When considering how to have a successful forum, I suppose it depends on what your definition of a successful forum is. I think a successful forum to be one that has a lot of activity and interaction and also makes you some money! I guess this means you need to get traffic to your forum for starters. My forum is almost a year old and has 987 members and is a busy busy place. There is a lot of interaction going on there and my paid members area grows as well. So how do I do it?
I have read a few blog posts on how to get traffic to your forum and it’s very repetitive. Post comments on other people’s blog for starters. I am just not a fan of this. I know many use this tactic, but seriously, it’s not for me. If I am going to comment on a blog it’s usually because I found the post really helpful. Sure my link it there, but that’s not why I post on the blog of others. Perhaps I am tainted by all the comments I have to monitor everyday of a bunch of shameless self promoters. I refuse to be one of those.
I write my own blog post and link them back to my forum. I write articles and link them back to by forum. I use Squidoo to link to my forum. That about sums up getting the people there. Keeping them engaged and growing the forum is a different ballgame.
My first tip is that you really have to care and your readers have to feel that you really care. That means you have to be real and authentic. Share who you really are with your audience. When I say share, that means not just the good stuff but the not so good stuff too. On my forum, I pretty much lay out what is going on in my life in the paid members section. I not only give feedback, but I am open to receiving it as well.
The key is build a relationship with the members of your forum and encourage them to build relationships with one another. If you want to be the center of attraction on your forum, you might not be so successful. If you are self promoting in every post, don’t expect a lot of loyalty. They will feel more like you are interested in making a buck than them. I don’t answer every post with a product link. On occasion, if one applies, yes I do and then it is there forever for readers to find, member or not. A lot of sales on my forum come from non members who just lurk. Love your lurkers too!
Building a successful forum takes time. Allow your members to get to know you and get to know others. Sending private messages to members to show appreciation is also a good practice. Recently I haven’t been able to be very present on my forum as I have had 2 deaths in my family. I have sent messages there however, thanking a few of the members for keeping the place going! Sending a private message to new members is also a good idea. Let them know how happy you are that they found you. It’s also a good idea to ask them how they found you!
I haven’t revealed any secrets here really. It’s the same as building any type of business. It’s about relationships. You can apply this to about anything really. If you are trying to market on Facebook for example, built a relationship first. Last week I got friend request, followed by a request to please like her Facebook page. Seriously, that is not going to get you anywhere.
I have had many members on my forum, Lovegirlgtalk that have been with me for years as in more than 3! They are just as savvy and trained to help others now as I am and I owe much of the success of my forum to them. It wouldn’t be what it is today without them. If you are a forum member of mine reading this, thank you by the way! It’s quite an amazing place!
I do suggest members to join the paid members area, but I don’t push. The paid members that are already there are loyal enough to push it for me! How cool is that?
The more active your forum is, the more quality content you will have and the more you will be found in the search engines. It’s a process that just keeps growing and getting bigger.
So to summarize I am just going to say, built those relationships and the rest will follow, including the money! So for today, that is all I have to say. Growing your paid members area will be another post entirely!