How To Start A Successful Online Forum From Scratch

How To Start A Successful Online Forum From Scratch

This internet business guide contains tips on how to start a successful online forum from scratch and make it popular and profitable in less than a 6 months.
An online forum is a community where people who share similar interest or passion come together to discuss related issues or common industry news. It's not hard to find many internet forums online covering different interest areas like money & finance, business, politics, religion, health, fitness, education etc and these forums receive millions of visits each month with huge membership database.
Some of the advantages of internet forums are that:
  • you can easily find people of like minds, ask questions and find answers faster.
  • you can network and meet people that will share ideas for growth.
  • you can find a wealth of information and tap from an existing idea to solve a major challenge.
  • you can be connected to millions of people without geographical restrictions.
  • for small businesses, they can offer product supports to their customers and help build confidence in other prospective customers to come on board.
For someone or SMEs looking to start a successful online forum for discussion or support purposes, here are effective strategies I implemented to grow my education forum from scratch to becoming a busy and popular community for members in Nigeria, UK, US and Canada.
My niche internet forum, is an accounting community for students looking for a guide on how to register for ICAN (a professional exam for accounting graduates in Nigeria), find past questions and study packs and share accounting job opportunities.

How to Start a Successful Online Forum From Scratch - Strategies and Advice.

Find a profitable forum niche idea or Build a community around your products offering:

The truth you must accept to be on a right path of starting a successful online forum from scratch is that general forum are difficult to manage or run. It was in those days, when there were few forums online, that you could easily start an all-interest discussion forum where people can talk about everything, attract people and become profitable with AdSense, things have changed, Nairaland, for instance, is the most popular internet community in Nigeria covering various interest categories like business and investment, technology, phones, religion, politics, family, food and so on. Trying to build a forum that will compete with such giant is just a waste of money, time and energy. I learnt this secret from day one of my internet forum startup. The idea is to go niche by picking an interest you are passionate and are an expert on.

Sometimes, I visit some forums and see few posts with little or no views; the forum administrators are thinking they only need to build the platform while new members will start posting questions immediately, that's wrong! You have to be the admin and member for people to join your forum.

Find a forum niche where there are so many people looking for an answer to their questions or problems, spot top 10 most pressing challenges in that community, then, use your knowledge or skill to proffer solutions to them. Some forum ideas you check: make money, health and fitness, education or exams, relationship or marriage, technology or smartphones, etc.

Market your niche internet forum to attract new members

The difficult part of running a successful internet forum is not the idea stage but how to attract members that will start a discussion, become active and make your forum come alive. When I started my forum, I attracted 200 members in the first day of launch without marketing or social media advert, I created 20 virtual members with different email address and started a discussion around the top 10 questions my potential members are looking for answers to. For instance, I used 5 accounts to ask questions and the other 15 to post answers and reply so that it will look like the forum is already active from day one. The truth is that nobody wants to start a discussion in a virgin forum, except they are convinced people are already there, so you have to make your forum look really busy as if you started it years back.

It's after you have done this, that you can join other related forums with huge members that are also interested in your niche, share those top questions, post articles and comments with a link that points to your forum website. This is what we call link building, while you are also telling people to find more resources on your forum, you are also building an authority to your website for quick ranking.

This is the ultimate strategy to building your forum membership because as you participate in related forums that also talk about issues in your industry, people will likely find your forum through the links shared and join your own forum. Most of the members on my forum came from other forums I share relevant information about my niche. Also, when search engine noticed how people find your online community on the similar group, your ranking begins to grow and the website shows up on related searches online.

Monetize your forum

You also need to find the business model for your internet community; a strategy that spells out how you create value for your forum members and capture value as cash flow from the same members ( depending on the niche your forum is and what people are looking for) to make your business sustainable. Of what benefit is your internet forum if you only incur cost on maintenance and do not get a return that's more than your running cost. From day one of your forum administration, you need to pick at least two diversified revenue channels, which could be a private advertisement, Adsense, affiliate marketing or consulting services. At this stage, you need to ensure that members do not feel exploited by striking a balance between value delivered and value captured. You can't run a forum where people that are looking for fitness tips start seeing make money advert or gadget adverts, it is unprofessional. The only advert that will add value to them is fitness products adverts or related links to fitness stores, that's the exact balance I am referring to.

Secure your internet forum and avoid unnecessary spam mail.

Inasmuch as members are willing to learn and share ideas on your community discussion forum, you also need to protect their private data by hosting it on a secure server, having anti-virus installed on your system to avoid third-party access to your personal administration login. Avoid sending promotional emails frequently because you want to make money, do it on a rare occasion and send more of forum tips and news to your registered members.

Moderate, Moderate, and Moderate

As your forum becomes popular and grows in membership participation, it is likely that you need to pay more attention to your forum standard by weeding out unscrupulous members who may want to turn your community into a free advertisement marketplace. It is not even uncommon to see spam registrations from robots programmed to auto post pornography on your forum, you can install anti-spam modules if you are using simple machine forum to fight and block such activities.

What other tips do you need to learn how to start a successful online forum from scratch? you can share ideas by using the comment box below: