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This post is based on the belief that, over the last 2 years, UK Business Forums (UKBF) has declined greatly as a forum. Fewer interesting threads. Fewer insightful replies.

If you disagree with this, then what I’m about to write is going to come across as a mis-diagnosis of a non-existent problem. However, if you do agree with me – or are just curious – keep reading…

The 80/20 Rule

As you may know, the 80/20 principle – also known as ‘The law of the vital few and the trivial many’ – says 80% of results are caused by 20% of actions.

So, for example…

80% of money is held by 20% of the people.

80% of land is owned by 20% of the people

80% of sales come from 20% of customers

80% of problems are caused by 20% of customers

… and so on…

It’s not always 80-20, sometimes it’s 90-10, 95-5… but there’s always small minority that are producing the majority of the results.

For many years, I made the observation that most of the good content on UK Business Forums (UKBF) was being created by just 50 people.

(To put that in perspective, there are over 170,000 registered members.)

So, for example, if you took the best 2000 posts in 2010, 50 people would be responsible for the significant majority of those posts.

Not all posts are created equal

IMO, it’s also those best posts that…

· Turn one time browsers into regular browsers
· Turn forum browsers into members
· Turn members into more frequent visitors
· Encourage members to post more questions and share more insights

Or, to put it another way, those best posts – and best posters – were indirectly responsibly for a large portion of the forum’s pageviews… and that means a large portion of the forum’s revenue (UKBF gets most of its money from pay per pageview advertising).

The other 20%

At the same time, there were probably 25 worst posters who were starting 80% of the arguments, doing 80% of the flaming, 80% of the trolling.

And here’s the thing: UKBF treated these posters exactly the same as it treated the best posters.

Yes, eventually, it banned some of the trolls… but soon let them back, either by rescinding the ban, or by allowing them to sign up and stir trouble under a different username.

And that was a real drag. When you’re posting under your own name – or the name of your business – and you get insulted by an anonymous user with nothing to lose, what do you do?

Get involved in an argument? Or say nothing and look like you have no counter to the insult? It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

(From conversations with some of the “top 50”, it’s clear the flaming was a major reason why some stopped posting.)

The mis-management of the top 50

I believe the downfall of the forum was caused by the failure of the forum owners to appreciate just how many of the forum’s pageviews were indirectly attributable to the contributions of the top 50.

And, as a result, they never took any action to keep those key posters happy…

– They never treated the top 50 any better than any other posters

– They didn’t reward those posters in any way

– They never incentivised them to post more good content

– And, when a number of the top 50 left, the forum owners never contacted them to find out why they stopped posting, or to encourage them to return

The snowball effect

It’s probably no surprise to find out that, after years of being on the same forum, many of the top 50 knew each other.

So, when some of them stopped posting, others noticed. They noticed the quality dropping, , which led to more of them leaving, which lowered the quality further….

And now it’s a forum with so few good regular posters, it struggles to attract replacements for the quality members it let slip away.

It could have been very different

If the forum owners had done an analysis of the membership, they could have identified the key posters and taken action to keep them happy.

But, instead, they took the approach that “everyone is equal”, which is just another way of showing a lack of appreciation for the best posters. So they lost those posters.

A reminder to all of us to make our best customers feel appreciated.

Just my 2p,

Steve

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