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  Niche Market Community?
I would like to start a forum about careercoaching on the internet. How can I best start this???

Congratulations on wanting to start a career coaching community. The very best way to begin is by doing your homework, asking yourself some fundamental questions about why you are providing the service, to whom, and how.

First of all,

1) What is the rationale for developing a career coaching community online?

Your answer to this very much depends on your knowledge of the field. You might perceive that there is a need to provide services online because you feel existing career-coaching services do not make use of the internet, or you may feel that there are some intrinsic benefits of forming an online community which career-coaches are not employing. If there are existing sites that provide similar services, it is important to think of how you will be different. Is your community the distinctive feature which will set your site apart from others? Do some research using one of the major search engines if you have not already done so, and find out what kind of offerings are already in place on the web. Ensure that you have a focus on what it is you will do differently or the different markets you might be tapping into.

You may also at this point look to partners to provide all the services you need. For example, if you are running a community of experts then you may need to source some individuals to assist you in your endeavor. Other partners might include advertisers if you intend on generating revenue from banners or other forms of online sponsorship, or content partners who can provide additional value for your community.

At root, these issues are also your site and business model. Making sure you have full and well-founded answers to these questions will provide your community with solid-standing based on a set of what might be termed "Mission Statements". These Mission Statements will cover both what you expect the site to provide, how it will be funded, and what you expect your community participants will receive and what they will give to the community.

2) Who will my community members be?

It is important at the outset to really understand who will participate in your community. Without that knowledge you would be launching a members club without knowing who might join and what they want from your club! Think about the following demographics: age, gender, location, language, technical abilities, employment status, and so on. These facets of your potential users will have considerable bearing on a) what you will offer and b) how you will offer it. Make sure you are not making assumptions as to who might participate. Not fully answering these questions may place you in a position where you are offering services which are not needed or providing them to the wrong people entirely.

Once you know more about your envisaged community make-up then that naturally leads to a better picture of what you can offer to them.

3) What services do I want to offer them?

There are several kinds of forum. A basic forum would involve a simple question and answer mechanism rather like our own, whereby questions could be asked and answered on the site in rather a distinct process over which you have management. Such an exchange would be like an "ask the expert" facility. Rather more complex and interactive would be a message board forum where multiple communications between participants form the basis of communication. You might consider moderating the forum yourself or have volunteers or employees assist you in answering questions on the message boards and stimulating conversations.

For more information on the various types and uses of forums do see our previous community answers;

Threaded VS. Non-Threaded Message Boards

4) What other kind of site features or community components do I want to utilize?

Aside from the community forum which will be on your site, you will probably have other site features, such as articles, tips, links and other content. What is important for your community in this respect is to offer connectivity between this content and your forums. This will invite discussions and promote activity.

Other possible avenues to consider would be regular chat rooms or live events, polls and surveys. We have provided information on these community components in the following community articles;

Live Events VS. Regular Chat

Community Tools (Community for B2C e-commerce site?)

Polls and Surveys

As well as another article regarding building community on a new site;

New Site Community

We thank you for your question, and hope that you find the answer helpful. We wish the very best of luck with your community endeavor.

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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