People that start niche forums often struggle to get members to their site. Forums need members coming back again and again in order to be productive and valuable for the forum owner.
Too often, forums struggle to get traction (to get going) – after all, who wants to come to a forum that resembles a ghost town? That’s often what new forums face … not enough posting members to make the forum worth visiting.
I think the best thing you can do if you own a forum is to try to build an authority site in your niche and include your forum as the vehicle for expression, interaction and discussion for your niche members.
So your web site won’t house just a forum – you’ll have a more comprehensive niche web site that includes the forum as just one of its features. Other attractions at your site could include a blog, a resource sections, a place to show off your products, and valuable niche content (whether that be videos, articles, graphics, audio files, podcasts, or whatever else you might offer.)
Make your site “sticky” – a place that’s hard to leave, a place that appeals to a variety of member wants and needs.
Here are a few suggestions about how to make your web site sticky:
1. Make your site a community gathering place – think “niche hangout.”
If your web site and forum has a lot of value to offer the customers in the niche, they may decide to call your site “home.” Like-minded folks tend to gather in close proximity to talk about and share their experiences within the niche. If you can build a strong brand and be seen as the resident authority in the niche, you stand to gather a large following of subscribers that come back often to your web site.
2. Provide the latest news and events in the niche.
News is a big draw on the Internet. In fact, many folks nowadays have traded their daily print newspapers for Internet news that is always fresh, timely, and generally free. It’s also convenient to access on tablets, smart phones, and other devices. If you can aggregate and/or curate niche news for your subscribers, they will see your site as important site to bookmark and share with others in the niche.
3. Fill your site/forum with lots of great and valuable content.
Content isn’t just the written word found in articles. Content includes blog posts, graphics, video and audio files, forum posts (obviously), products, comments made by your subscribers, news, offers, and anything else that gives value and relevancy to your web site. Niche prospects will see your effort to bring relevant and helpful content to their attention on your site, especially when your content is kept fresh and important to the industry. Lots of great content will generally mean lots of niche authority for both you and your site.
4. You might start up a niche library, or an archive of valuable content.
Many forums are run within niche membership sites, all revolving around a central niche topic. People will join to get access to downloads and archives of information that is of interest to them. Membership sites are a proven business model that keeps customers returning to the web site often if the content and interaction is useful and valuable to the client.
5. Add interactivity to your web site.
Some businesses go out of their way to provide incentives to customers to participate in polls at the web site, or interactive games, or contests, or other strategies that entail the customer going to the web site and taking some action in order to derive the benefit that the site has promised. Some authority sites provide rewards or incentives for members to offer their own niche content.
6. Have a continual stream of events.
Fun or helpful customer-requested activities that will keep interest in your business alive and enticing. Always relate these events to the niche and provide clear and motivating reasons or incentives to those who visit your web site on a regular basis. Obviously, the event you schedule needs to be perceived as something fun, educational, inspiring, or maybe “cool.” The event could be held over the phone (conference call), in a webinar, a podcast, etc. The sky’s the limit here!
7. Open the door for customer-submitted (uploaded) content, photos, articles, etc.
Sites that allow customers to show off their talents, opinions, and creations are some of the most widely viewed Internet locations. Thanks to social media sites, most people have become accustomed to sharing things online with friends. Giving your web site subscribers an incentive to submit their own relevant content is a great way to add additional content to your site and it gives your customers an opportunity to make a contribution to your body of work.
Sometimes we don’t like to admit it, but most everyone likes to be entertained online. In order to provide entertainment on the web site, some owners include things like puzzles, games, music, videos, fun downloads, human interest news, jokes, viewer-submitted stories, and many other “sticky” items. The phrase “edutainment” describes these niche goodies!
9. Unique and one-of-a-kind commentary.
Forum visitors love to hear the opinions and even rants and raves of charismatic niche experts. And they like to “take sides” when the topic is controversial or debatable. Client emotion for niche topics can be a great way to both entertain and education your subscribers.
10. Freebies and freemiums.
Internet users love free niche products, services, goodies, information, you name it … if you can provide a constant source of unique and usable (as in niche-related and valuable) freebies, your customers will come back time and again to experience your free giveaways. In addition, these freebies can be used as incentives to join your mailing list, try a new offer, or upgrade to a more comprehensive solution.
11. Whatever you offer, keep it fresh!
Whether it’s news, commentary, content, entertainment, whatever – it has to be current and fresh! If your web site visitors find the same thing at your site they found the last time they visited, soon they will stop coming to see what’s new.
12. Find a way to provide something unique that no one else in the niche offers.
I can’t tell you what that might be because it could be something different in each niche. But if you can deliver something unique and one-of-a-kind that is perceived as of being of great value, it could be a drawing point that no other competitor can match; hence, a reason for your members to return to your site again and again.
The bottom line is that forums need active and returning members in order to be successful. If you provide the right environment and have chosen a niche where the prospects are passionate, you stand a good chance of creating a profitable and successful business if you can create a “hangout” and place of authority where members can come back “home” often.
To your online business success!