How to compete with an existing forum that just upgraded their software?

This is sort of a vent. But this may be the best place to post if anyone has experienced something similar, or can offer tips on community building.

I opened my Discourse forum less than 2 months ago. Growth has been slow (just hit 50 member mark), and very few people are posting. My only success in growth has been posting in various FB groups about the new community, I’d usually get 1-2 people signing up, though I’d get 5-10 likes each time (ugh!). Posting on reddit or twitter has not been so successful.

But still, I was happy to hit 50, and I was researching a monthly community building post this morning, common among the niche. That’s when I found out the incumbent forum just updated their site to Xenforo, from an old version of vBulletin. One of my main reasons for building this forum was because one did not exist for this niche on a modern platform. I was having a bad morning to begin with, and this just has me floored.

I still like to hope I can offer something a little different. My forum casts a slightly different/wider net. I’d like to think it’s organized better, with much fewer sub-categories. In reading their reactions, people are upset at all the extra ads (mine would be minimal) and the new premium membership. You can tell a lot of people liked it the way it was. I probably would’ve been happy had they done it 3 years ago when I asked them to update.

Interesting to note, the community is no longer owned by someone within the niche. He sold it a couple years ago (To retire, I hope) to a larger community conglomerate. I still don’t think it’s managed very well. For example, a popular Member Intro topic that’s supposed to be monthly has been active for over 2 years.

So that’s my story. I know it would be in bad form to advertise my community on their forum. If anyone has any words of advice to overcome this and continue growth, my ears are open.


Have you tried live or 1 - 1 events where your current members can connect with each other? From what you’ve said, the unhappy community members in the incumbent forum will be your strongest allies, so you only need to improve engagement within your current community with the members you have and they’ll do the talking for you telling other unhappy community members in the incumbent forum how they can get a better experience on your forum.

For ideas on events or things to do in your community, ask your current members for what they’d like or tips. You can do this privately or publicly.