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  1. #1
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    How did you get your first forum members?
    I've put up what I think is a really nice forum with a strong concept. The trouble is, there's only been one sign up so far. I'm afraid to bring in too much traffic to an empty forum, because I think it will turn people away and the effort wasted.

    I've considered inviting people from a related forum I'm on, but I'm afraid it might be too close to spamming or unethical.

    How have you gotten your first, say, ten active members?

  2. #2
    Prince of Content Vinny O'Hare's Avatar
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    I use prayer! Whatever you do don't waste money on ppc to get site vistors. It is a waste of money. You need to post on a few similiar forums and include your site in your signature. Of course you have to sound like an expert also.

    The forum doesn't have to match your site niche exactly example post on a real estate forum for an insurance forum.

  3. #3
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    Thanks falcon, I pray daily! The forum is about online dating, and it's to help people write the best profiles and get feedback on pictures, wardrobe, etc...

    The forum I frequent is about relationships and personal advice and support. It's close, but much broader.

    I'm looking for more information about what folks actually did to get their forums up and running with active members. Thanks.

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador Rehan's Avatar
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    Consider an alternative approach: first start a blog (which can be great for SEO, links, pings, etc.) and then when you have enough of a following then you can spawn a forum from there. I know of several successful sites that have taken that path.

    A blog link in your signature on another forum will usually also get better treatment from the admins/mods there than a link to your own forum, which might be seen as a competitor.

  5. #5
    Affiliate Manager Alan Hamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hazlcha
    I've put up what I think is a really nice forum with a strong concept. The trouble is, there's only been one sign up so far. I'm afraid to bring in too much traffic to an empty forum, because I think it will turn people away and the effort wasted. I've considered inviting people from a related forum I'm on, but I'm afraid it might be too close to spamming or unethical.How have you gotten your first, say, ten active members?
    All good tips here for the "how to" ideas. In addition though, realize that at first newbies visiting are going to see a low membership. That's OK. Every enterprise starts at the beginning.

    Years ago we started a forum and I contacted everyone I knew and asked them to sign up and use it. At first there were not that many members. I am a patient person by experience, so we accepted that new signups come one at a time, and that at a certain point, it then grows exponentially given the right promotion.

    Eventually that forum had over 20,000 members - so not to worry. Just be patient, keep promoting, grow it in baby steps and it will come.

    At first, you might want to address that it is a new forum right up front. Highlight the uniqueness of your forum and welcome visitors to grow with you from the start. Share with visitors that the forum is an "innovative - new blah blah" and is growing step by step.

    You can include some type of incentive (doesn't have to be money) to get people coming back, referring online peers etc. We sponsored a membership drive contest and gave away some neat stuff to those who referred "x" number of new members. We also did a little PPC to advertise, but we had a good budget to work with, had planned it to take 1 - 2 years to get roots.

    PPC may have been more productive back then, so don't know how it would do today, but that also depends on your long term plan and future monetization plans. At any rate, good luck with it.
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  6. #6
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Hamilton

    Eventually that forum had over 20,000 members - so not to worry. Just be patient, keep promoting, grow it in baby steps and it will come.
    This is good to know. I've been threatening to dump my forum because out of almost 200 members, no one posts but me and another lady. Every once in a while, someone will come along and post but it's more or less dead.

    I started with a healthy newsletter subscriber base that I assumed would jump all over a forum to discuss the stuff they constantly wrote me emails about but they're a boring bunch. I'll stay with it though. Can't handle "giving up." Feels like throwing a party and no one is showing up.

    I'm very spoiled by ABW - thought every forum was as active, lively and fun as this one.
    Peace,

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  7. #7
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    Hey, great ideas and great encouragement! I definitely will stick with it, and brainstorm as to who I can invite personally. I'll keep checking back for more great ideas, thank you all so much. Oh, Rexanne, if you're lonely with the other lady, come join my forum!

  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager Alan Hamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hazlcha
    Oh, Rexanne, if you're lonely with the other lady, come join my forum!
    Now you're thinking Haz!!! Talk it up anytime you can. Tell everyone you come in contact with offline and online. Ask Rex to bring 100 of her closest internet buddies along, and have fun with it. A few years of building is less than the blink of an eye, so stay up - stay enthused and think think think..
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  9. #9
    Member lschofield's Avatar
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    Forums can get very frustrating to start up.

    Think about a live group of people who don't know each other meeting up. No one wants to be the first to speak. I thus think its important to have a few conversations going. That way, people might join in (which they're much more likely to do instead of starting their own topic.) Do what you have to to get this started (friends, your own alter egos, etc...).

    I got most membership when I offered to send a weekly newsletter about new items posted to the forum. Many joined in order to subscribe to this newsletter. Few post though. Another benefit of the newsletter is that it keeps people active. I put links straight to specific threads in the newsletter, with some teaser text. Analyzing those I've sent, everyone who opens it clicks through.

    I've gotten some people who email me and ask me to put something on the forum, as they don't know how. This might be a roadblock for some people. My mother is active on my forum, and she is always phoning me because she "forgot how to start a thread", etc... I assume people on here are a little more tech savvy than the average Joe and very familiar with forums. Keep in mind that some people still consider all of this to be foreign territory. I personally want to make a "how to participate" page and have it readily (although not obnoxiously) available.

    I've considered giving away a t-shirt with the forum logo away to the top poster every month, but haven't gotten around to that either.

    I have a special board where people who are starting their own sites can put up a link, thinking that might be an incentive for people to join. Only one person posted, saying their forum died due to lack of interest (don't feel alone.)

    I've also tried a 'members only' board, that a password would only be given to active members. No one posts there either, so I don't know if that was such a hit. AND, I don't want to keep the best stuff of the main boards if no one is interested... Then no one will see the best that I have to offer!

    My vote is go for a newsletter on your boards topic. Make a thread asking people to post if they'd like to be added to the distribution list.
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  10. #10
    Member stellarseller's Avatar
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    PPC might work for you, and always incluse a link to the forum in email marketing.

  11. #11
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    Well, so far no good. Having discussions with myself. Sometimes I'm astounded by my own intelligence!

    I think people are super reluctant to join a forum with two members, one of whom posts things and runs the place. How to get the visitors (and there are only about 5/day) to sign up?

    Should I become schizophrenic, if you know what I mean?

  12. #12
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    My advice for a forum is to have a compelling topic.

    There's a problem that if you are the provider of most of the information, people might sign just to get in touch with you -- not to interact with other members at all. If this is the case, then blogging with comments enabled would be a better choice.

    I had a forum in the late 90s.
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  13. #13
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    Interactivity via Newsletter
    I'm not sure if you have an email list to work with, but if you do you can send out a newsletter that has links to your forum to encourage interactivity, comments, suggestions on a certain topic in your newsletter.

    For instance, you could pose a question in your newsletter like: Who was best dressed at the Oscars and have a link to your forum where people can give immediate feedback, argue, comment and read the posts of others.

    This way you're not just asking people "Hey, PLEASE stop by my forum". You're actually drawing them in by providing an immediate action item for them to get involved with.

    Hope that helps!

  14. #14
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    Thanks Frankie, it's a fantastic idea. I don't have a newsletter, but perhaps I can post the question as a link on another site. Or as a signature on related forums.

    I'll think how to do that.

  15. #15
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    Good deal! Let me know what you come up with. I've been thinking about the same issue lately.

  16. #16
    Member SLAPPA's Avatar
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    hazlcha,

    I too have plans for a unique forum and have been forming my plan to attract signups.

    Quote Originally Posted by ghoti
    Consider an alternative approach: first start a blog (which can be great for SEO, links, pings, etc.) and then when you have enough of a following then you can spawn a forum from there.
    ghoti's comment is step #1 in my plan. The SEs are showing a lot of love to blogs right now. If your topic is forum worthy, then it is definitely blog worthy. The only problem is that I am not into writing. Therefore, I plan on encouraging people to submit posts for me and rewarding the best one's with a prize and hopefully convincing them to continue posting.

    Step #2 is going to be to advertise the forum on the blog once it is getting traffic. In addition, I will have hopefully collected some email addresses and will send out a newsletter about it too.

    In Step #3, I plan on offering an incentive such as giving the first X amount of users who reach X amount of posts (without spamming) a t-shirt. Nice idea lschofield! People love free t-shirts and I think it might work well.

    At this point, if I am still not getting any posts I will probably cut my losses and move on to the next project. However, I did come across an interesting script the other day that automatically creates users and makes relevant posts to simulate an active forum. I'll post the link here when I find it again.

  17. #17
    Member SLAPPA's Avatar
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    Found it.

    I haven't used this before, so I don't have any feedback or even know if it works at all. If you end up giving it a try, please let us know how it works and if it results in more signups.

    Basically what it is supposed to do is take questions posted on Yahoo Answers and create threads with them. Then it posts the answers to each thread.

    www*icomotion.com/ico-content/

  18. #18
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Talking
    Tell everyone you know and ask them to spread the word! Don't forget about the value of social networking sites these days, like Facebook and MySpace, etc.

    You can send bulletins out to all your contacts on sites like that, or create a group for awareness and ask everyone you know to invite their friends etc.

    This is both free and easy. I wouldn't rely solely on this method but go ahead and include it in your strategy for best results. Web 2.0 sites are all the rage now...

    You may want to do some personal selling and approach the webmasters/owners of various dating sites to see if they'll promote your forum on their sites. It's not guaranteed but it's worth a shot. It's amazing what a little bit of networking can do for business.

  19. #19
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    Ico is Cool
    Hi Volare -

    Thanks for the post about Ico. I just check out their site and that seems like an awesome tool. I've never run a blog or a forum, so maybe there's tons of stuff like that out there but the idea of having so much legitimate content generated for almost no cost seems awesome!

    Does anyone have any opinion about the possible "duplicate content" penalty with the use of tools like this?

    Has anyone here actually bought and used the tool?

  20. #20
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    OK, just checked out ICO. I must admit, it scares the living daylights out of me. An entire forum of non-people with actual posts that are not actually posted. It's like a Star Trek episode to a parallel universe or something.

    I may just do it. Keep you - no pun intended - posted!

  21. #21
    Full Member kayecee's Avatar
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    ICO scares me too.... I know how disappointed I'd be if I "talked" to members of a forum and found out later that it was just Yahoo Answers.....

    I post answers there sometime..... if I didn't know this thing existed, I'd be really freaked out to stumble on my answer in some forum somewhere.... some people who did the same could get really angry and post negative stuff about the site.... I don't know.... what do y'all think..... y'all have been in marketing longer than I have...

  22. #22
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    And I'm also wondering about how it interacts with other posters. If it creates a user and makes a post, and a real person comes along and asks them a question, or, worse, PMs them, what happens then?

    Even so, I may give it a shot to get some content going, and then pull the plug once we've got the momentum up.

    And it DOES seem like a good way to get relevant content into a forum, if a bit, shall we say, suspect.

  23. #23
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    Well I'llbedarned. The thing works, there are posts there. I tweaked it well, they are relevant. I think I recommend the product.Yay.

    At least the forum isn't frozen. Now to the posting questions idea to bring in real people.

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