If you spend any amount of time at all on the Internet then you’ve probably tripped over at least one forum community somewhere. Of course, if you’re involved in Internet Marketing then you’re probably aware of the Warrior Forum. But maybe you’ve seen other forums, too, forums dedicated to home repairs or radio programs or sports teams or just about any topic you can imagine. Starting your own forum can take a lot of work but it can also be very rewarding. Here’s how you can make money building your own line forum community.
First, you need to understand why forums are so popular and why they’re such a big business. The Internet is immeasurably huge and people can find out anything they want to know with the click of a button. But people are still people. They still like to form little communities and compare notes and exchange opinions. That’s why the social networks are so popular.
But social networks are dynamic sites, the information is constantly flowing and changing. If you leave and come back at a later time, you’ve missed part of the conversation. Forums, on the other hand, are static sites. You type in your response and it stays there, online, forever. Other people, joining the conversation at a later time, can see the entire conversation and pitch in their 2 cents and a single conversation in a thread can go on forever.
Before you think about setting up a forum, you should already have some good traffic coming into your blog. If your blog is popular and busy with comments, you can probably get those same readers to jump over to your forum. However, starting a forum when you don’t have at least some interested, loyal traffic is difficult. Nobody wants to be the first one to post and no one will stick around long if there’s nobody else to talk to.
Of course, there are ways to get traffic to your new forum. You can use PPC or you can hire forum commentators to get the ball rolling. Or you can use any of your other favorite traffic generation methods. Just be aware – Activity breeds activity on a forum and if there’s nothing going on, then people are not going to stick around. So if you do pay for traffic, make sure you do it wisely.
Setting Up Your Online Forum Community
Choose a quality platform for your forum and you’ll probably have to shell out some bucks here. I haven’t tried any of the newer programs but I do know the standard freebie software that comes with you hosting account isn’t secure enough. You need something that can stop hackers and spammers and keep porn out of your forum. Unless, of course, you’re running a porn site. It’s pretty embarrassing though to log onto your ‘Mommy-to-Be‘ forum and see porn posted on every thread.
Once you have the software set up, set up your categories using keywords relevant to your niche. his helps organize your forum so people know where they can go to talk about certain topics. It also helps you get those conversations started in the first place, when your forum is still new.
Go into each category and start a few threads, asking questions so people will join in the conversation. A lot of people hate to be the first one to start a thread, especially on a new forum. They don’t want to stick out like sore thumbs. So help get the conversation started.
Running Your Online Forum Community
If possible, have someone help you moderate your forum, right from the very beginning. One of the reasons that people like forums is because they feel safe from bullying and some of the verbal attacks they get on the social networks. You want to make you forum safe and inviting so people will feel comfortable hanging out there and having a conversation or two.
Monetizing Your Online Forum Community
Now, the big question is – how do you make money with an online forum community? And the answer is pretty simple. It’s just another piece of Internet Real Estate. Only this time you have a captive audience. Monetize it any way you want!
Adsense and Advertising – Some forum owners make big bucks just having Adsense on the site. All those keywords you used when you set up your categories will help attract the Ads and if you’ve got some pretty good traffic you should start seeing some income.
Memberships – Some webmasters set their forums up as membership sites, charging users a monthly or annual fee. The only problem with this is, you must make sure you’re providing information in your forum that they couldn’t find somewhere else for free. Otherwise, what are you charging them for? There are bajillions of free forums all over the Internet. Nobody is going to pay you for a place to chat. They can do that anywhere!
Private forums – A better solution would be to set up an open forum and then make one thread or category private. Users would then have to pay a fee to access that category. For example, on the Warrior Forum you can post a Warrior Special Offer in a particular thread but you have to pay a fee first. Last time I looked it was $20 but that was a few years ago. For another fee you can access another private forum where marketers exchange in-depth marketing information.
Sell your products – The best way to make money building your own online forum community is to just open it up to the public and join in the conversation. Treat it as you would any other type of forum marketing. Just because you own the forum doesn’t mean you can go in there and start throwing your product around and everyone will open up their wallet. You have to become a valued member of the community first. And when you do, then everyone will listen when you tell them to visit your blog for more information on your fabulous product!