How do you build a really big discussion board? Let's take a look!
For the second installment in our series of forum building articles, we'll dive a little deeper into best practices for expanding the growth and reach of your forum. In the first article, "Forum Building Tips – Part 1", we shared tips for forum owners still in the early stages of setting up and launching their new discussion boards. This guide was written as a follow up and focuses on helping forum operators build larger communities using more advanced marketing tactics.
Once your forum has been officially launched and is open for discussion, it's time to focus on the day to day promotion and continued growth of the community. Below are a collection of proven marketing tips leading forum operators recommend for growing a robust discussion community. Some suggestions will bear fruit right away, others will take time:
- Rule number 1: Never pass up free advertising. If you're a member of other forums that have "Advertise your Site" sections, don't hesitate to post links back to your forum.
- Submit your forum URL to the big search engines. While obvious, many seasoned forum operators fail to do this. This is a mistake. Search engines love forums for their volumes of rich content and ease of indexing. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask.com are the largest.
- Get your forum listed with all the top forum directories. Start with your host's directory (for hosted forums) and continue with independent directories which can be found with a Google search.
- Don't forget Twitter: Whether or not you have your own Twitter page, you can still use Twitters' search feature to find discussions relating to your main forum topic: Engage in these discussion and invite people to join the conversation at your forum. Be careful not to spam!
- Create a Facebook group. If you're like most of us and already have a Facebook page, you can create a separate Facebook group based on common (forum related) interests and invite those folks to continue the discussion back at your forum.
- Post in relevant, high PageRank venues: Blogs, forums and a variety of other online communities are generally appreciative of thoughtful contributions and can be a great opportunity to direct visitors to your forum. If the community's publisher allows it, include a signature file in your posts with a link back to your discussion board. Remember, self promotion is acceptable but only if you are on-topic and have proven yourself as a contributor to the discussion.
While employing some or all of these strategies doesn't guarantee instant success, not using them may hinder the growth of your discussion community. Let's take a look at a few additional suggestions to promote interest in your forum:
- Include a signature link to your forum site in every correspondence you send so that more people can be made aware of your forum; while this practice is obvious, is does sometimes get overlooked.
- Also, make sure to put a link to your discussion board in the signature of all your email accounts.
- Ask members to lend a hand. If you have engaged, dedicated members in your forum, ask them to assist with promotions. Further, ask them to extend an invite to friends that might be interested in joining the discussion.
- Invite an expert: Once your forum has momentum, consider inviting an expert in your niche to contribute to your forum.
- Consider trading links with webmasters in your niche who don't have a forum of their own. This can benefit both of your websites with additional, relevant traffic.
With that said, stay tuned for the next installment in our series on building a successful, self sustaining forum where we'll present tips, tactics and strategies for moderating a harmonious community. As a reminder, a collection of basic suggestions for setting up and launching your forum can be found in our previous article, Forum Building Tips – Part I. Thanks for reading!