Competing against a large non-Discourse community

I run a Discourse community (https://evowners.com) focused around electric vehicles. My community started life as a phpbb3 forum focused specifically around one niche electric vehicle (Renault Twizy) and was originally called Twizy owners. After discovering Discourse I decided to migrate my forum over and all went well.

After I’d been using Discourse for a while I toyed with the idea of opening the community up to a more general EV audience for all vehicles, but always sensed backlash from my users whenever I suggested it. During this time another forum sprung up called Speak EV (https://www.speakev.com/) that was focused around all vehicles and it quickly grew into a huge community. I had missed the boat.

After a while I decided to broaden the subject matter of my community anyway, and re-branded it to EVOwners. However, it’s never quite worked and the community has remained strongly focused on the Renault Twizy to this day. So much so, that there is barely anything to do with the Twizy on Speak EV, anything Twizy related is on my forum.

I have experimented with adding more vehicle categories and encouraging discussion in these categories, but it feels like a lost cause at this point. How do I encourage more sign ups and discussion on my site? Does anyone have any ideas for growing a Discourse community when faced with such a large competitor?

TLDR; My forum was focused on one electric vehicle model but is now focused on all electric vehicle models. Another (non Discourse) forum beat me to it and has a huge audience. They are no doubt the number 1 EV focused forum in the world. They are number 1 on Google for ‘EV forum’ and my forum is the last entry on the first page. How do I compete?

Here is a Renault Twizy if anyone’s curious:

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Just do what is best for the community. Some users may love to chat about electric cars but don’t have a Twizy so feel restricted and don’t join. However if you are more diverse about what you talk about more users will join as they can talk generally about what they love. Users can sometimes be stuck in their old deluded ways - change can be a positive thing. They are going to have to get used to it. You never know… They might even enjoy themselves.

Do you have anything that makes your forum unique. Link it everywhere and show everyone it has a USP.

Some helpful links


Sorry to disappoint you but that car is beyond ugly. Nobody can convince me electric cars are good right now :wink:
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That’s what I did. I opened it up to all EVs about 5 years ago now, but most of my audience are only interested in talking about the Twizy. As the Twizy is very niche, I guess my motivation for opening the forum up to all vehicles was to grow my user base. I’ve just not been able to catch up to the other forums out there, like Speak EV. It’s very difficult trying to fight back against that network effect now that Speak EV is well established. i.e. I can’t attract Tesla owners for example because all of the discussion is either on Speak EV or elsewhere, but there won’t ever be Tesla discussion on my forum if I can’t attract the users. Kind of a catch 22 for me at the moment.

I always thought, perhaps naively, that my use of Discourse was my USP (among EV forums). I felt it was the superior forum platform, but that alone doesn’t drive sign ups and discussion. Speak EV used to be slow and run on old software, but I think it got bought out and they’ve now developed it quite well, so I guess my speed advantage no longer applies.

I will take a look at those links and see if there is anything there that sparks a lightbulb.

You’d want one if you drove it. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a car! But seriously, nobody can convince you electric cars are good with the likes of Tesla, Jaguar, Volvo (Polestar), BMW, Mercedes vehicles on the market now???

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Nope :slight_smile:

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Have you tried picking out a new and promising EV, creating a topic for it and saying something about it? Maybe talk about how you feel it looks, features it has (or will have) that other EVs are lacking, better driving range, charge time, price, etc. While this will require a lot of research and effort on your part, hopefully some will read what you posted and comment on it themselves. If others start doing the same, discussion started! :slightly_smiling_face:

Another idea would be to have a topic where people could post what they would like to see in an EV. Then check to see any of the other EVs already has these features or will be employing them in the near future. Then start a topic for that EV - with a link to it posted on your “main” topic. But ask a question such as, “would this feature be worth an added cost or would you rather see it come standard?” Who knows how many will reply to your question(s). Hopefully, others will chime in with their thoughts on it as well.

I hope you can make it work. :crossed_fingers:

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Thanks for the suggestions @JimPas

I guess you’re right and I will have to put the effort in to stimulate the discussion myself first. Focusing on newer EVs is a good idea.

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Have you thought about merging with that other community? Maybe there can be some great synergies there. :sparkles:

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I haven’t, and it’s not something I’d be keen for. I enjoy running my community and we are a friendly bunch on there. I wouldn’t want to lose that by essentially being absorbed by the much larger forum.

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My first (genuine, not antagonistic) question for you is why do you care? Community builders often put a lot of weight on growth stats but what direct benefit are they to you? It is generally better to have an extremely engaged community talking about the thing they love than a larger one with less focus.

Unless the community concepts are identical, the platform is of very little relevance, in the same way that a new platform won’t save a dying community.

TLDR; Most successful communities of interest have a community concept with a laser sharp focus.

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Being blunt I guess I always had hopes of monetising it to a certain degree. At least to the point where it made it worth my while to support it and continually improve it. It’s also more interesting to have diverse conversations. I no longer own a Twizy, so the Twizy discussions aren’t as interesting to me personally anymore, even though I still want to provide that platform for people.

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Totally fair enough. That’s a very legit reason. Are you talking ads or something else?

So what I’d suggest doing now is talking to your audience. We can offer advice based on past experience but we’re not who you are targeting.

Spend some time in the other forum and see what works there. Why do people frequent it? Is it the culture, their relationships with others, the content?

And interview some of your own members. Find out what they like about your community and what they’d like to see.

There is always room for two (or more) competitors in a space, provided you offer something different.

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Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve started doing some of this already, particularly speaking to my own members. I’ve sent some messages to users that signed up but left straight away, for example. I’m going to keep down that path, along with posting original content myself and trying to get more involved in the community to encourage others to participate more.

What I found in the past when I tried to expand to more EVs was that the original users complained that they only wanted to see Twizy topics in the latest feed. I know for us that’s as easy as going to the Twizy category, but I think for some users they’re either not aware of how the forum works or they just didn’t want to go through the extra steps. I know there’s not really a solution to this beyond trying to educate them, and it probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue once the audience has evolved somewhat.

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Ads and premium user accounts to unlock certain categories. I actually just implemented this and it has started well. The highly engaged users have signed up to premium, and I’ve added flair and badges to identify them as such to the other members.

Shout out to the awesome plugin authors by the way! :hugs:

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I would strongly consider upgrading your domain name to EVForum.com which would be the category killer to give your forum the edge in competing.

SpeakEV forum software is crap compared to Discourse so you have a major advantage there and their brand is terrible.

Your brand, your forum software, and the fact you are the original EV forum will catapult you ahead, which you need to make a point of, but you really need to think about upgrading your brand to EVForum.com or ECForum.com which would especially help expand your reach and attract more signups and quality content.

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This is a fair suggestion, unfortunately that domain name is taken. I’ve also worked quite hard to build the EVOwners brand and I think my community quite like it.

Changing it now would potentially hurt my community I think.

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Do you know how/why they got so big? What channels they used to acquire signups and traffic.

Perhaps you could use the same high-level approach, with some twists to differentiate your community.

Also, just because another community is larger than yours doesn’t mean that yours doesn’t offer value to sponsors.

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EVOwners kind of “says it all” - your users are actual owner of the EVs. That says they have not just questions about the vehicles, but by owning them they can give answers based upon experience. I like that.

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I guess that was kind of the underlying point of the previous poster. It may psychologically “close the door” to people NOT YET owning an EV. All the people at the previous stage: Interested, thinking about it, maybe having questions (of non-yet owner), etc. They may think they don’t have their place there as they don’t own one. So he was suggesting to broaden the potential audience (at least suggesting it through the forum name).

Depends on what you want. A site of EV “owners” is sure also great. But it’s less potential people (it should increase over time, though). There may be an argument that these people may have joined “SpeakEV” at the previous stage, and they’ll stay there. I don’t know to what extent the forum title/name could have a big importance there. It might.

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If I was interested in buying an EV, I would tend to think of this forum as people who have reviewed a product and I would go there to see the “reviews.” Maybe just a niche use, but many sites selling products have reviews and they are indeed read by many potential buyers - even Amazon. :wink:

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Sure, but maybe you wouldn’t feel comfortable registering, as you’re NOT an “owner”. And you wouldn’t dare asking newbie’s questions of someone not having an EV. Especially if that’s not something common/already happening on the forum. That’s the way I understand the name change suggestion from above: “A place to discuss everything EV-related, not JUST for owners”.

I get your point that the perceived “expertise” may be attractive, but maybe only to view, not to participate. (Maybe not, I’m totally not sure here)

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