5 Proven Techniques to Build a Profitable Web Forum
You may have heard that having a web community is a great way to increase sales, customer loyalty and word of mouth for your web business. In fact a web community itself, if large enough and targeting an affluent demographic (or one that advertisers like to target), has the potential to bring in revenue. Commonly people use a web forum as the centre point for a web community. However building a popular forum is no easy task and requires patience and dedication.
Start at the beginning: Which forum software should I use?
Perhaps the least important variable, but certainly a vital aspect, is the forum software you choose. I came to settle on Invision Board as my favourite forum of choice. Over the years I became very familiar with Invison Board functions so it would take a lot for me to switch to different forum software. Unfortunately the team at Invision recently stopped offering a fully functional free version and the most current free version has limitations on numbers of users. I'm a strong supporter of Invision so I still recommend using the free service and then paying to upgrade once your board is large enough to warrant it. Chances are with your forum being that popular means you can justify the fee anyway.
The other top quality free forum out there is phpBB which is the open source offering. I haven't used this myself but with Invision no longer being free I can see this being the main player for all small business forums. I see this forum everywhere so I think you can take that as a strong endorsement.
Another popular choice, especially for large companies that can afford the fee is vBulletin. This seems to the professional forum of choice for those with the moolah to afford it. I only played with this forum many years ago when they had a limited use free version (in fact it was the first forum I ever installed). It's definitely a top forum with a great design, but you pay for it.
As I said which forum software you choose is not too important. You are going to have to learn to use at least one, so choose the one that satisfies your criteria and then get playing. If the idea of installing forum software is daunting to you then I suggest you look at the installation services most forum businesses offer. You can pay a small fee and one of the staff or community members will install the software for you. There are also remotely hosted forums where you don't install any software at all on your server but instead use one hosted by the forum company. Note this often either costs money or is advertiser supported so you might have some icky banners or other ads streamed across your forum. I recommend you host the forum on your own server because you get control, ownership and better search engine benefits.
How to attract and keep members
Regardless of which forum software you choose the hardest part of building a community is getting members, and members that stick around. Obviously your forum should be targeted to your business niche or target market if it's not a business site.
Picking the niche area you target is vital for success, and the individual forums you create for your community must clearly represent the purpose of your community. However this is where some lessons can be learnt. At first when you start building categories and individual forums you might get carried away with all the interesting forums you can create. You dream of your users lapping it up and talking away about every little area of interest you can come up with. This is the first major mistake you can make. You end up creating way too many forums that have no topics in them. Even if you do manage to bring some quality visitors to your site, they hit your forum and see an empty place and then move on. No one feels compelled to join an empty forum.
But you may ask then, how can you go from having an empty forum to one filled with topics when no one wants to get things started? It's a catch 22 isn't it! The number one concept to remember is that people bring in people. If visitors see topics and posts and discussions they are interested in they are more likely to contribute. It's hardest early on when you first launch but there are some tricks you can do. Here are the key pointers I've learnt to get passed this early stage of a ghost-town forum.
1. Think minimalist when building categories and forums
Look to about four forums maximum to start with, even less if possible. If you find yourself coming up with many different forum subjects, try and group them together under one forum. Then in that forum you can create individual topic posts to cater to each area. That way you are creating conversation starters and making the place look a little busier. As the forums grow and you have enough individual entries to start breaking down forums you can justify creating new ones. You can then move the existing topics into the appropriate categories and the forum doesn't start off empty.
2. As the owner you must keep contributing
This might seem obvious, but it's hard to keep motivated when week after week you create new topics and try to stimulate conversation and you seem to be talking to yourself. Personally I get the most excited when I first build the forum, thinking of all the great topics that can be discussed. Unfortunately once everything is done it does take some effort to keep writing fresh content. The only rule I can give is stick to it. Get into a routine of making a few posts everyday.
Expanding on this idea...
3. Create some fake personalities
This may seem a little dishonest, but a little trick you can use to stimulate conversation is to create a few different member accounts each with their own personality. Basically you create some fictional members and get posting. You can even have full forum conversations between your characters (just don't go insane!). Only you know which characters are fake. To everyone else it appears as if your forum is getting popular.
I had a friend take this idea so seriously that he kept profile notes on each character such as age, sex, personality type, occupation etc so whenever he made posts he made sure to get into character first. It's like forum acting.
This method again takes dedication because you need to keep logging in with each character and making new posts. However it can be MUCH more effective than if it was just you making all the posts as your own identity. It looks sad when the webmaster is chatting away to no one, but not quite as sad when Jim, Katie, Chris and Jane are having conversations even if they really are all controlled by the webmaster.
4. Publish content
If you want unique content you may have to pay for it and consider hiring columnists. With MTGParadise.com we had such a good community that many of our members were happy to write articles and reports for free. They enjoyed writing and seeing their article published. It's not easy to generate free unique articles this way especially early on before you have a community running, so it might be necessary to throw around a little cash and buy some articles.
If you can find content relevant to your market and distribute it to your community you have a good way to stimulate conversation and make your forum look a little busier.
5. Recruit your mates and spread the word
This is harder than you'd think. If you are like me, most of my closest friends are too busy or not really the forum community types so they won't help out much. Generally though you should have a few friends that are interested in the topic of your forum and they might help out with a post every now and then. Don't put to much pressure on them and be thankful for anything they contribute. You don't want to get carried away trying to get your forum off the ground that you lose your friends because you constantly pester them to make posts or join up.
As a general rule, don't be shy; tell everyone you know about your forum. But only do it once in a polite manner. Say you are inviting them to check out something you have created and that you want their valuable opinion before you officially launch. This "sneak peek" will make your friends and family feel special because you are demonstrating that you value their opinion so they will be more inclined to check out your site.
You can put a note in your signature file in your email about your new community, make a few posts at newsgroups that focus on your target market and hit some other complimentary (not competitor) forums to advertise your new forum. Remember always be courteous, follow rules and don't come across too desperate whenever you promote your forum. All this will come across negatively and harm your chances of new members signing up.
Don't give up
The most important tip I can give you to grow your community is to not give up. Even though YoungActivist.com is sitting out there all alone with no members and very old content I still value the site. While I didn't achieve the success I wanted off the bat, I haven't given up and hope that one day can I can get the site growing again.
Sometime after months, maybe even years of making new posts, adding content and spreading the word, you will find that your forum has grown to have a few hundred members, a handful of devoted regulars and no longer requires daily injections of posts from you. You reach a critical mass and your community moves forward without too much intervention from you. This is the holy grail of forum building because your members became the best advertising tool you could ever have. Word of mouth helps the site to continue to grow and attract new members. You can start creating new forums with confidence that they won't be empty for long. Best of all, you now have an audience that you can either leverage around your own products or services or start to derive revenue from through advertising, premium services or subscriptions etc.
By Yaro Starak
Do you want to profit from your own successful home based Internet business?
Learn from Yaro Starak, a young entrepreneur from Australia. He works part time from home on several web based business that generate between $2,000 and $8,000 per month. Get your free articles and audio now - visit his Internet Business Blog.
11 Ways To Increase Forums Activities
Getting people to post in your forum is probably the hardest thing to do. First, not all of your readers will post messages. In fact, only a small percentage will post regularly, and most will never post at all. Second, nobody want to be the first person to post a message. In fact, topic starters (people that start new topic of discussion) will be a small percentage of your posters; the rest will simply reply to topics that have been started.
Whats The Deal With Discussion Lists for Writers? (Part Two)
What Are the Advantages and/or Drawbacks of Subscribing to Discussion Lists?
Five Tips to Launching a Successful Message Forum
Forums a.k.a. "message boards" can be great marketing tools for your website. They attract repeat visitors and provide a meeting place for them to share their thoughts, ideas, questions and concerns.
Marketing Via Messageboards & E-mail Discussion Lists - An Alternative View
One of the most suggested means of getting traffic to a site in the early stages is to get involved in messageboard and e-mail discussions on your topic of choice. The idea is that you can show your expertise and therefore get traffic to your site via your signature file (most discussion lists allow you to include your signature file with your post - a few lines with your name, site address and maybe a very brief description). Whilst this is a valid tip, I don't believe that the real reason for why you should do this has been investigated far enough previously.
8 Tips for Starting and Maintaining a Successful Online Forum
Nothing promotes a business online better than staying in touch with prospects. The more interactive the continued contact, the more of a relationship that is built with a potential client.
The Value of Forums
There are literally thousands of online forums that cover a wide range of topics. Forums provide individuals, who share a common interest, with a meeting place for open discussion, and a great gathering spot for "water cooler" talk. When used properly forums can be an excellent business tool and resource. By providing well thought out, helpful responses posters can develop a reputation as an industry expert. Establishing a reputation within forums will eventually lead to solid business contacts and relationships.
Using Message Boards Properly
We all have our own reasons for joining message boards. Maybe its to meet some friends, or find some ideas for your business. Maybe you just needed a place to announce your party. Whatever the reason, are you using them properly?
Some Quick Tips to Easily Improve the Success of Your Forum!
It is difficult to define a 'successful forum'. However, all forums deal with information and so the amount of information that is transferred across a forum is an indication of its success. The most effective way to boost the transfer of information is by boosting your forum's traffic.
Get Traffic & Sales Using Discussion Forums
Message boards, discussion forums and newsgroups can all produce very profitable results for you and your business. Most of us already participate in one or more of these and the more you participate the bigger the benefits to you and your website will be.
Promoting in Online Forums
Forums can be a useful tool if you`re doing business online. You can learn a lot by reading the content and actively taking part in the discussions. Reading a forum's archives can be a great way to get a basic knowledge about a topic, and it can also give you pointers about the changes in trends and opinions through time. It is always very important to read the terms and conditions of each particular forum for a basic guideline as to what is acceptable. It`s also a good idea to read archived posts in order to see the guidelines in action. If you don`t, you could end up doing something wrong, like spamming the forum, and that could seriously hurt both your name and your business. Taking an active part in forums can help you gain recognition in topics you show some knowledge of, and may even result in some great business leads and contacts. Read through posts, and answer any questions you are able to in a polite, friendly and helpful manner. It`s a brilliant way to get your name and services known, but you have to be aware that different forums have different rules in regards to self-promotion. Some won`t allow any hint of self-promotion, some are specifically aimed at self-promotion, and a lot of them fall somewhere in between, allowing either signature files or URL's to an off-the-page member profile. The in-between ones are the best ones to use for marketing yourself, especially as the ones aimed at promoting usually end up more like "spam boards" than anything else. See if you can choose forums that allow a sig file, which is basically a short block of text about you and/or your services which can be automatically attached to the end of every post you make. No matter what you do, never EVER post a reply to a 'legitimate' topic with nothing but spam in the body of your post. This will annoy forum members who are seeking valid answers, and kill your credibility as an online marketer almost instantly. "Netiquette" is a must-have if you`re planning to use forums. What is netiquette, you ask? Basically the same as offline etiquette. It is essential to have a good understanding of acceptable ways to communicate with other forum members. That`s why it`s so important to do a LOT of reading in the forums before you start posting messages yourself. This is where good moderators come into play. They check the forums for inappropriate posts and spam, they keep the boards clean, and make sure everybody plays by the rules. Forums without moderators tend to turn into ghost-towns, with nothing but spam bots visiting them. A nice clean board needs good moderators to keep it that way. In the worst-case scenario, if you break the rules in a forum, by maybe spamming, or using inappropriate language or behaviour, either the administrators or moderators may well end up banning you from that particular forum. If that happens, they will most likely delete each and every post you`ve made, whether it`s good or bad. Happy Visiting and Posting.
Chat Forums and Blogs: The Unofficial Internet Posting Rules
Have you been hanging around in internet forums and/or making blog comments lately? Public posting is growing ever-popular. One thing I've noticed, is that if you use it for business purposes and you accidentally blurt the wrong thing, it can get ugly pretty quick. A remark that was never intended to be malevolent turns out to offend somebody, and next thing you know, you're engaged in yet another public forum ping pong match. This can be downright exhausting. So is there a 'proper' way to conduct oneself on the network, in the forum, and on the blog? From what I've seen so far, I have to say yes.
Reward Your Forum Moderators
If you are a forum administrator and you have moderators on your site who are doing a stellar job, consider rewarding them for their assistance. No, I am not necessarily talking about financial compensation, but other recognizable forms of showing your gratefulness.
Whats The Deal With Discussion Lists For Writers? (Part One)
Are they really free? Are they actually helpful?
Make Money From Forums
If you have a website about a topic you enjoy, you can make money from discussion forums. Talk, post links to your site, get traffic. Traffic means money, right? If not, try different affiliate programs or Google Adwords. The worst sites should get a couple cents per visitor. Now here's how to talk and make money.
Why You Should Use (Not Abuse) Forums to Increase Your Traffic
There are dozens of reasons why you should look up the forums that are related to your market and post to them often. Here are 3 to get you started.
6 Forum Management Essentials
If you are tasked with managing a forum, congratulations to you. If you find yourself weighed down by mundane management tasks, you are not alone. Let's examine some essentials to help you run an effective and vibrant message board community without the hassles of micromanagement.
The Demise of EZBoard
For years, EZBoard was a community that offered relatively cheap and easy to maintain forums for managers. Virtually anyone could register, design, and layout a site and invite their friends to participate. Indeed, some of the largest forums on the internet are built upon EZBoard. Unfortunately, a recent system-wide hacking attack has destroyed the company's reputation and sent many managers packing. Let's look at the venerable community and the fatal flaw that has toppled the company from its perch.
Forums are a community where a group of webmasters can post a discussion on different topics, like running an online business, web promotion, marketing, web design, etc. You can post questions asking for advice and learn a great deal of knowledge from others who participate. You can also participate by answering questions that you are well versed on.
10 Commandments To Maximizing Your Time In Forum Participation
1) Gain an idea/keep in touch of what is happening in the Internet Marketing scene (strategies, product, news).
Forums: How DO You Get People to Post!?
Running a web forum is no easy task. If you own one, you know how labor-intensive it is. You spent hours perfecting your forum. You thought up dozens of categories and topics. You customized the interface, set user permissions, sent out welcome emails. Tons of members signed up and logged in. Time for the payoff, right? Wrong. People log in to your forum daily, yet no one posts. Why?
|home | site map | Add to Favorites|