Category: "Forum Marketing"

The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

So, you want to build a forum, eh? Well, it’s no easy feat. It takes a lot of work to get it right, and even more to create an engaging community. If you still want to do this, there are a few things you should do. I guess the simplest thing would be to start from the beginning, so that’s what we’ll do.

Step 1: Pick a domain

I would say that the first step would be to choose a niche, but considering you are already researching how to start your own forum, it’s probably safe to say that you already know your topic. The next natural direction is choosing a domain name.

Choosing the right domain can take a bit of soul searching. This will be your online identity. This is the name that people will come to know your site by. For this reason, it’s very important to pick one that is not only unique, but is a good fit for the atmosphere of your site.

There are typically two types of domains that people choose for a website: A branded domain name, or an EMD, better known as an exact match domain. Again, they both have their place, so this choice is entirely up to you. Here are the pros and cons:

Branded

Branded domains can be funny or clever, trendy or simple. The benefit of using a branded domain is that it is much more memorable. Think of names like Google, Facebook, or Nike.

While these names didn’t mean much on their own, through proper branding they were able to stand out in the market, rise above competitors, and become names synonymous with their respective industries. If you are in it for the long haul (as most forum owners are), I would encourage you to go with a branded domain.

EMD

An exact match domain is usually not pretty. It’s simply a string of keywords. So, using an EMD can give you benefits in the search engines. If the phrase you use in your domain is what people use to search for what you offer it can be a good choice. The problem however is differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Check out this Google search or look at the screenshot below. See how there are more than one person using this strategy? Unless you own all of the domains, you’ll have to deal with other people creating sites doing the same thing you are doing — which will make it even more difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Forum Search Results

Pro tip – Make sure you choose a name that has not been taken on popular social media channels. Social media is a great tool to drive traffic to your board, so you want to pick a name that allows you to own that name on sites like Facebook and Twitter. This will help you build a cohesive brand that is easily recognizable.

Step 2: Choosing a host for your forum

This is one of the most important decisions you will make as a forum owner. When you first start out, you can probably get by with a budget host, but often times that does not produce the best results.

Here’s why:

Forums have heavy bandwidth and disk space needs. Unlike a blog or regular website, a forum will have people connecting to the site for longer periods of time. Members will be posting in the community, and adding more content. This is a good thing. The problem is that if your host hasn’t configured the server to optimize for the software you are running, you’ll end up with a laggy site. No one likes a slow website. A slow forum can cause you to lose members, so this is something you’ll want to pay attention to from the beginning.

Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is backing up your files. With a forum, user generated content is churned out daily (hopefully!). People are posting most hours of the day, plus you’ll have new sign-ups coming in. Make sure you are backing up everything. Most large forums either keep real-time backups or back up every hour. In the beginning you can get away with backing up everyday, but once your forum gets more interaction, you’ll want to start backing up your files more regularly.

Most forum hosts understand how important this is. For example, we maintain hourly offsite backups for clients. This is important because we host some pretty large forums, like the official San Diego Chargers forum.

Bottom line: Choose a host that not only understands all of the forum software, but choose a host that can help you manage your backups.

Step 3: Deciding on what forum software to use

There is no right or wrong decision here. It really boils down to preference and what works for you. If you just want to get your feet wet as a forum owner, there are plenty of free forum software options out there. Some of the most notable are MyBB, phpBB, and SMF.

Keep in mind that free forum software is just that — free. You may save on cost, but you might find it more difficult to get the functionality you are looking for. There is also no guaranteed support, as most free software is ran with volunteers and donations.

Pro tip – Take a look at our forum software list to get an idea of what’s on the market.

Of course, there are paid options as well. The top contenders are vBulletin and XenForo. vBulletin was the original “top dog” of the forum game. XenForo came later and was developed by to of the original developers to vBulletin. So, you can say that there are a bit of animosity between the two companies.

XenForo seems to be making a bit of headway. It still boils down to preference, so do your own due diligence. If you want an example of a production site in action Digital Point uses XenForo, while Warrior Forum uses vBulletin.

Step 4: Choosing a design

Creating a custom design for your forum, usually comes down to two things:

  • Experience

  • Money

You either have the experience to do it yourself or you hire someone to do it for you. Fortunately, there are a few more options. If you do a quick search online you’ll come up with plenty of themes. You can even find free themes as well. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you settle on a design that captures that personality of your forum and will appeal to your members.

Step 5: Choosing the best mods and plugins

Most forum software is expandable via mods and plugins from other developers. It’s much like WordPress in that regard. You’ll be able to find both free and paid solutions that help add extra functionality to your forum. What it comes down to is how you want your members to engage in the community. You can add extra mods that allow voting on threads, or even build an advertising into your forums (which can work great for monetization).

Step 6: Defining topics and threads

This is important. Besides a good name and an appealing forum, you want substance. It’s important that you help direct the conversation to where it needs to go, and the best way to do that is by setting up clear topic threads that not only instruct new members as to what is allowed where, but gives anyone visiting the site an easy way to navigate to the conversation of their choice.

This is really a matter of preference. It depends upon your goals for the community and what you where you would like to see the discussion go. When you are first setting up your board, you should visit other popular forums and see how they have set up their threads. It doesn’t matter if you are not in the same niche, just have a look around and see what you think would work.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start with your forum theme/topic.

  2. Break this down into specific areas of interest. These become threads.

  3. Add a General thread.

  4. Add an Off-topic thread to allow members to talk about what they want.

  5. Consider adding a Marketplace or Advertising thread.

I’m quite sure you can come up with some more ideas (as you should), but those should give a general idea of how to structure your new forum.

Step 7: Creating guidelines and policies

This is quite possible the most important step out of the bunch. If you have no guidelines or concrete rules, you’ll struggle with keeping the community on topic — and there’s a good chance you’ll become a spammer’s paradise.

Here is some tips from GetSatisfaction.com:

  1. Know your special purpose

  2. Establish a social norm

  3. Set clear expectations

  4. Cast a wide net

  5. Create productive outcomes

  6. Make it personal

  7. Be a bridge

  8. Don’t feed the troll

  9. Measure the right things

  10. Assemble

Another thing you can do is just go look at what other forums are doing. Check out the community guidelines from popular forums, and see what works. This way you can adapt these to your own forum.

Step 8: Moderating the board

This is where you’ll have your work cut out for you. In the beginning, it won’t be as much of a job. Once your forum takes off however, you’ll want to enlist some help.

This is why you need to have clear, defined guidelines for the community. This will make the moderator’s job easier. The more concise the rules, the easier they are to enforce.

The main thing forum moderators deal with is spam. You can cut down on this through add-ons and mods, but you’ll still need a set of eyes monitoring the board. If you operate a marketplace as well, you’ll also want to vigilante with screening what people are selling. You do not want to open your community to scammers. If forum members are getting scammed on your forum, your site is the one that loses out the most. If trust is loss, you’ll have a hard time of attracting good members. You’ll also have a bad time monetizing your boards.

One way to combat this is to have people that post an advertising thread allow you to review the product, or offer “review copies” to other members.

Finding your mods

The best moderators are usually the most active members of your community — the people that consistently add value to the forum. You should reach out to these people and see if they would be willing to help.

Step 9: Driving traffic

Traffic is a big deal. If you have no traffic, you have no visitors, no new threads, no new members.

You have a dead forum.

This is something you’ll constantly want to be trying to improve. Here are a few tips to help you start driving traffic:

  • Use Twitter to tweet new threads as they are posted.

  • Visit other forums and see how they are driving traffic.

  • Run a contest or sweepstakes to attract people to your site.

  • Guest post on high traffic and high engagement sites related to your niche.

  • Experiment with highly targeted paid ads.

  • Reach out to other site owners in our niche and ask for a link.

  • Publish content your target market would find valuable.

Final Thoughts

Building a forum can be a lot of work, but in the end you can have a site that generates massive amounts of traffic. This can be especially beneficial if you sell products or services that your forum members use.

The really great thing about a forum is that it is fueled by user generated content — meaning the members of your forum are producing the content. When your community is tightly focused around a niche or topic this builds massive amounts of indexable content for the search engines. It also helps your site rank for a lot of long-tail keywords.

The most valuable thing about owning a forum is having a community around your brand. You create ambassadors and fans that know your business, love your business, and help it grow by engaging in your community.

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Online Forum Etiquette: Simple Strategies To Grow Traffic

Online forums are tightly knit communities filled with participants who are either highly knowledgeable or highly interested in a particular topic. They are a place of discussion to share expertise with one and other. Due to the fact that forums are comprised of groups of people who share the same hobbies or interests it is obvious that being apart of these communities can help promote your website. However, do so with caution because there is a wrong way and right way to go about this.

How NOT to promote your website on forums

There is one thing I want to make abundantly clear in this article, when joining a forum, do not join with the intent of promoting. Instead, think of it as a place to network.
Online Forum Etiquette: Simple Strategies To Grow Traffic
People often make the mistake of thinking of forums in the same category as social media or another form of online marketing. This simply is not the case.

While each social media page is owned by one person, forums are more of a shared space. They may be owned by one individual or multiple individuals who moderate them, but they are generally moderated with the intent of the forum being used as a shared space for people to discuss topics of interest. Due to the fact that they are used for that intent, it is unwise to expect users of a forum to appreciate you blatantly promoting yourself, a brand, or your website.

So the number one biggest mistake anyone can possibly make is to create an entire topic about what you are trying to promote, or post on topics with the sole intent of promoting something.

Instead, it is a much wiser approach to simply become a part of the community and engage in meaningful discussions.

Forum etiquette, follow the rules and no one will get hurt

As stated before, forums are not your space, therefore you are not entitled to post whatever you want. The owner of the forum took great care, consideration, and has likely gathered trusted moderators to ensure that their message board encourages insightful discussion.

In order to maintain the desired atmosphere there are rules that must be followed and people to enforce those rules. This is why before posting anything, you should always read the forum’s rules first. Not doing so will damage your reputation with the community you are trying to gain publicity from.

If an idea for a topic or post falls into a grey area or you are just not sure if it would be appropriate it is perfectly acceptable to ask a moderator before posting. They would likely appreciate the fact that you asked before assuming it would be okay and you would avoid breaking any rules.

Strategies to grow traffic

If you are new to forums it is a good idea to read several threads and observe what top posters write. Get a good feel of what makes or inspires a good discussion. Post often, be friendly, and come back to the forum often, perhaps making it a daily routine. This will not only let you get to know others but get them acquainted with you as well.

After you have become well versed with the community and learned the types of topics that become popular then you can try creating some topics yourself.

If the forum allows users to include a link in their signature or bio, definitely do this. This quite honestly the only way to draw attention to you website on a forum. If the forum you are registering for does not allow you to place a link your signature you may not want to waste your time there.

By following these guidelines you should gain a fair amount of traffic on boards that you post to regularly. Just be sure that you are integrating yourself within the community and posting valuable information, engaging in intuitive conversations, being social and friendly, and definitely NOT advertising yourself. Your signature will do that part for you.

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Using Online Forums To Build Social Engagement And Loyal Fans

Using Online Forums To Build Social Engagement And Loyal Fans

At times it may seem like pulling teeth to get people to read your blog. You could have award winning content and be a social media marketing master and still get mediocre page views and little to no comments. But one reason you may not be gaining the notoriety you crave is because you are simply not marketing to the right audience. Another reason could be that you are not becoming engaged in other communities and blogs.

In order to build loyal fans and traffic it is important to join forums focused around the same niche or industry. As long as you are active in the communities and post relevant content that inspires other people you will stand a better chance of attracting people to your social media channels and engage people with your brand. You must scan through relevant topics, read, and engage in conversations. When commenting, reply with meaningful insight which either inspires others to reply, answers someone’s question, or adds upon someone else’s point.

Google Search Operators

Google search operators are little shortcuts that help refine search results. Examples of this may be the word OR, symbol |, quotations around phrases or stop words, and other symbols such as a minus sign or hyphen (-), asterisk (*), half ellipse (. .), and tilde (~).

There is a whole website which contains a very in-depth guide on how different ways to use Google in order to refine search results to specifically search certain parts of the internet. It contains all kinds of Google search tips that many do not even realize exist. Below is list which should provide helpful examples on the basics of how to use Google search operators to find forums that will be relevant to your business.

Niche keyword “comments”

Putting comments in quotes will specifically find pages that have comments. It will help find discussions related to your niche. Try changing the keyword to a variety of words or phrases related to your industry for different results. Give yourself time to read articles or forum posts and reply with meaningful comments.

Keyword site:wordpress.com

This will search a specific site for results. It may provide better queries than using the websites own search bar and allow you to look for specific types of posts on a forum. That way you can easily filter through results to find the most relevant posts which pertain to your area of expertise.

“Powered by vBulletin” keywords

This is quite possibly the best Google operator phrase you can use to find great niche forums. As the query implies, this quotation will search through all message boards powered by vBulletin. You can of course do the same thing with any forum host that has been around for a long time such as SMF, IBP, MyBB, PunBB, and Phbb.

By combining different operators and trying new things there are a variety of different results you may get. Just experiment with what you know and see what you find. At the very least you will find helpful articles that pertain to your market. So experimenting with search queries can’t hurt.

Include a great bio with a call to action

Before you begin posting on forums that you find while utilizing these tips make sure that you write an awesome bio or forum signature in your author profile as well. Keep it quick and to the point while also inciting others to click on your link. Effective author bios should also include a small call to action.

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12 Forum Marketing Secrets That Work

Forum Marketing Secrets

Forum marketing involves reaching out and engaging with the right audience. Of course, you want exposure, but there is a careful line to walk. You want to gain exposure and establish yourself as an authority, but you don’t want to be annoying. Forcing your brand down people’s throat simply for a link will get you no where. So, where do you start? That is the question a lot of ask when we first start out trying to build a website or blog.

It doesn’t have to be hard. If you’ve been snooping the web looking for some ways to promote your website, chances are you’ve heard about forum marketing. We’re here to blow the lid off the misconceptions and expose 12 forum marketing secrets that are tried and tested.

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How To Turn Your Forum Into A Profit Center

How To Turn Your Forum Into A Profit Center
We all want a profitable forum. Reeling in the dough is definitely a good thing, but a forum has to be a community. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s not “all about the Benjamins”. If you think starting a forum will be the easy road to riches – think again. It takes a bit of elbow grease. By “a bit” I mean a lot and by “a lot” I mean it’s time to roll up those sleeves.

Monetizing a forum is no easy task, but if you have read our tips on starting a forum you should be well on your way to accomplishing your goals. Here’s a breakdown on turning that forum into a profit center:

#1 Kick It Off With Adsense

Honestly, Google Adsense will not make you much at first. It all depends on the amount of visitors that are hitting your site. If you have traffic, it can pay off. Look at Google Adsense as getting your feet wet in the marketing game and learning about ad networks and generating ad revenue from your forum. If you have less than a thousand visitors stopping by your site don’t get too caught up with ad placement. Instead, concentrate on adding valuable content and building a strong community. Focusing on ways to encourage and grow your userbase will be what pays off in the end.

#2 Banner Ads, Direct Advertisers, and CPM Advertising

If you’ve experimented with adding Adsense to your site, you now have an idea of ad placement for your forum. You now have some more options, too. Banner ads can be a great source of monthly revenue to your site. The key is attracting those advertisers. There are many ways to do it – you can display links on your forum advertising banner ad placement, you can approach other webmasters as well. You can also leverage social media to connect with influencers and drive traffic to your forum.

When it comes to CPM advertising as a revenue model for your forum, don’t waste your time if you are not receiving at least 75,000 – 100,000 visitors per month. Most CPM advertisers require you to meet certain criteria before you can even enter the program. If your traffic isn’t quite there, stop focusing on how to make the money and keep building a great forum. The money will come.

#3 Find A Sponsor For Your Forum

One way to make more money is to keep more of the money you already make. If your forum is popular and has a great community consider approaching other businesses to sponsor your forum. In turn, give them prominent ad placement. You can find key players in your industry, local businesses, or a web hosting company to foot the bill for your forum. Saving some out of pocket expenses can give you more money to promote your forum and attract new members. If your forum is popular you can approach a forum hosting company to sponsor you. In return, show them a return on their investment by becoming a good source of leads.

#4 Email Can Be Your Friend

See how everything centers around content? People go online for one of two things: they are looking for answers, or they want entertainment. Either way, it’s great content that drives business. If you own a mailing list you can use this to offer insider deals to your members and promote affiliate offers. There are two ways you can approach this:

  • Find a company that wants to sponsor an email campaign to your forum members.
  • Offer related affiliate products in your newsletter.

Either one of these will work. Remember that content is still king. A flimsy newsletter will not generate income. It will end up in the deleted folder, ignored, or spammed. You need to find a clever way to reach out to your forum members. The content part shouldn’t be too difficult – you have an entire forum full of content to draw on.

#5 Offer Premium Memberships

There are a number of forums that offer “premium” memberships. Upgraded forum memberships often get added benefits regular forum members don’t receive. You can give out extra PM allowances, access to special forum features, or allow them to create their own blog or special thread.

Some Other Ideas To Consider

There are always other ways to monetize a forum. Have you ever heard of Flippa? It’s an online marketplace that allows people to buy and sell websites. Selling your forum is always an option. In fact, if you are particularly well adapted at launching successful forums you can always follow the blueprint outlined above, with the aim of selling your forum for a sizeable return in the future. Whatever you decide, the goal is to build a strong community that will attract forum members and build forum loyalty.

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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.

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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!

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    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.

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    Forum Marketing: How-To

    Forum Marketing: How-To
    Marketing a business through online forums is a cost effective way to grow a business quickly and make it stand apart from the crowd. The people who frequent forums and message boards on the Internet today are generally very familiar with doing business on the web and it is not unusual for the users to be experts on the specific niche topics covered by a particular forum. This means that marketing your own business, product, service or website with forum marketing is a low-cost, high potential business strategy that can get your message out quickly and help your marketing efforts exponentially.

    However, as good as online forums are today, not every forum in a particular niche will be worth investing your time in and this means it can be critically important to start with the right forum community for your specific niche business or interest. You can start your search using niche-specific keywords to locate the various online communities in your field that will be worth your time. You can narrow your list of potential targets by looking for forums that have at least 1,000 members and 10,000 existing posts. A good forum should also get a minimum of at least ten to fifteen new posts daily. Obviously, you don’t want to waste your time farming leads on a forum that is overrun by spam or hosted by a direct competitor to your own specific business.

    One good strategy is to create your own forum account as soon as possible because users with older registration dates are usually given more privileges and access to more features than brand new members. You want to focus on becoming a participating member of the forums you plan to use as permanent marketing channels for your business, instead of just dropping in to push your latest advertising campaign.

    It is also very important to check out the user agreements and posting guidelines of the forums you are interested in because they can affect your ability to market effectively. You will need to pay particular attention to whether or not users are allowed place links in their posts to promote their own businesses. You will also need to know if users are allowed to post commercial messages or directly contact other forum members for commercial purposes.

    Spend some time reading the forum in the beginning and try to resist the urge to start posting right away. Spend time reading the forum to get a sense of the community’s mentality and to determine who the most influential posters are and which specific topics generate the most interest. Many forums are tight communities and learning how a forum works up front will help you fit in more quickly and start making valuable contributions sooner. When you do make contributions, you should recognize that whenever someone posts a thread or asks a question related to your business products or services, the answers you supply are the key to successful forum marketing.   Useful answers can help demonstrate your expertise and generate trust. When you back up your advice with useful related links and respond to follow up questions quickly, the entire forum community will come to regard you as an expert in your field. Take it easy on the strong opinions and sales pitches in the beginning and the level of trust will increase to the point where people will ask for your recommendations. When you start getting direct inquiries for recommendations is the right time to bring up your own products or business without appearing overly biased.

    Once you have earned the trust of the forum users you can start more aggressive marketing campaigns, but don’t fall into the trap of loading a forum with spam messages. Forum spam might increase temporary traffic to your website or business, but it can also seriously damage your reputation in the long run.   Ethical marketing practices that enhance your image will encourage far more forum users to learn more about your business than any amount of spam ever could. Starting slowly and learning all you can about your target forum before you start posting will allow you to take full advantage of the true potential and help you create a low-cost, high-yield marketing strategy that really works on the Internet today.

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    Monetizing Forums

    Monetizing Your Forum
    Forums and message boards have become a big part of the Internet over the last decade and today you can find thousands of different groups gathered to share the latest info on just about any niche topic, passion or pursuit you can think of. The power and global reach of the Internet has made it easier than ever before for like-minded people to get together and thoroughly explore the products, people, places and things that interest them the most.

    Although many forums have been born out of a passion for a particular subject or topic, it takes more than passion alone to keep a site up and running actively on the web these days. If you’re a forum owner, you know that it costs money and takes time to run a successful forum. If you’re independently wealthy, or just feel like operating your forum at a loss due to your enthusiasm for a certain niche, that’s fine. However, in the real world most forum owners need a way to recoup their expenses and cover the time spent managing their forums.

    Fortunately, there are now a number of different ways forum owners can cover their operating costs and even make a profit in many cases:

    • Paid memberships – Paid memberships can generate income from a two-tiered content system when a forum has good enough free content to attract new members and a level of even better content available only to the paid members. The object is to convert the free visitors into premium or paid members as quickly as possible.
    • Advertising Networks – Advertising networks like Google’s Adsense and the Yahoo! publisher networks are some of the most direct and proven ways to monetize a forum. VigLink is another way of monetizing content with links from targeted content to advertisers. Most forums deal with specific niches and there are many smaller ad networks server these targeted niches. The trick is finding the one best suited to your users needs. Income is earned whenever forum visitors click on the rotating ads that are supplied and maintained by the advertiser network. Depending on a forum’s specific focus, third-party ads alone can often generate enough income to maintain a forum.
    • Advertising – You can sell direct ad space on a forum to potential advertisers that are related in any way to the specific content on your site. There are also programs like OpenX available that will allow you to sell advertisements for specific geographic regions too. Remember that selling ad space also comes along with account management duties like maintaining ad inventory; chasing down late payments; and uploading new ads.
    • Sponsors – Sometimes specific companies with products related to your forum will step up and sponsor your site. Enticements could include “sponsored by” banners, product prizes or even new forum threads dedicated to discussing a company’s product.
    • Affiliates – As an alternative to direct advertising, forums can carry advertisements for affiliate programs that relevant to the forum and can be worked into the discussion threads. Companies or other sites selling products related to a forum niche like books and DVDs are always good potential affiliates.
    • Donations – Sites without a lot of advertising on them can ask for donations after they explain what good purpose or cause the money will be used for. Although most donations are simply usually utilized to run a forum, visitors that do donate can be given special privileges or access to specific content similar to a paid membership in order to sweeten the deal. A Paypal donation button on the site can be a very useful tool when asking for donations.
    • Product Sales – Although direct product sales comes along with the duties of maintaining inventory, collecting payments and shipping, selling products with a shopping cart plug-in on your site can be an effective alternative to affiliate programs or t direct ad sales.
    • Classified Ads – Some of the larger, product-oriented niche forums have had good success with classified advertising sections onsite. If enough members will pay a small fee to advertise their stuff for sale or trade on your site, it can generate significant income.
    • Sell Links – Forum owners can always offer links to other sites for a fee. Third party link brokers like Text Link Ads will handle the details if you wish, or you can sell the links by yourself, and collect the payments and insert the links on your own.

    Some methods of monetizing a forum obviously require more work than others. Collecting donations, working with affiliates and hosting Adsense ads are all fairly passive methods of generating cash. Direct advertising or direct product sales are more active methods that will require a bit more work. However, in the end, the methods of monetization you eventually choose will probably depend on the traffic your site gets and the niche it is in.

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