An Internet based forum is basically an online discussion site where people with similar interests or those looking for advice and answers can hold conversations in the form of posted messages which as the conversation develops become threads. These differ from chat rooms in that messages are archived and can be referred back to. Also, depending on the access level of a user or the forum set-up, a posted message might need to be approved by a moderator before your comment or reply becomes visible.
Some forums and topics attract MASSIVE VOLUMES of visitors and can become extremely popular. You will find forums on virtually EVERY SUBJECT you can mention and your forum can be a part of your website, or the only thing upon it. I think the best way of you learning about forums is to actually start experiencing a few for yourself and if they capture your interest join more as you progress.
I only have a little experience in running forums as part of a product in the past. However, forum marketing has been one of my traffic driving strategies for quite some time so I am very experienced in finding my way around forums and with this experience. I have found forums to be an excellent teaching tool where everyone can add their knowledge, although I can see considerable financial potential in running one for profit and I hope you can also.
Now you are going to find this quite easy as forum webmasters are going to want to advertise themselves as much as possible and the very last thing they will want to do is stay a secret. I’m going to give you two ways the first of which is going directly to: http://www.big-boards.com
Now Big Boards is a list of the major forums and its appearance highlights how plain and boring the look and feel of forums can be, but don’t under estimate their power and effectiveness when it comes to generating ongoing profits.
Go to Google and type in the name of your topic followed by the word forum. For example ‘magic forums’ and Google will return you a list of the top forums on that specific subject.
Now a few forums may be private or be for paying memberships only and they are ideally suited to this purpose so if you have expertise in a topic or subject you could of course make access a paid privilege although that is something you may want to consider ONLY AFTER you have built an audience and your experience in running and operating a forum.
Forums share many profit potential possibilities so let’s go through them one at a time.
As your visitor numbers grow you are also likely to attract potential advertisers who will want to test the water and find out if your traffic will be right for them. The best way to start the ball rolling is to sign up as an affiliate to some relevant, related and complementary programs which you can test to your audience. Then put up an ‘Advertise on this site’ link and page while you wait for advertising inquiries to come in.
Of course you can always include Google Ad Sense Ads on your forum and you may find that these are more profitable upon your website than anything else. My advice would be to use both and test to see which is most effective and most profitable.
If it is done correctly you will find little to rival the profitability of your own quality email list or newsletter. Here you can concentrate on giving value and educating your prospects and during this process you are likely to develop a relationships with them which takes them closer to becoming your customer. By the way these lists DO NOT need to be massive as I have a few smaller and more select lists of just 3,000 – 4,000 email addresses which generate profits in excess of £23k per year!
Now before you will FULLY understand this profit potential you need to understand that every time you make a forum post or reply to a post which someone else has made, you have the potential to share a hyper-linked signature. However, before I explain what this is much depends upon the forum as this may be switched off, be a paid privilege, or they may expect you to have made a certain number of replies and provided value before it is activated.
So here is an example of a signature which has proved to be very successful for me. It is inserted automatically after my post or reply and obviously saves me a ton of work retyping it on every post or reply I make.
The most important aspect of my signature is the teaser link at the bottom which highlights a solution to a problem many people are experiencing. Now a high majority of visitors will find this FREE report interesting and some will find it irresistible and immediately click through to my website to discover more and this is one of the ways I build my mailing lists which is my most wanted outcome.
I have used a report as an example but the benefit you offer could be ANYTHING!
I hope you find this advice useful?
Seriously, if you are fed up of being UNDERPAID and UNDER-APPRECIATED you should read this FREE report!
So now you understand exactly what a signature box is and the value they have to those who find forum marketing a valuable exercise, you will understand why some forums only allow you a very limited number of words in favor of you opting in to their paid signature box option which allows you to express your offer more fully or even add images.
As I have already mentioned you could of course make your forum a membership and with the correct strategy in place this may be an excellent financial option.
You may however develop specific products and services as you process and learn more about your market place to complement their needs and wants and this would be an extremely smart action to take.
So you are probably wondering what exactly you have to do to make a forum work and become profitable so let me try and wrap it all up for you in a few paragraphs. Your job would be first to find a topic and put your own unique slant upon it to make it attractive and compelling to visitors experiencing that problem, by the way it could also be a need or desire based forum.
You will need to find out want they want and their needs, problems and challenges and start discussions around them. You will need to offer advice or leave it to the people who do have experience in the market place to do so. You will need to moderate posts or appoint someone who wishes to do so to stop spamming and bad language and arguments starting within your forum.
Once you are up and running your job will be to promote your forum as much as you can to gain maximum visitor levels coming through the front page and maximise upon your profit streams.
A few years ago I was approached by someone who ran 3 smallish forums, I say smallish because none of them were in major topics or in my opinion were managed that well. However, this person became bored with them and decided to put them on the market place as a job lot and I was one of the first people he approached and allowed me to look inside and see the financial books.
Now he did a very MINIMUM of work upon them from his laptop as he traveled around the world. He seemed to always be on holiday somewhere and put no more than an hour or so in work per day without obvious passion or enthusiasm and still his 3 sites were making him a CONSISTENT £15,000 – £20,000 in profits each and every month in combined profits.
Frankly I was amazed and certainly not prepared to pay out the £240,000 he was asking for the business because I knew that I could build my own to a much higher standard if I wished in just a year or so. As he is no longer in the business or likely to see this I would also like to tell you that this person had VERY LITTLE education or obvious skill, and apart from writing badly upon his site relied on others to do ALL of his technical work for him.
Now this all took place as we were going into recession but I think it highlights that ANYONE including you can make this work for them if you possess the tenacity and consistency to work at it on a daily basis. Believe me, if he can do it then ANYONE can!
A moderator is a sort of forum policeman or woman. It is their job to see that the content of the site stays high and relevant and everyone stays polite and is nice to each other. Those new to the forum may be joining simply as a way of gaining back links to their own websites and gain SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) favor. For this reason the first few (usually 10) post are moderated and not published before the moderator has cast their eagle eye over them, after this point and a certain trust level reached they publish automatically.
Moderating is very easy but needs to be done regularly (2 or 3 times a day) as no one likes to be kept waiting. I know someone who moderates a forum directly from their iPhone without problem, and gives them the opportunity to login multiple times a day and do what needs to be done.
Now you may be thinking the software to run a forum is expensive but it is not. In fact, as a ‘Fast track’ member I provide you the software completely free of charge and can be found in the control panel when you start your new website.
To install a forum on your website all you have to do is scroll down inside your control panel until you reach the box entitled ‘CGI Scripts’ and here you will find a number of different forum software packages for your benefit.
Now the only one with which I am familiar is ‘phpBB3’ board and have found it simple to use and understand. Just click upon the one of your choice to be taken to the next step and within a couple of clicks it will be live and ready for use on your website. Now configuring it to work in the way you wish may take longer to understand but with a little focus you will not find it hard to use. Remember that it is the levels of security where you will want to pay the most attention
Now making it look nice and friendly to use is not difficult because you can install what is known as a skin which is basically a template and once installed it will look completely different. To find these skins or templates just type the name of the forum software you are using into Google followed by ‘skins or templates’ and it will return you a large selection.
Now right at the start of this profit model I suggested that you join some forums and watch how they are used. This will give you an idea of how you want to set up and run your own forum so you should not miss this step out as it is so important.