An active forum is what we want as forum administrators, right? But an active forum, while good, is not exactly a really active forum. Many of you want to eventually see your active forum become really active and essentially become a big board. I have written this article with the focus on helping you make your forum into a really active and entertaining community. The methods discussed in this article can practically be applied to every type of forum niche. Most of the material found in this article was discovered through actual experience, knowledge development, research and practical trial and error. Please feel free to comment below with more ideas and tips to forum owners on making their active forum a really active forum…
Content is not King, Content is GOD!
I think calling content, king is not giving content enough credit where credit is due. For a message forum, keyword ‘message’, content is more than just a king, content is the God. If you want members and active membership – you have to have awesome content that lures people in. Too many forum owners post generic topics found practically on every forum out there. It is fine to get ideas for content from other forums but to duplicate what other forums are already posting about is just going to waste your time and the potential members who visit your community. Content must be unique, it must be powerful and it MUST be useful to a member. Questions, tips, tutorials, articles, interviews, guides and the list goes on – these are all useful forms of content to others. If you run a niche forum, work to post the very best content about your niche on your niche forum.
To make content great – create a style of posting it. The title should be eye catching but not a type of title that baits people into something that turns out to be something completely different than what it seemed to be in the first place. Tricking your members will only show them that you cannot be trusted. One suggestion that I have for you when creating a new topic on your forum is to treat the topic like it’s a blog post. Bloggers tend to be more successful than forum owner and this is because they are focusing more effort on their content because that is what sells, whether it is to make actual money or earn fans. Treat each new topic on your forum as content that you are publishing to win some fans with and that will help you out a lot.
Create an article section! If you run a niche-specific community, this can easily be implemented into your forum. Take TAZ for example, these articles are interesting and people really love reading them and submitting them on this forum. The article system on TAZ is successful. If you run a niche forum, you are expected to know a lot about the niche, you can show this by writing awesome articles that will help others with issues in the niche. Focus your article writing efforts on the biggest challenges of the niche and try to solve them or create theories on solving these challenges. Innovate and members will appreciate!
If you are simply running out of ideas to post about – I know what the problem is. You are not leaving your forum! I’m right, aren’t I? You need to get out there in the niche, on other forums, on blogs, on social media and everywhere in between and continue to read other sources of content, news headlines and discussions regarding the niche. The more you know, the more topic ideas you will think of. You have to be active outside of your niche and become a popular person of the niche as well because that will eventually lead people to your forum, too.
You might also consider multimedia forms of content as well. YouTube videos for example have become quite popular over the years and making one isn’t that hard anymore. Make some videos about your niche and market them. Develop a strong profile on YouTube with many subscribers and fans. Advertise your forum on your videos and draw in new members from the popular online video sites like YouTube and others. Podcasting is another great way to earn more members. Create a weekly or monthly podcast talk show concerning your niche, the headlines of the niche, and interviews of the niche experts and so on. People are listening but are you talking to them?
Social Media is Not Killing Your Forum
Unless you allow it… If you are not participating in the social media marketing movement, then you are truly missing out. I probably get multiple registrations each day from Facebook and Twitter on my forum. The trick is to create a community for the social media site that is outside of your forum community. It is like running two forums but that is really the only way you are going to be successful with marketing your forum on social media. You need to be creating social conversations that are exclusive to the social media site you are targeting. It needs to really seem like an actual community. Doing this will truly mitigate social media from killing your forum. Not doing it, that is a different story – you might be missing out on hundreds to even thousands of new forum members.
Forget about Promoting your Forum on other Forums…
Seriously… Signature links is for the birds! Consider this, I allow signature links on my forum but only members can actually see them, guests and search engine spiders cannot and most forums are like that these days. Signature link participation or joining a forum just to get your signature link shown is SPAM, period. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, it is spam! Quit doing it – instead, advertise yourself on other forums within your niche market. Seriously – advertise YOU! Develop a reputation of being an authority of the niche by being helpful, posting awesome content and becoming very active on the forum. People will take notice of you and eventually most likely discover that you also have a forum in the niche and if they are your fan, they are likely going to want to join your forum and be active on it. That is what forums should be used for and it is a win/win for both you and the other forum owner…you are promoting your reputation while being an active and contributing member on the forum. This should be a new trend these days!
Forum SEO isn’t a Myth
Forum SEO isn’t actually a myth like some think it is, it is just a lot more difficult than SEO on a blog or a static website environment. The reason for this difficulty is the fact that forums are made up of member contributions whereas members are making the content to be indexed by search engines. All of your members, most of them at least, are likely not going to have SEO in mind when creating new content on your forum. You don’t want to force this either because it could make them feel dumb and scare them away from posting new content. Instead, you should focus your content development efforts on SEO. Develop a style of posting new content – you’re a leader on your forum – if you truly have fans, they will eventually follow you and try to be like you, including bettering their contributed content. It works but you have to keep at it and set a great example for others to follow.
Keeping members on the forum for longer amounts of time will also improve SEO on the forum. I recommend focusing on topic creations that will call a need for mass response that will create several pages of responses because people are urged to reply to the topics. You should also consider the old blogging move of interlinking content within your forum topics. You could post a new topic about a sub-topic that derives from another topic, link the former topic into the new topic and go from there. Plugins that add similar and related posts can also help keep people on the forum longer. The longer you keep a user on the forum, the better it will be for your forum SEO.
With keyword marketing strategies being important for search engine optimization, you might try to implement this into your new topics. Sure, every topic isn’t going to focus on a keyword since your members are likely not going to have SEO in mind but you can still encourage relevant content related to your keyword by emphasizing the keyword for the board, node or section of your forum. The category or board title should include the keyword as well as the description and maybe even a sticky topic added to the board as well. Make sure you are posting new topics that include the keyword. Even if no one else is doing, by you doing it, you are still making some sort of forum SEO impact, even if only a small one.
When link building, I recommend not buying links. I feel like buying links is often a waste of money because people are not paying that much attention to advertising these days. But people are paying attention to what experts are recommending. So that should be a strategy – somehow get an expert in your forum’s niche to recommend your forum. How can you do this, though? There are multiple ways. If you feed enough traffic from your forum to the expert, most experts who have a soul will often get the picture and show a little love back to your forum. You can also work to befriend the expert and it will be easier to get them to recommend your forum. Networking in the forum world is important for developing forum SEO strategies.
Give Users Something to Encourage Membership
Besides good old fashion awesome forum content, you should also work on things to give users who become members of your forum. Resources is something people often want, especially if they are provided free just for becoming a member of the forum. Consider utilizing groups with group promotion features to encourage activity on the forum in order to unlock new features. Sure, some members will post one liners and such to quickly attempt to gain access but if that is what is stopping you from doing this, then you are basically saying that you don’t trust your membership and that is a bit of a dumb assumption if you ask me. Items to give as resources could include eBooks, images, documents, articles and even applications that you have developed. The trick is creating a resource that people will actually use and need in the niche.
Contests also help! My suggestion to you is to avoid the normal generic contests that many forum owners tend to start. The boring posting contest or the unoriginal membership referral contests. Think about your niche. What are people into concerning your niche? Focus on those interested when forming forum contests. My weather forum for example does a monthly weather photo contest as many of my members are highly into weather photography. Each month, I give the winner a random prize to keep things interesting. The prize might be a free month of premium membership to even a $15 gift card to a popular fast food establishment. Prizes will get people participating and if you have a little bit of money to spare each month, you can really draw in some good attention to your forum.
Well that is all I have for you for right now. I hope this article has helped you out today with your own forum marketing needs. Please support me for writing this article by commenting below with your own ideas for increasing membership and activity on a forum in order to make it a very active forum. Thank you for reading this article!