Community Resource Roundup

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This week we have some goodies on how to monetize your forum community. So grab that cup of coffee and let’s get to work!

How To Build A Paid Community

Starting a paid membership community begins with a lot of preliminary tasks. Some of these things include: collecting prospects’ emails before you launch, guest blogging, and surveying your target audience to determine what sort of content they want to consume.

“A couple of months before entrepreneurs launch a paid community, they should set up a simple website and gather email addresses from people who might want to become members.”

The Beginner’s Guide To Affiliate Marketing: 7 Essential Resources

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways you can monetize your forum community, but implementing it successfully can be a bit of challenge. These seven resources will help you get started with analytics, tutorials, and other educational materials.

“There’s a temptation to dive immediately into affiliate marketing and generate that first dollar in revenue as quickly as possible. A smarter approach, however, is to invest a few hours learning about best practices and common pitfalls from other experts in the area.”

Study: Answering Complaints In Online Forums Boosts Consumer Advocacy More Than Any Other Customer Service Channel

In comparison to social media, phone, email, and review sites, forums provide a larger boost in customer advocacy than any of these channels. This makes forum communities one of the most valuable customer service assets for businesses.

“When you respond to a complaint posted in an online forum, on average, you receive a 25% boost in customer advocacy. Compare this to 20% for social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+), 16% for review sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, etc.), 10% for phone and 8% for email.” 

How to Encourage Lurkers To Interact With Your Online Community

Getting lurkers to post can be difficult. This article establishes three solutions to this problem. You can change your tone, adjust your login and posting procedures, or reward regular posting.

“Certain people, often referred to as lurkers, tend to post very rarely, even though they may actually read every blog post or forum post. The shame about this is that those lurkers are actually rather devoted members of the community, but due to shyness, uncertainty, or possibly a dislike for other posters, they simply aren’t interacting with the community in a very meaningful way.”

3 Things All Online Communities Need

This article gets right to point— every community needs three things. Your forum should have a clear identity and purpose, an emphasis on making every aspect of your community the best that it can be (members, content, etc.), and setting up appropriate barriers to membership.

“You need to be able to keep the purpose of your community short and snappy. Think elevator pitch—but even shorter. If you can’t condense the purpose (and benefits) of your online community down into a few sentences, then it isn’t focused enough.”

How To Grow Your Forum Community

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One of the toughest tasks facing community owners is consistently achieving large levels of growth. Both new and current owners fight this battle every day. Some are successful while others aren’t able to hit their desired goals. In most cases, community owners are either not doing enough to spur growth or doing too many of the wrong things. To grow your community successfully, you need to be diligent in these four areas: forum structure, member interaction, outreach, and forum performance.

Forum Structure is Part of the First Impression

As a community owner, you have the power to influence a person’s first impression. This starts with how you structure your forum. In most cases, the first page people are introduced to is the forum itself. However, you could benefit from creating a custom page that introduces new members to the things you want them to see first. This includes your community’s mission statement, rules, and a call-to-action to get them involved in your community.

Your community’s mission statement and rules should be front and center for new members. This documentation is key to properly informing prospective members about the purpose and vision of your community, how to participate, establishing a threshold for content that needs to be moderated, and reduces any blowback should moderation come into play. It will frustrate members if you penalize them for something that was not made clear beforehand. Transparency is important to keep people coming back because it is the foundation upon which you build trust with your members. If they don’t trust you, they will surely not contribute any of their ideas to your community. Keep in mind that you should not overload the landing page with too much text. Keep it as short and concise as possible or else people will probably skip over it.

Having some sort of call-to-action for new members is critical. After someone has landed on this page, they will have learned everything that they need to contribute. But they still might not know where to put their first post. Introducing themselves in a general discussion area of your forum is a great way for new members to break the ice. From there, you can either find a way to bring them into a current discussion or invite them to start a new one of their own.

Another way you can nudge new members to get engaged right away is to limit the number of boards you have running. Your forum should only be running with the boards that people are actively using to discuss the most popular topics. The only time you should add more is when your community has shown signs that it needs them. Nothing is more overwhelming than having tons of boards that are either going unused or are only being used by a few members. Really consider if adding a board is necessary. Ask yourself if this is a discussion that can happen elsewhere in the forum with your current configuration. And if you are unsure, ask your community. They want their content to be seen, rather than get buried in an overarching topic that could benefit from splintering into subtopics.

The Importance of Member Interaction

A large portion of your community’s growth comes from continuous engagement with your community. You can feature certain discussions in the landing page mentioned above so that new members are driven to those immediately. By promoting specific discussions that achieve the quality you desire, you can influence others to create more content of that same caliber. This can go hand-in-hand with gamification. Having certain achievements or badges available for members to earn gives them something they can show off. It makes their work feel valued and helps you steer the direction of the content your community is producing.

Along with gamification, you can determine what members are the most active and offer them a position on your forum team. At some point, managing a forum all on your own will become unwieldy. But you don’t want anyone helping you in this venture that isn’t already a committed member of your community. These individuals know everything about your community, and most importantly, are advocates for your community’s overall vision. These people will be your best teammates in fostering your community’s growth.

If you are struggling to figure out what your community wants, reach out to them. You can create a survey and have members provide feedback on what sort of content or events they would like to see in the future. This will help you guide your community more effectively without the headache of trying something new and having it go nowhere. It allows you to focus on creating positive initiatives for your community rather than experiments.

Reaching Out Beyond the Borders of your Community

It is too easy to get caught up in all of the daily activities within your community. Don’t forget that there is a whole world outside of your community that includes social media, blogs, and other forums that you can leverage to your advantage. You can use this network to acquire guest features. Having other experts in your given area of interest contribute to your community is beneficial for both parties. The featured content that these individuals write will increase the credibility of your forum, and provide additional quality content that will be supported by their credentials. In turn, this gives them an opportunity to plug their own content to an interested audience. And in most cases, these individuals will have their own sites. After publishing the content, you can then have them link to their post, increasing your forum’s backlinks. This will improve your rank with search engines, and help your forum appear when people search for your particular topic.

Stay On Top Of The Performance of Your Forum

After you have put in the work to drive your community’s growth, it is important to reassess everything you have done. You should always be keeping a close eye on how people are moving around the forum, and where all the action is taking place. If there are dead areas, it might be time to cut them from your community or find some method of archiving anything that you think is worth keeping. You always want the areas in your community to be active. There should be no ghost towns because a potential new member could mistake this as a sign that your community is becoming less active or is not as active.

As we have mentioned before, the goal is to find the things that lead to positive results and repeat them. You can do this by simply asking your community, or taking the time to revisit your successes. Either way, as you are cultivating growth, the work that you are doing should become more refined.

Finally, take a look at all of your key performance indicators and any other analytics you might have access to. Analyze the highs and lows, and draw conclusions from data to drive your changes. In doing so, you can proactively whittle away anything that is hindering the growth of your forum.

Reviewing The Points

You need to make sure you make a good first impression. This means creating a landing page with all of the things new members need to get started: your community’s mission statement, rules, and a call to action to get them posting. Internally, you need to be engaging with your members. Promote posts that you think are of the quality you desire. And keep an eye on the people creating this quality content. The most dedicated and active members are great candidates for your forum team as your community grows. Take some time to network outside of your community. And lastly, make sure to monitor your forum through analytics or other measuring methods to ensure that you are always repeating the most successful initiatives.

Originally published on the Forums.net Blog

Community Resource Roundup

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In-between watching the summer Olympics, let’s squeeze in some articles with this week’s Community Resource Roundup. Uh…why did that turn green?

How to Use Online Forums

Forums are valuable to businesses because they give customers the opportunity to interact with the company as well as other customers.

“Online forums allow both real and potential customers to interact with you and with each other to discuss your products or services while helping you troubleshoot flaws.”

Your Way or the Community’s Way?

When the community starts moving in a new direction, you have two options to address this situation. You can either allow behavior or restrict behavior.

“If you’re going to allow a new behaviour/topic, you should also encourage it. Create a place/feature within the community for this to happen.”

58 Resources to Help You Learn and Master SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is something all forum owners should understand and apply to their communities. This will help drive you to the top of the search results when people are searching for your particular area of interest.

“In this post, I’ll give you resources you can use to learn about SEO and stay on top of SEO, including some free tools that’ll be useful for fixing any issues.”

Should your online community be open or closed?

Before deciding if your community should be open or closed, you should understand the pros and cons of both.

“In most cases, private online communities operate best when they have a mixture of open and closed spaces.”

3 Keys for Launching a Forum

The early stages of a forum are critical. When you launch, keep these three things at the top of your list.

“The concept of starting small applies to features as well as outreach to new members. The key in both cases is to keep the activity dense: limited features, select community members.”

Community Resource Roundup

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While everyone else is posting their vacation photos on social media, let us bask in the learning light of our screens in this week’s roundup.

Get more members of your online community active

For those of you not familiar with the 90-9-1 principle, it basically states that 90 percent of participation in an internet community is by lurkers, 9 percent are contributors, and 1 percent are creators. This article dismantles this principle and urges community owners to get more than 1 percent of their users creating content.

“You should never be obsessed by the number of members your community has. It is the least important metric for measuring the success of an online community. You need activity. You need content.”

How to Make Money Online Through Discussion Boards and Forums

There are many ways you can make money with your forum, from cost-per-action programs to ads. Check out some of these tips and figure out which one works best for your community.

“There are many different ways to monetize an online forum, from posting banner ads and in-text links to doing a product sponsorship complete with individual threads devoted to that sponsored product.”

Motivating people to submit quality content on forums

Getting your members to share their great content starts with you the admin. You should recognize their work, have a clean forum structure, and make sure these contributors maintain a sense of ownership.

“The key is to restore a sense of pride of ownership to people posting content on forums.”

Interview with Patrick O’Keefe, Author of Managing Online Forums

Patrick O’Keefe shares his insight on fostering a sense of community, how admins should handle mistakes, and what small things community managers should be doing on a daily basis.

“Create something that has focus, which gives it meaning and allow yourself to be guided by principles that speak to your focus. If you try to appeal to everyone, you may find yourself left with no one.”

How To Write Engaging Questions for Online Forums

Writing engaging questions is necessary for inspiring quality community discussions. This article is aimed at helping teachers start conversations with their students, but these lessons can also be applied to anyone looking to foster worthy content.

“Ask for a rationale behind the opinion. Often the reasons behind the response are more telling and more useful than the response itself.”

Community Resource Roundup

Welcome back to another segment of Daydreaming Monday. Today, we are spacing out in the office as we think about floating in the seventy five degree ocean and taking in some rays. Wait, that’s not right. Sometimes Mondays get the best of me. We are back at it again this morning with all the articles we shared last week.

Neil Patel, prominent digital marketer, delves into the value of forums. He breaks down where forums fit in relation to social media, and how you can leverage them for your own needs.

“If you engage a forum strategy with the idea of promoting your content or selling your product, you’re going to fail. Forums are, at their core, about communication.”

Fifteen bloggers get together and share their thoughts on managing forums. Wait, bloggers!? What do bloggers know about forums? Trust us, these guys know what they are doing when it comes to online communities.

“In my experience, the biggest challenge of any forum admin is keeping people interested. It’s especially difficult at the beginning, because people are always hesitant to get involved with anything if no one else is involved.”

Ever wonder what work goes into being an admin? This article breaks down some of the things admins do to keep your favorite communities running.

“I want to give you a taste of what it takes to keep those forums running well. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, and it may not completely apply to everyone, but in my experience, these things are fairly common.”

How do you find and recruit the best forum moderators? By tracking down the best and most active members in your community.

“I always advise you to approach the users who appear to be committed members and post a high number of quality posts.”

If you are new to monetization, this article can help point you in the right direction. It lays out ten different ways you can make money with your forum including AdSense and affiliate marketing.

“The main sales force behind these products are called affiliates. You put an Ad on your site to sell something and get paid a commission for the sale of the product.”