Help > Forum > General > Promoting your forum
Promoting your forum
Often the value of a forum or a community is measured by the number of posts or active members it has. This is why creating content and attracting new members to your forum should always be a priority.
We want to use this opportunity to provide you with some additional suggestions that might help you in promoting your forum:
It takes time for momentum to build. It typically takes between three months and one year to reach the point where the community takes on a life of its own.
Make your content public
Ensure that your settings and permissions are setup so that anyone can view your forums. Requiring users to create an account and log in before viewing content means that search engines and social networks won't be able to access the content either. Also, a lot of users won't be prepared to create an account before they get to know your community and feel that it is valuable for them. Therefore, it's best to keep your forums open to the public so that users don't leave when they are forced to signup and so that search engines can help spread the word about your forum for free!
Focus on creating a community
Running a forum is an excellent way of creating a community. It can be a place for people to discuss issues, share knowledge, and talk about you, your product, or your service. In the long-term, providing a way for your users to be part of a community can prove to be invaluable in terms of search engine optimization, customer satisfaction, customer/visitor retention, brand awareness, customer support, viral promotion, building trust, and creating a new revenue stream.
Define your forums purpose and audience
If you already have a website and an audience, you probably have a good head start. But if you dont, pick a topic and get to know the people for whom youll be building the community. If its for baseball fans, spend some time where baseball fans hang out, both online and off. Talk to people and cultivate relationships. The better you understand what drives your audience, the more likely youll build a forum they find valuable.
Seed your community with great content
Prior to launch, and for as long as it takes to gain momentum, seed your community with high-quality, relevant content. Consider inviting a good core group of people in to help. When you launch, this seed content will spark discussions, give visitors a sense of what your community is all about, and send the message that its a happening place to be. Additionally, search engines will index the content and begin sending visitors to your forum.
Focus on creating a lot of high-quality content that is relevant to your forum's topic and valuable to users you want to attract. Users will stick around and join the discussion only if they find your forum valuable.
Invite new users
Use the Users -> Invite section of your Website Toolbox account to invite people to your forum. They will receive a welcome email with your personalized note and a link to create their account. You could invite friends, family members, industry experts, co-workers, etc.
Social networking sites
Enabling Facebook Connect allows users to register or log in to your forum using their Facebook account. This is beneficial because you can use your Facebook app to tap into Facebook's huge viral reach, it increases registrations by 35 to 50% because users know it will be easy to register or login, and it automatically logs the user into your forum when they are already logged into Facebook.
Creating a Facebook Page to build a closer relationship with your audience and getting everyone you know to Like the page is a great way to gain more exposure.
Creating a Twitter account and following those that are related to your niche can prove to be beneficial as well. Tweeting things that are happening on your forum such as upcoming contests or some informative posts may yield the best results.
The Social Sharing feature here at Website Toolbox allows you and your users to share topics from your forum on Facebook and Twitter. Social sharing is a great way to increase the popularity of your forum through viral marketing.
Remarket and advertise on Facebook and Twitter
You can use Facebook and Twitter to remarket your forum to people who previously found your forum through search engines or other methods but didn't sign up. This serves as a great way to bring your top forum content back in front of users who previously expressed interest in your forum. Once they are familiar enough with your forum, they'll sign up and begin contributing themselves. Remarketing typically provides the best results and best return on investment when advertising on social networks.
Once you've setup your remarketing campaign, you can expand your advertising efforts by using Facebook and Twitter to cheaply and precisely target people interested in the content your forum has. You can target people based on their interests, behaviors, and demographics. Create topics with enticing titles, start the discussion with a few posts, and then advertise on the social networks to get others to join the discussion.
Introduce a contest
People love participating in contests so giving them a reason to participate can increase your forums activity and be beneficial for you in the long run. For example, you may want to offer a cash prize, voucher, or something else to the person that contributes the most posts within a certain time-frame. We recommend that you offer a T-shirt, Pen, Baseball ball or a bat with your forum logo embossed on it.
Lurkers (Forum followers who never contribute)
These people will use your forum to find value in the topics. However, they actually will never contribute themselves. We just need to work out a way to convert the lurkers into regular members. We have listed some suggestions below:
Discuss hot topics
No matter what your forum is about, there will always be hot topics that automatically generate conversation and debate. Industry news, technological developments, and current events are all great topics. Starting new topics about these hot topics can create instant conversation.
Every party needs a host. The forum administrator needs to be active and visible in the community. People need to feel they have a way to address any problems they might have or any disagreements that spring up between members. When activity slows down, and there will be slow periods, its the administrators job to stir up discussion and activity. If you dont have time to spend on your forum, make sure you find someone that does and assign them as an administrator or category moderator.
Send out reminders
People often join a forum, participate for a few hours or days, get busy and then forget about their new-found forum. Use the Email Users feature to send out a weekly or monthly newsletter with forum or site news, popular topics, new topics, or new contests.
Encourage active participation
The most active and passionate members are your forums lifeblood. Recruit and reward them immediately. Highlight their contributions wherever possible, and ask for their help and feedback. Show your appreciation by sending them a private message or offer them some type of reward.
Promote it everywhere you can
If you already have a website or blog, embedding the newest forum topics into your home page is a great way to entice your website visitors to join the discussion. Additionally, encourage your website visitors to visit your forum by mentioning the forum address in order confirmations, email signatures, and throughout the website content.
If you have a company, encourage your customers to visit the forum on the company's promotional materials and any other place you can think of.
Mention the benefits of visiting and joining the forum, such as meeting like-minded people, discussing questions they may have, reading what others have to say about the same topics they are interested in, winning a contest/promotion, learning from experts who post on the forum, or reading content that is only available on the forum.
First, try to understand where your potential members are. It is important to do your research in this area. Determine if there are existing forums that covers the topics you offer.
If you have found another forum similar to yours, please do not be tempted to post a new thread saying, Come and visit my forum or push a direct link of your forum on to that forum. Your post will be viewed as a spam and most unwelcomed by the webmaster. You may end up losing your account or being marked as a spammer.
Instead, invest your time to become part of the community and post meaningful posts that are valuable. The first thing to do is make sure there is a link to your forum in your signature. Now try and become the most respected and helpful member of that forum, give advice, help people, make suggestions and compliment others. If you have a strong reputation within a community, people will be curious to click on the links in your signature.
Allow off-topic discussion
Create a separate forum for off-topic discussions where users can blow off steam, tell jokes, and talk about their other interests. This will allow them to create friendships and unwind. Your forum users should feel like they are part of a community with similar interests.
Listen and optimize
Listen to what your forum community says. Perhaps even create a dedicated forum for "Forum Feedback" where people can talk about the forum and give their opinions.
Keep an eye on the highest-rated and most-viewed content. Give them more of what they want by starting new topics related to the most popular content.
Putting time and effort into creating a busy forum can prove to be invaluable in the long-term. Your forum is all about the content and active members, so post a lot of valuable content and contact your members on regular basis. Essentially, quality conversions are what will keep your users coming back. Promote your forum using the techniques described above. Your goal should be for the community to take on a life of its own, where members bring in new members, write content, and moderate categories. That's what happens when your members get engaged, it becomes their community.