Back in the day, setting up a forum was so beyond the skill set for the average internet user that simply having one was your competitive advantage.
You were the only game in town and you won big. Many of these forums still survive today, decades later, as active as they’ve ever been.
Alas, a decade ago social media came along and blew most forums out the water. Now any of your members can set up a group for free (or next to free) for your audience on Facebook, Reddit, StackExchange, Slack, LinkedIn, MightyNetworks, Whatsapp, and a growing number of other tools.
Many of these tools are better embedded into your members’ habits, provide a frictionless joining experience, and siphon growth from other groups already in the platform.
Your platform might have a better design, better personalization, and be an easier place to follow discussions, but the last decade shows most members simply don’t care.
It’s like a local grocer trying to compete against a supermarket by learning the customer’s names, providing a more personal experience, and better quality of goods. Ultimately, most customers only care about price and convenience. That convenience is true in communities too.
If you want to prevail as a single community site, you need a competitive asset no-one else can match.