Extremely common question I hear is when I make a membership site should I add a forum to get people posting there, to have a community, and to keep members paying and coming back all the time. And you should think for a long time before adding a forum. You should make sure your site is established first and has content of your own before you start asking for content from other people. The reason for this is because it’s too easy to have an empty forum.
If you set-up a forum or message board and no one is posting inside, then you have negative social proof. We’ve all seen on websites, on blogs especially, we can make posts, we can get people to visit, but it’s very hard to get people to participate especially that first time and leave a post or leave a comment. That means that if you have a forum, you can have a lot of lurkers reading posts but not a lot of people posting and everyone believes that the forum is empty.
And if you can get your membership site filled up enough, you have the worse case and the best case. The worse case is that, no one posts on your forum at all and you just have an empty message board. This really sucks because you end up having to put in a bunch of time making posts of your own, maybe using fake names just to get people to look at what you have but they still wont post. In other words, it’s a wasted area of your membership site. And the best case is that you have tons of activity on your forum which means you have to watch it everyday and moderate comments and delete troublemakers and basically make sure that everyone stays friendly towards one another.
I am not saying forums are all bad, I just highly recommend that you launch your membership site normally right now with posts and the ability to leave comments, and if the membership site becomes very popular, add a forum and you set as an excuse to launch again.