Sunday, January 21, 2007

Microsites feature - forums

In my previous post I wrote about my intention to leverage the traffic I get to my online store to start microsites around product groups, such as different bands. I took my first step into that direction by tweaking PhpBB and doing some mod_rewrite trickery to allow me to easily create several forums which appear distinct, but are actually all running on the same software and database. This allows me to maintain only one installation of PhpBB and create a new forum in about 20 minutes instead of a complete new installation.

Obviously a microsite is going to need more than just a forum, but I imagine that for a successful microsite the forum would be the most important part of it. To test out the system I created two forums around two bands whose products I sell, Maruru forum and Antic-cafe forum.

Deciding scope

The reason for starting several small forums instead of one big one is to create a sense of belonging / identity for those using them. People seem to feel stronger attach ment to smaller circles. For example people will feel a connection to those attending the same school as them, at a lesser level to those living in the same city as them, even lesser to those from the same country. I want to find the optimal "circle size" to get people to feel that attachment, while not limiting fruitful conversations that could have happened if those circles were combined.

For example I could have created a "japanese music" forum instead of having "maruru" and "antic-cafe" as separate forums. Perhaps I should have, not sure, still experimenting. Certainly someone who is an enthusiastic fan of Antic Cafe would feel less at home at a generic forum for all Japanese music. Still there clearly has to be some minimum size at which an active forum is still possible, if there wasn't I could create a forum for people from Vatican who like Michael Jackson and are into cross-dressing. It would be a small group, but man would they be into it.