Promoting Your Site by Establishing a Forum

PromotionA forum is a great tool which can increase a hosting site’s link popularity and, more importantly, provides a value-adding community to visitors. Without mentioning the technical aspects of embedding a forum into a website, I shall explain the factors critical in the creation of a successful forum.

A forum is a great tool which can increase a hosting site’s link popularity and, more importantly, provides a value-adding community to visitors. The fact of the matter is that a forum has a number of additional benefits. Those benefits include:

  1. Intelligence: Allows you to get to know what’s really going on in the minds of your potential/existing customers by simply observing and interacting with forum posts.

  2. Providing visitors with a sense of security/reliability: Thanks to the existence of recent posts, visitors feel that the site is ‘alive and kicking.’

  3. Differentiation: A site with a winning forum, led by wise, open, and communicative moderators, and is home to constructive members, can provide an organization with a strategic differentiation and a competitive advantage.

  4. Increased traffic: Increased traffic comes from returning visitors who are replying to posts, as well as browsing new topics (in this sense, it is recommended to email all members recent posts as a reminder and an invitation).

  5. Improved search engine rankings: Search engines will notice both the increased internal link popularity and the members’ of the forum’s community writing about issues that are associated with themes that are directly and indirectly associated with your site’s targeted keywords.

Those who have been involved in launching a successful forum know that it’s not an easy task, even if you’ve already got a significant captive audience that is visiting your site, reading your newsletter, and so forth. Without mentioning the technical aspects of embedding a forum into a website, I shall explain the factors critical in the creation of a successful forum.
{mospagebreak title=Success Factor One – Forum Leadership&toc=1} As with traditional communities, virtual communities can only get going if one or more leaders take initiative. This does not necessarily have to be the ‘official’ leader, such as the Webmaster who decided to put up the forum in the first place.

A leader needs to have the ability to attract potential/existing members to willingly join and interact in the community. How does a leader do that’ Mainly by providing community members with access to knowledge and a sense of belonging. He does that by making a real attempt to understand the values of members, and by using superior writing skills to transfer knowledge as well as inspire.

{mospagebreak title=Success Factor Two – Initial Traffic&toc=1} If the best leader in the world lives alone on a stranded island, a successful community will never exist. This implies that in order to establish a successful forum, you not only need successful forum leadership, but also initial traffic of potential community members.

If the site is just starting out, an email to friends, family members, and colleagues may be in order. Additionally, tools that track potential link exchanges can be used to detect Webmasters who may be interested in joining your forum. In fact, they might even invite the audience of their sites to participate in your forum! Because of this, articles may be written, optimized, and published yours or another site. Perhaps those articles present a controversial topic, or maybe they’re just a direct invitation to talk about a presented topic at the forum.

Initial traffic can be increased if you take into consideration the different user behaviors of forum members. Each member is unique, but they can also be grouped according to the level of their interaction within the forum community. One group is the ‘heavy users’ who will write frequently and initiate new topics. A second group is the ‘shy group’ or ‘learning beginners,’ who only read forum posts without ever actively participating. There are other types as well and it would be beneficial for you to identify the types of groups in your forum. Why’ At times, different communication approaches should be used in order to communicate the different groups. For example, a survey can be used to invite members of the ‘shy group’ to make their first steps in actively participating in the community. This enables the shy members’ participation without requiring them to write long, meaningful messages to a group of people that they still don’t feel comfortable with.

Finally, if you already have a website and are adding a forum to it, it is recommended to have a direct invitation to the forum in a noticeable spot on the homepage. The same goes for a newsletter.
{mospagebreak title=Success Factor Three – The Big “Mo” (-mentum, That Is!)&toc=1} The momentum at the beginning is crucial. Many times, a forum will make an impression as if it is becoming successful but, in effect, it starts dying down after the first wave of members’ posts and enthusiasm.

Before this stage, is can be fruitful to detect key members in the community and offer them premium rights and responsibilities. The classic example is to offer a responsible, knowledgeable, motivated member to be a moderator of an unmanned forum category. Moderators are rarely paid but they can gain experience as well as enhance their public relations and networks. Another way to praise moderators is to simply use the power of the forum to compliment them in front of their audience. This can empower and motivate them to continue their new leading roles in the community.

Asking initial members to invite their relevant friends and colleagues is also highly recommended. Incentives in the forms of contests, riddles and promotions could be integrated as well.

Another way of maintaining the initial momentum is to optimize the thread pages of your forum. First, you can choose category titles that are not exactly identical to the typical category titles of many other similar forums. Sometimes a slight tweak in keywords can help you position a forum category in top SERP’s for a second-most popular search phrase while all other competitors are targeting the most popular term (in other words, find your niche). Second, use your SEO skills to optimize titles, descriptions, headings, texts and internal links of forum threads. Third, increase the link popularity of the threads by submitting them to directories, offering them to link partners and including them in other relevant threads and articles (ex:. ‘check out what GoogleGuy said about’.’)

{mospagebreak title=Finally, Once Established&toc=1} Once established and running, managing a forum is a very challenging and time-consuming task. Still, establishing one is even harder, and that’s where you need to concentrate on the three critical success factors: the forum’s leadership, initial traffic and initial momentum. All in all, a successful forum may be the single most dominant factor of your online success, so it’s definitely worth the effort!

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