Archive For: January, 2013

Hosting a Forum is No Walk in the Park: The Sequel

Marketing a Forum The Sequel
Last week we talked about the steps needed to get your new forum up and running. There we spoke about the nitty gritty of what it takes to get your forum online: web hosting requirements, deciding on a forum software, creating rules, and establishing moderators. Assuming that you followed along and now have your shiny new forum online for the world to see, I’d say it’s time to start navigating some new waters – marketing your forum.

Internet marketing strategies on the internet are a dime a dozen. The ‘latest trends’ can change by the week and you will no doubt find an abundance of information with blatant contradictions. When learning anything I highly recommend doing your own fact-checking. If you stumble upon something that seems like it makes sense, follow up by searching around and seeing if you can find more people professing this same strategy. It’s always best to be objective. Just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true. I actually learned this during my time in France as a fashion model (pun intended).

Now that we have that out the way, I will give you some resources that you can explore yourself for information on search engine optimization and social media marketing. Each of these communities are notable and top ranked in their category:

I wanted to put that right out front, so you can discover the facts for yourself. Indeed, no one can give you the blueprint to success. You have to constantly search for it yourself.

Of course, I don’t mind giving ya some help. So, let’s get on with it.

Marketing Your New Forum

We’ve talked about ways you can advertise your forum in the past. Here’s the reality for 2013: no matter your industry, if you are marketing your business online, you need to be publishing content. Content is the driving force that brings visitors to your website. Whether it is in the form of discussion threads, blog posts, articles, web pages – your forum needs a healthy diet of fresh content to rise in the rankings and grow up to be a big, strong website. People are searching the internet for value. If they can’t find any on your forum you are #%&! out of luck.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Populate your forum with interesting threads. No one will post in an empty forum. Kick off the conversation and ask a lot of questions. People are more likely to respond when they can give an answer or their own opinion.
  • Leverage your own contacts. If you know someone that would be interested in your forum, by all means – ask them to join!
  • Create a sense of activity. A silent forum will go nowhere. You have to get the conversation going. If you don’t have the money to shell out on advertising like banner ads and Adsense, you should consider hiring paid posters / forum members. You can use sites like Elance or oDesk to hire people willing to post in your forum. This might be the way you’ll initially have to go in order to get the activity going.
  • Approach people in other forums. Prior to launching your own forum, you should develop a presence on other sites that are in your niche or have a topical relationship. This way you can advertise your forum link in your signature and reach out to contacts already participating on these other forums. Of course, you don’t want to break the rules. Keep it classy. Karma can be unforgiving.
  • Create a contest or giveaway. Everybody is a fan of freebies. Consider giving away a prize, creating a sweepstakes, or some other type of contest. Then, build links through guest blogging and articles to advertise the giveaway.
  • Network with social media. It’s here to stay and is just as relevant as SEO in 2013. Build a presence on the popular sites and reach out and connect with people. Of course, optimize your profiles to include information about your forum.

The Big ‘C’

And here we are again. It’s something you’ll hear time and time again in the internet marketing world – content.

Creating a content calendar and planning your posts will actually help you out in more than just the SEO department. The more content you produce, the more content you can share across social media. Essentially, you’ll have an ongoing reason why people should visit your website.

I am reading your mind right now: “Greg, I don’t have the time to write blog posts all day.”

Never fret, young Padawan. (Forgive the Star Wars reference).

The truth of the matter is that most of us, in fact, don’t. But I must challenge you with the fact that most business owners always say that, yet when they are faced with something that has to get done they typically find a way. It becomes more a matter of perspective than anything else. If you do not take it as a priority, you won’t get it done. If you want a screaming forum, you simply have to produce content.

Creating a ton of content by yourself can result in writing fatigue and mental melt down. Well, I might be overstating it, but why not get a little help? Lighten the burden by finding other people interested in contributing to your forum. Give a little – get a lot. If you allow guest authors to post their own links or have an author bio box, chances are you’ll find some regular contributors – especially if your forum matches their niche. Don’t know where to start looking? MyBlogGuest is a free community that helps connect bloggers to other blogs. Take a look, experiment, and see what you come up with.

Lastly, don’t try to be everything to everyone. Keep your niche in mind (your target market), and craft everything with them in mind.

Don’t say I never helped ya.

Read More

Learn How to Build A Great Forum

Hosting A Forum Is No Walk In The Park

Hosting a Forum is No Walk in the Park

Forum hosting requires more than a hosting plan and software. Any successful forum operates like a business. You’ll deal with: budgets, time constraints, management, scalability issues, advertising, networking… attracting new members… keeping old ones happy…

I’m sure my point has been duly noted. It’s not something you can simply set-up, put online, and bask in the limelight of success. It just doesn’t happen that way. Launching any website is a chore. There are countless details that are crucial to your success. You’ll have to develop an understanding of SEO. You’ll need to network and market your butt off. What makes growing a successful forum uniquely problematic is the fact that you need to have people on the discussion board. If you don’t, your forum is guaranteed to look like a ghost town.

Of course, I’m not trying to discourage you. I’m trying to make you aware of the job ahead. You want to be successful right? Well, you need to know this stuff. Now sit back and take some notes, while I tell this tale I tell so well:

What You Need to Know About Forum Hosting

The first step in your plan for world domination (or at least a good forum) is finding the right web hosting company. Quite simply, this is often the most overlooked component of launching any website, much less a forum. Every webmaster wants visitors. Every forum needs members. You won’t get neither without a reliable hosting plan that keeps your forum online. What’s more – you want a company that understands the specific requirements needed for hosting a forum, a company that understands the common problems and pitfalls that will inevitably occur when you’re trying to get your site off the ground.

Here are some web hosting fundamentals that you have to plan for from the very beginning:

  • Reliability. If your uptime is spotty, the reputation of your forum will be as well. You never want to cut costs and go for cheap hosting. You need reliable service and support.
  • Scalability. This is something you’ll want to keep in mind. Things usually start off slow, but you’ll want the ability to seamlessly upgrade your account to support an increase in traffic.
  • A Backup Plan. Active forums produce a ton of content and posts. Losing this data can be detrimental to your forum. Web hosting companies that specialize in forum hosting typically already have an hourly backup system in place. Bottom line: you’ll want to develop a backup routine – and stick to it relentlessly.
  • What Platform to Use?

    This is where personal preference comes into play. Ideally, you want to use a forum software that you are comfortable with. You want something you understand how to use, something you can customize, something you can tweak to your exact specifications. Here’s a tip: don’t just focus on what you think is cool. A forum owner is almost like a real estate developer – indirectly, of course. I say this because, like a real estate developer, you are building a community. You’ll want to take into consideration your target market – the type of people that will join your forum – and plan around their likes and dislikes.

    Here’s a look at some of the most popular forum options:

    You’ll want to explore all of the options and find what works best for you and your niche. There are open source and premium platforms available. You’ll likely want to consider mobile. A responsive forum can allow your members to easily interact on your site right from their phone.

    Laying Down the Law

    Creating Rules that Work
    So, at this point you should have a rock-solid hosting plan and a platform of choice. Hold your horses: you’re not quite ready to hit the launch button yet. In order to keep your forum on track and make sure your site doesn’t become as unruly as the Wild West, you need rules. You need to enforce them, too. Don’t do a ‘copy and paste’ job on this. Take a little time and put some thought into how to set up forum rules, terms and conditions, a privacy policy, and so forth.

    There are countless examples out there. If you are feeling a little lost in the dark on what you should include, hop over to other forums, or similar forums in your niche and take a look at how they’ve decided to set up their rules. Do some research, jot down a rough draft, and perfect it until you get it right. Forum rules are important. You need them in order to keep the conversation on track. Without rules (and moderation) you would be surprised how fast a forum can turn into chaos, which brings me to my next point: moderation.

    The Law Needs a Face
    You can have all the rules in the world, but they won’t do squat if you don’t have something in place to actually enforce them. When you first start out, chances are you’ll be able to monitor the threads and conversations going on yourself. Once things start cooking though, this can straight up turn into a full-time job. The good news is that if it gets to this point, chances are you’ve made your forum a pretty popular destination. You may even have some loyal members. You’ll want to reach out to die hard forum members and enlist them as moderators to help you maintain the integrity of the forum. Long story short – create some solid rules that will help keep your forum on topic. Then, enforce the rules and moderate where needed.

    And That’s Not All

    I could keep going. I really could. Building a forum is a never-ending job. The important thing is to separate the countless tasks into bite-size chunks. If you take it one step at a time you’ll be a step closer every day. We will continue this little discussion/lesson/rant/whatever-you-want-to-call-it next week. We’ll dig into some other things you’ll want to pay attention to. Until then – hasta la vista.

    Check out Part 2

    Got Tips? Share your knowledge in the comments!

    Read More

    6 Ways To Improve Your Website in 2013

    6 Ways To Improve Your Website in 2013
    As I’m sure you are noticing, we are in a competitive market right now. The stakes are high. With all of the great companies doing business these days, the way we present ourselves in the marketplace has become critical. Amidst the hordes of people doing business on the Internet, if we want to grow our businesses we’ve got to stand out. The way to win is simple—turn hits into conversions. Our websites need to exude quality. They need to tell people we are smart and we are serious. They should let people know we understand the challenges they are facing, and that we’re the ones who have got the solutions.

    Now is a great time to update. It makes sense—since most of us are putting together our 2013 New Year’s resolutions anyway. Why shouldn’t we include updating our websites in our action plans this year? Making them visually more appealing, more interesting, more value driven is a surefire way to keep people coming back, and statistics show that 80% of sales are made after the twelfth contact. So what can we do to make a visit to our website a pleasure?
    Here are some overall trends that the experts are predicting for 2013:

    1. Responsive Design

    Responsive design optimizes readability. It allows people using any format to have an equally good experience. A Smart phone, Tablet, Netbook, or Desktop each offers a different screen size. Responsive design configuration allows maximum usability in each. Ever try to jiggle around and grow a spot on a screen only to shoot off onto a different page because you accidently hit a hot spot. Ugh.

    WordPress offers a huge variety of Responsive Themes. In their own words, The Responsive Theme is a flexible foundation with a fluid grid system that adapts your website to mobile devices and the desktop or any other viewing environment. This solution is easy.

    2. Typography Design

    There are new levels of sophisticated design being achieving these days. Some of these pages are absolutely breathtaking in their detail. People are developing a taste for excellence. Nothing says smart like a simple, balanced webpage. I liken this to wearing a nice suit for a job interview. It says something about the owner that they care enough to put their best foot forward.

    I wouldn’t rush through this step. Do your homework. If you want to appear savvy, it is worth it to spend some time investigating. Upgrading the fonts on your site is simple enough. With the right fonts, you can transform humdrum site into something fabulous with little effort. Remember the first tip, though. Fonts that are too fancy might not be readable on a Smart phone.

    3. Big Button Design

    Simple, clear and easy to access—this is what makes the button multi-format friendly. On a Smart phone, small buttons can waste time. We want to make the customer experience memorable, but only in a good way.

    4. Scrolling Design

    Moving across the screen from top to bottom and from right to left is another way to simplify the user experience. If you have more than one hot area on your homepage, the Smart phone user can move around without having to jigger things into place.

    5. Pared Down Language

    In keeping with the multi-format idea, less text in a cleaner font will make navigation simpler. The visitor sees the feature they want to access in three words or less, and gets there in one click. Nice. Next level down, you may have more explanation but keep to the Cliff Notes version. Save the expanded narrative for your blog.

    6. Social Media Integration

    If you haven’t added these buttons to your blog or website yet, do. You’d be surprised the numbers of people, who like to forward information to a friend, or even to their own Facebook page. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google +1, and StumbleUpon, the list that consumers use on a daily basis is growing.

    Final Words
    There are certainly plenty more things you can do to will help you get your website producing leads and grabbing people’s attention, but these six: Responsive Design, Typography Design, Big Button Design, Scrolling Design, Pared Down Language, and Social Media Integration, can each make a noticeable difference in a relatively short span of time. Make your site a haven. Draw people back. This list is doable. Just break the tasks into bite-sized chunks. Ask a colleague for help. The important thing is to map out a plan. Once you have that, start.

    Read More

    5 Ways to Market Your Forum Online for Free

    5 Ways to Market Your Forum Online for Free
    In ancient Rome, the Forum was a plaza, a marketplace, surrounded by magnificent temples and government buildings. It sat in the heart of the city between two of its seven hills, Palatine and Capitoline. The Forum was the epicenter. Everything from the political to the gladiatorial, from commercial to religious found its way through this hub. Rome’s great innovations and ideas found their hearing among the great thinkers in the Forum. So, it is no stretch to understand why the word Forum still resonates that original innovation in 2013. It is in the forum where we get together, discuss and rethink how we will develop our newest technologies.

    Advertising Your New Forum – The Smart Way

    Forum marketing is a logical way for innovators to promote collaboration. We all want to find better solutions. It is a platform for educating and exciting consumer interest in the products we sell—and it’s fun.
    In this article, we will look at five tips on marketing a forum online:

    Blog to blog

    Everything you need is already there. Let the forum generate ideas for articles on your blog. Invite readers to the forum to get the context of where an idea came from. You can link to the blogs of key contributors in your forum. If your forum is brand new, invite experts to panel a discussion and announce it on your blog. Ask them to guest blog. When you introduce them in the byline, link back to their blog. Have them link to their guest blog from theirs. Their readers will become your readers over time. And readers of both will know about the forum.
    Appearing in the comment chain on another blogger’s article and pointing back to the forum is yet another quick hit generator. Getting fresh thoughts into the mix can renew your readers’ interest and foster relationships within your field.

    Keeping SEO Text Organic

    Capture valuable points in your forum and use them as titles or headers for your articles. Use these titles in your URLs. Make them tags and Meta text. Just keep your phraseology simple enough for search engine users to find:

    John’sCulinaryForum.com/SauceBernaiseDoneRight, versus John’sCulinaryForum.com/item12?=12345.

    Keep image descriptions people friendly—John’s Culinary Forum Food-fight.jpg, instead of Image15862.jpg.

    Social Media Marketing

    Make frequent announcements on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter especially when someone on the forum publishes an article or speaks publically. News Items can point back to the forum. The subject of their article or speaking engagement doesn’t even have to be an exact match on the forum focus. Any credibility your contributor may have in their field will lend credibility to your forum discussion. Include a link to their article and the forum. The more points of contact you engage, the further your reach. While you are at it, be sure to include your forum address on your LinkedIn profile.

    Important Events Press Release

    This is a formal way to announce the opening of or reintroduction of a marketing forum. The nice thing about a press release it that it captures all of the salient points you want your readers to know in one place. It can eliminate questions and allow readers to pass accurate details along to their friends and colleagues. Send to the addresses on your blog mailing list and post your press release on social media.

    Special Events

    Last of all, one sure way to market your forum is to host a webinar with Q & A. Invite a frequent contributor on your forum site. Find someone who knows their stuff, is a great communicator, and loves talking about what they do. You can practice ahead of time. Announce your webinar well in advance. The topic should relate to some new or challenging aspect of your forum focus. When done right, you can draw enormous interest from your focus community and begin to establish credibility for yourself as an industry leader.

    Got some more ideas? Show us what you got in the comments below.

    Read More