Best way to grow a forum?

17 replies
Assuming many of you are forum owners. What do you do to acquire members? How do you keep them there? (Not a fan of fake accounts or paying for posters)

Thanks in advance.
#forum #grow
  • Profile picture of the author JaysonH
    My suggestion would be to start writing content that is both helpful and relevant to the niche you're targeting. While I'm not to keen on SEO as a business model it's a great way to drive traffic to a forum.

    Once you have traffic, the next step is getting people to register and participate in the forum. My suggestion would be to allow Google to index your content, but force visitors to register to view the content.

    So for example, the member can see the content when searching in Google, but when they get to your page it asks them to register to read the content.

    If you don't want to use that method, you could show part of the content and use some type of addon to hide the rest, asking the member to register to read the remaining content.

    There is also addons that force a member to not only register but make a post to reveal the content. The only problem with this method is you get two word random replies just so people can view the content. It doesn't really create the interaction I'm assuming you're looking for.

    Forums are really hard to get going, especially if there are already other forums in the same niche.
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    • Profile picture of the author ViceHood
      Originally Posted by JaysonH View Post

      My suggestion would be to start writing content that is both helpful and relevant to the niche you're targeting. While I'm not to keen on SEO as a business model it's a great way to drive traffic to a forum.

      Once you have traffic, the next step is getting people to register and participate in the forum. My suggestion would be to allow Google to index your content, but force visitors to register to view the content.

      So for example, the member can see the content when searching in Google, but when they get to your page it asks them to register to read the content.

      If you don't want to use that method, you could show part of the content and use some type of addon to hide the rest, asking the member to register to read the remaining content.

      There is also addons that force a member to not only register but make a post to reveal the content. The only problem with this method is you get two word random replies just so people can view the content. It doesn't really create the interaction I'm assuming you're looking for.

      Forums are really hard to get going, especially if there are already other forums in the same niche.
      Thanks Jayson, I'll look into the "forcing them to register" angle. I'm not looking to get rich quick or pump and dump. Just want to build a unique online community over time. It's just so hard to get people posting initially. Looking forward to the challenge though, if it was easy, everyone would do it I guess.
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      • Profile picture of the author JaysonH
        Originally Posted by ViceHood View Post

        Thanks Jayson, I'll look into the "forcing them to register" angle. I'm not looking to get rich quick or pump and dump. Just want to build a unique online community over time. It's just so hard to get people posting initially. Looking forward to the challenge though, if it was easy, everyone would do it I guess.
        No problem.

        Forums can be really hard to initially get going. It takes MANY years for a forum to reach the level of what you see here at the WarriorForums.

        Treat your forum like a blog, continuously add new content and people will come. Over time it will build into what you seek.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jimbrown123
    I know it's really hard to get users to a new blank website. Nobody wants to post on an empty forum but there are many things you can do for promoting your new forum such as:
    Sending an email to all your friends
    Posting updates on social media sites like Facebook,Twitter or Myspace
    Posting on Forums, Blogs, & Chatrooms
    optimze your forum for betetr search results
    Submitting articles to article directories & websites (like wikihow)
    Posting on Yahoo Answers
    Posting videos on Youtube
    Social Bookmarking on sites like: digg, stumbleupon, delicious, etc.
    By advertising on Google's adwords
    Using Widgets to promote your forum on your personal website and social networking profiles and so on..
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  • Profile picture of the author AidenTingley
    Incentives / Competitons

    Make a members area and give X amount away for free for people to populate your site.

    referral scheme

    Make a "How To" Section and post on there

    Hire a writer from fiverr to write content. 50 bucks will get you 10 articles.

    SEO

    Ask people to join

    Youtube Promotion

    Regards - Aiden
    P.S. I hope this helps
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  • Profile picture of the author The SEO
    You need some good admins to moderate your forum. Hire 2 persons who will write the articles and interesting information on your niche and update the forum regularly with unique content.

    If your content is unique Google will rank your forum on different topics without doing any SEO.

    Also you need some social media platforms which will increase the niche traffic on your forum.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeffery Moss
    From what I could see of your forum, you already have many members and posts up. And, that's a good thing as your forum is not brand new. So at this point, you are looking to just grow or build from where you are. First, you will want to secure your current members and make sure they are happy and coming back to your forum daily. To do that, you should start new discussions or debates daily on your forum that are similar to your members current interests.

    Try to engage your current members in discussion by asking for their opinion and really taking time to listen.

    As your forum is about general topics, your best bet for new members will be the friends of your current forum members. So, ask everyone on your forum to invite people they know. This will help grow your forum.
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  • Profile picture of the author gjabiz
    Originally Posted by ViceHood View Post

    Assuming many of you are forum owners. What do you do to acquire members? How do you keep them there? (Not a fan of fake accounts or paying for posters)

    Thanks in advance.
    Why do you want members?

    I've started several forums, one is still up and running after 14 years. Some have been short term intended, others have been private.

    The general, a multi-topic forum is hard to sustain. Even some forums which have been around for a decade or more have become ghost towns in most of their sections. I'm a fan of specialty forums. Even the WF started as a How to Make Money with Internet Marketing, a specific niche and added relevant sub-forums as it grew.

    The forum in your sig file has over 2,000 threads in the Sports section, and most have only a couple of hundred or fewer, I think you're getting feedback on which way to focus, and you can break out the bigger ones.

    You've gotten some very good advice here, add daily relevant content, but what a forum is ... is a place to have a voice. Your visitor wants to post, they don't want to be bullied or their opinions discounted. For an example of how not to do it, visit the copywriting sub-forum here. NO one likes to be bullied, keep that in mind and give them a safe place to post...and they will.

    So, my best advice is to know what you want this forum to do and why? Then you can determine how to tweak it as you build it.

    gjabiz
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  • Profile picture of the author ViceHood
    Thanks for all the replies. Are sites like Post Loop something I should look into? Are they good for forum owners looking to grow a new forum?
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    • Profile picture of the author Jeffery Moss
      Originally Posted by ViceHood View Post

      Thanks for all the replies. Are sites like Post Loop something I should look into? Are they good for forum owners looking to grow a new forum?
      Sites like Postloop only offer a temporary solution for your forum's content needs. And, you can't choose which person posts on your forum as any Postloop member can choose to post on your site, whether or not they are knowledgeable about the topic. The more ideal solution is to find a professional writer who is willing to create content on your forum for a reasonable price. You could pay this person a retainer to work by the week or month and ask that they give you a specific number of posts for that time. You would want to try this person out for a few days to see the quality of their posts before making a committment. By employing someone on your staff, you will be able to better control the quality of the work posted.
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    • Profile picture of the author Samuel Adams
      Originally Posted by ViceHood View Post

      Thanks for all the replies. Are sites like Post Loop something I should look into? Are they good for forum owners looking to grow a new forum?
      You mentioned up front how you are not a fan of fake posters and if anything Postloop would be about fake posters. As for growth of your forum, you already have such a prosperous start on your forum with so many posts so you might sponsor a referral contest to get new members. That's just one option.
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  • Profile picture of the author DURABLEOILCOM
    SEO for Google and Yahoo/Bing.
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  • Profile picture of the author evakent256
    I am also thinking about starting a forum where people can sell stuff. What advices would you give me?
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  • Profile picture of the author richgerald
    If you don't want to go the paid poster route, which won't be much good anyways if you have no other strategy, then I suggest mastering a niche and simply provide the forum as a place for people to ask questions. Matt Woodward is a good example.
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    • Profile picture of the author Steve B
      I think the best thing you can do is try to build an authority site in your niche and include your forum as the vehicle for expression and discussion by niche members.

      So you won't end up with just a forum - you'll have a more comprehensive niche web site that includes the forum.

      Make your site "sticky" - a place that's hard to leave, a place that appeals to a variety of member wants and needs.

      1. Make your site a community gathering place - think "niche hangout." If your web site and forum has a lot to offer the customers in the niche, they may decide to call your site "home." Like-minded folks tend to gather in close proximity to talk about and share their experiences.

      2. Provide the latest news and events in the niche. News is a big draw on the Internet. In fact, some folks nowadays have traded their daily newspapers for Internet news that is always fresh, timely, and generally free.

      3. Fill your site/forum with lots of great and valuable content. This can be by way of admin posts, or posts to your blog which can be placed on the same domain as the forum.

      4. You might start up a niche library, or an archive of valuable content. Many forums are run within niche membership sites all revolving around a central niche topic. People will join to have access to downloads and archives of information that is of interest to them.

      5. Add interactivity to your web site. Some businesses go out of their way to provide incentives to customers to participate in polls at the web site, or interactive games, or other strategies that entail the customer going to the web site and taking some action in order to derive the benefit that the site has.

      6. Have a continual stream of events or customer-requested activities that will keep interest in your business alive and inviting. Always relate these events to the niche and provide clear and motivating reasons or incentives to those who visit your web site on a regular basis.

      7. Open the door for customer-submitted (uploaded) content, photos, articles, etc. Sites that allow customers to show off their talents and creations are some of the most widely viewed Internet locations.

      8. Entertainment. Sometimes we don't like to admit it, but most everyone likes to be entertained online. In order to provide entertainment on the web site, some owners include puzzles, games, music, videos, fun downloads, human interest news, jokes, viewer-submitted stories, and many other "sticky" things.

      9. Unique and one-of-a-kind commentary. Forum visitors love to hear the opinions and even rants and raves of charismatic niche experts.

      10. Freebies and freemiums. Internet users love free niche products, services, goodies, information, you name it . . . If you can provide a constant source of unique and useable (as in niche-related and valuable) freebies, your customers will come back time and again.

      11. Whatever you offer, keep it fresh! Whether it's news, commentary, content, entertainment, whatever - it has to be current - fresh! If your web site visitors find the same thing at your site they found the last time they visited, soon they will stop coming to see what's new.

      12. Find a way to provide something that no one else in the niche offers. I can't tell you what that might be - but if you can deliver something unique and one-of-a-kind, it could be a drawing point that no other competitor can match, and hence, a reason for your members to return again and again.

      Good luck with your site,

      Steve
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      • Profile picture of the author Heuristic
        Yes, it really is the old catch 22:

        You can't get people to contribute because the place looks dead, but you need people to contribute so the place doesn't look dead.

        Tough one.

        I have started one forum and one dating site in my time online, and in both instances, I've run into the same problem.

        Here's 3 solutions you may want to consider:

        1. Start a membership site. Give away stuff every month or sell it for a small monthly fee. Add the forum as part of the membership later.

        2. Build a list. Offer something in return for their email and wait until it's a decent size before you talk about the new forum you're starting.

        3. Use Facebook to build a community of fans. Consider using content locking software to "force" them to share your site on Facebook in return for access to premium content.

        Good luck!
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        • Profile picture of the author Samuel Adams
          Originally Posted by Heuristic View Post

          Yes, it really is the old catch 22:

          You can't get people to contribute because the place looks dead, but you need people to contribute so the place doesn't look dead.
          On one forum management site where I was an active member, the forum owner was the biggest poster, meaning he posted at least a dozen new discussions daily. There is nothing wrong in starting your own discussions. Though it won't hurt to have at least one or two other staff members to start discussions to give variety during those first few weeks that you are opening and trying to get new members in to post.
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