Seeking pre-launch (or if-launch!) wisdom

I run a public-policy nonprofit; our audience is about 26,000 municipal staff and 4,000 local elected officials in the U.S. We’re exploring whether these two groups could use a forum.

My questions to those who’ve been there and done that before:

  • I’m worried the potential audience may be too small – 1% penetration of 30k would mean 300 participants. Any anecdotes or advice about small-group best practices?

  • Can Discourse open some forums (or even some discussions) to search-engine visibility and not others?

At this point, our path looks like the following; any other suggestions?

  • Validate the idea (and a few others) via a survey.

  • Use the survey to drive product features in Discourse

  • Build/test/launch


I also have small audiences (in invite only forums) but I’m not sure small is the difficulty here, your audience is probably already delimited and structured into groups. And it’s tricky, the horizontal structure of a forum is not easily compatible with the pyramidal one IRL, after a year they are still cagey, they know or could know each other.
Meaningful discussions can be quite political and inflamed which discouraged the less “power hungry” profiles to publish (of course anything ad hominem is automatically deleted/sanctioned).

I use a mix of events/calendar and video conf component to incite recurrent login. They don’t publish a lot, but are of course eager to read what the others have to say :roll_eyes: .

I guess you mean that some categories can be restricted to some groups hence not visible to search engines (so yes :slightly_smiling_face:)


OK, so, first: Extraordinarily helpful – thanks! You’re spot on that one goal would be to have more cross-discipline interaction, which (frankly) may not be something every potential member wants. My hypothesis (which I’m not sure of, hence my desire to do a survey) is that delivering an experience with that cross-pollination AND no ads or data mining would be a compelling offer.

The audience is local-gov staff and elected officials. As an example, consider city planners and city economic development staff – both have a shared interest in a vibrant, economically resilient community, but likely aren’t talking to each other much on a regular basis and have very different ideas of how to get there. And other than anemic listservs, there isn’t much in the way of dedicated communities for them to tap into.

LOVE the idea of pushing calendar content and perhaps some exclusive video content. That’s smart.