! If anyone needs a forum at some point I could hook you up, but I'd wait untill you get an all clear that the problems are fixed. I'll let you all know when though.

I didn't start a forum for my comic until 7 months in, but I could have probably had one sooner. I waited until I'd received a lot of emails from my readers asking about one. For the most part, they've been busy ever since.

I started mine about a month in. After 4 months, we only have 7 members minus my partner and I minus our friends -- we've actually only got two :( . I probably should have waited in retrospect. But then I'd have our two current members not offering feedback (not that they do now, but hey)

I just killed my forum... but I mentioned the reasons for it in another thread here.

Truth be told, you dont want a popular forum. You'll be babysitting the damned thing all of the time, or you'll just be leaving it to the dogs while you work on your comic.

Go to TAC and let them do all the work for you.

dunk's picture

I've had my forum for nearly to years now, and there have never been mor ethan six or seven different people post on it. I mostly use it for news items, and occasionally as a kind of sketchbook.

I really wonder whether there's much point in running one at all. It's great to have feedback, but when people were posting I was doing my best to keep them all happy because I waas so happy to have responsive readers. And when there's no one there at all, which I've seen a lot of over the last few months, it makes you think that they've all moved on.

Part of the problem is that people don't like to register for dozens of forums. I think that's why the folks on the TalkAboutComics forum may have an advantage (like-wise keenspace and keenspot). You register once, and then you can sound off on a bunch of things.

Mine was provided for free by a bunch of really (funny) nice guys who do serial web-fiction, which means that there isn't much cross-over (unfortunately).

<delurks>

Quote:
I really wonder whether there's much point in running one at all. It's great to have feedback, but when people were posting I was doing my best to keep them all happy because I waas so happy to have responsive readers. And when there's no one there at all, which I've seen a lot of over the last few months, it makes you think that they've all moved on.

Same thing keeps happening to me. Invariably I'll have two or three people who post at any one time, and then even they vanish and I'm left waiting for someone else to take their place. It's not just a lack of site traffic that can stunt a forum's growth, though that is a major factor - with a comic like mine that only updates once a week, it's even harder to maintain peoples' interest. I don't know if 'the old guard' still drop by and read the comic, but they sure don't come back to make forum posts anymore.

That kind of apathy towards the forum really used to bug me, especially since I'd invested a fair amount of time and energy setting up and maintaining the forums, and no-one wanted to post there. But I was given some good advice on the subject: just concentrate on the comic, and as far as the forum goes, what happens happens. And this is true. I have enough on my plate with producing the comic each week and trying to get people to read it, worrying about the forum is a pressure I don't need. That was the new deal. I do the comic, and if people want to post in the forum (or not), that's up to them. It's out of my hands.

Now having said that, for the most part I'm the only person posting on the forum now - mostly the only use it gets is when I'm posting news on my progress with the next page of the comic. And yes, it still bugs me that there's so much inactivity, because it reflects badly on the comic. Mostly I'm just hoping that if I can keep improving the comic, the popularity of the forum - and of the whole site - will pick up. :?

I really dont think that board popularity/feedback directly relates to webcomic popluarity.

When my site first debuted, Derek Kirk Kim made me the link of the week. This was right as Same Difference was gaining momentum, so there was a lot of traffic on his site. (Not suggesting he's the only one visiting his site now...) The numbers I got for that fisrt month was prtty surprising for a "Joe Nobody" site with little on it. If I recall, it was around 1500 hits.

With all of those visitors, I figured my inbox must be full of praise or hate.

Nothing. In total, I've gotten about 15 site related emails in the near-year since I started. I havent checked my traffic in a long time, because I no longer care, but last I checked I was pulling in a few hundred a month. You'd think that at least one of them would have something to say.

Whenever I post a "Hey, what do you think?" thread on TAC's feedback forum, I'd be willing to say that of all of the views I get from it, I get maybe 10% of the giving me feedback. And this is in a forum where you're SUPPOSED to give feedback.

And when I was running my own board, my site feedback was the least used section.

Simply put, I think people have been conditioned by most mediums to absorb entertainment and move on. Thus they dont feel the need to send some note of thanks for providing that entertainment. Since comics are lacking the respect that they deserve, it's not likely this will change.

We'll just be a mild diversion on the way to the porn, Lord Of The Rings trailers, and forums about Buffy.

Now that I think about it, some ofthe best feedback comes when someone more established than you makes a link that tells everyone, "Hey, go check this out. This cat is alrite!"

They're not giving you pointers on how to get better, they're not trying to pry you mind open to see how it works. They're handing you a big complement because they think your stuff is good enough as it is. So far Derek Kirk Kim, Hyung Sun Kim, and Scott McCloud have all handed me this compliment (That I'm aware of), and I know that there's nothing I can do for them as a thanks that's s good enough, but one of these days I might be able to.

But first, I need to stop posting about webcomics and get back to drawing them.

Curse you interesting web people! Curse you all! :wink:

Umm for one thing, MT prbly only have half of them posting in their forum. It a sad thing. People don't atually know what a forum is! LOL
Here a good way: encougre them to post in your forum.
Or maybe get a guestbook instead. Because that probly what the guest know. I think sometime, you have to explain thing to them because they never heard of it like "forum". Lol

My forums are filled with nothing but fans from my school, so I can't say it's been very satisfying. Hopefully I can get some fans (if I have any) posting, but that probably won't be for awhile.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I got mine the same time I got my Keenspace account. Back then they were practically automatic. It's been moving pretty steady ever since but things are really hopping now that it's been taken over by our lesbian overlords.

Nothing like sex starved lesbians to perk up a conversation.

You guys seem to be ignoring a rule: the 16 factor.

There's always a ratio of readers/readers that will return feedback to you. Now, the more your comic appeals to sixteen year old kids, the more likely you'll get a huge fanbase and an active forum, because those are the only ones that have time to spend on foruming. If you look at the most popular comics's forums, you can easily have an idea of the average age of their memberlist.

Now the big question is: would you want a fanbase like that?

Try setting up a shoutbox or dreambook type mini-forum first. If that gets a lot of traffic, you should consider setting up an actual forum.

If you're desperate for feedback, get a Haloscan account.

Forums vs Blog replies

I'm in the process of developing a webcomic & am still designing the website. I used to run a Buffy fansite & managed the forums there so I know that they can be a hassle & time consuming. I'm not talking about keeping up with replying to posts but rather the time involved dealing with database issues, membership problems, moderating arguments etc... I'm leaning towards just using livejournal or blogger as a type of forum. I think for those starting out or with a smaller community a blog or a tagboard would be easier to manage, leaving the creator more time to actually read/reply to messages & of course working on the comic itself.
btw sorry if this reply shows up twice... it didn't seem to through the 1st time

Uhm... actually, we launched with a forum. I mean, the site supported it and sent us phpBB when we signed up... so... why not? And actually, I've always thought that our forums were disproportionately popular based on the comic. I mean, you're never going to have ALL of your readers posting in the forums, but I do know that we have both more forum members and more posts than other webcomics that are 10x or more our size.

I guess the "when" depends on YOU more than the comic. If you think you can build a good forum and foster a community on your site, regardless of how many readers you have, GO FOR IT!

For me, one of the most satisfying parts of doing a comic is presiding over a (semi)active forum. Of course, it helps that it's hosted on Kyhm, so I can siphon readers from Errant Story. :)

Toon_Dawg's picture

I have the opposite problem - my forum has become too busy. Although they've turned into more of a broader subject of "marching band" in general rather than just my comic, which is where the traffic comes from (and like someone else in the thread mentioned, the avg. age is 16!). I've found that the forum in many cases has brought readers to my comic from googling or word of mouth at schools.

I'm trying to decide what to do, because soon the popularity of the board will outgrow what I'm paying for web host-wise. :shock:

Tales From Band Camp: http:www.talesfrombandcamp.com

EDIT: Ha ha ha, I didn't read this whole thread and so didn't see the post I already wrote that was more or less identical to this one until it was too late. Oops!

Chris Cantrell's picture

I've actually got a nice vBulletin set up with my forums at the moment but they see squat in traffic. I'd say it's just a matter of infinite forums and finite time. If you've got the time and know how and want to launch a forum anytime is fine (especially with great free boards available now). I'll leave mine running until I find another use for the software then it'll probably be uprooted unless there is a thriving base at that point.

Haunted Pixel Studios www.hauntedpixelstudios.com

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I had a forum since day one. Took a little while to get it going but for the past couple of years it's been a pretty hopping place, one of the busiest forums on Keenspace.

I added a forum a few months after starting out, but that was only because it took me a while to get around to it. I get a several posts a day, with about half a dozen regulars dominating.

From experience (and I started out in IT running BBS' for my employer, so I have got a bit of experience here!) I find that you'll get a dozen or so "lurkers" for every person who registers, and of those that register, only about 30% will actually post more than once. Most of those will drop off after a short while and just go back to lurking. I tend to get a few emails every month as well, and these tend to be from the lurkers - some people are just too shy to post on a forum.

You must make a point of logging in and posting every day to keep the board active. Obviously it helps if you can post something interesting! Make the subjects wider than just your comic and there will be more interesting conversations, and therefore more life. Mines a sci-fi comic, so we also have chats about breaking news in various scientific fields, sci-fi books, films etc. I also put up concept pictures, fan art and stories, and have a little feature called "On the sidelines" which is presented as news articles from when the comic is set. That seems to generate a lot of speculation on the board as they try and work out if the latest news report is related to the storyline or not. Quite often it is, and it also allows me to develop the background more, and in a way that would be hard to do in a comic strip.

If you can recruit additional admins from your fan base that also really helps (and can be a life saver - in February I had a bunch of herberts trying to crash my board. Luckily my other admin is in Australia, so she was on at the time and was able to deal with it until I got on and started tracking the ip addresses back and sending complaints to their ISP's. The attacks stopped pretty quickly after that).

Finally, something evolved out of my board that I wasn't expecting. People who post regularly and "play nice" with everyone else on the board tend to end up being written into the comic. This seems to be a big hit amongst folks, who love seeing their Avatar characters appear. And the "play nice and you might get a role" rule encourages a really good community feel for the place too.

Overall, a forum can really be a bonus for everyone concerned, and it needn't take up a huge amount of time to manage. Like everything else, you just need to keep steadily working at it and it'll get better and better. I really do enjoy the jokes and feedback I get from people - in fact without it I'd probably have quit doing the comic by now. But because they offer such great support to me I've recently gone up to three times a week, because they are so enthusiastic and I don't want to let them down! :)

All I know is that since bCx went down the weirdos have found me :lol:

~Liriel