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amnesia623
28 Mar 2007, 07:30
Just curious on what you do to market your forums!?

I just put my forums up 2-3 weeks ago and while I know it's a huge road to get to being a 'big board' (if it ever will), how did you get yours that way and how long did it take?

thx

Ted S
28 Mar 2007, 07:39
None of the big boards I've ever worked for made it there overnight, or quickly for that matter. For most of them, they were in the right place at the right time and with the right set of features and approach to the whole community thing. 7 years ago, starting a forum was much easier than it is today but that doesn't mean it can't be done and done well.

The best method of promotion is doing whatever is necessary to build a core that promotes for you. Nothing beats word of mouth in marketing, no matter how much money you have. Right behind word of mouth is PR. PR can be free, or cost virtually nothing, yet yield huge results -- if you can leverage it. Beyond that throw every paid and free solution that's legal, ethical and that you can afford at your site to test them and keep the winners. For some sites free directory links does a lot, for others swapping articles, while some swear by AdWords and others can't get a member from it. The more you can target your marketing, the better it will convert but the more it will cost or more exclusive it tends to be. For these reasons you need to establish success metrics -- registration, views per visitor, ad revenue per visitor, posts per user, photo uploads, time on site, etc... Set your KPIs and start different campaigns. Anything paid should be measured to a t, anything free, measure as best you can and compare the results. No campaign works in a vacuum so plan to do more than one thing at once and don't stop.

Getting a critical mass immediately is vital to making your community succeed. You can be involved 24x7 for a short while but soon you'll get burned out as will your initial members, unless there's enough people to keep the site growing and building on its own. Once you have this established look for unique marketing angles to leverage be it custom content, local event marketing, print magazines, tv or radio, swaps with a local business, insertions into a video game, viral marketing with video, podcasts, whatever relates to your audience. Build things bit by bit and keep your KPIs in mind. As you grow more and more the grow rate should accelerate until you're a "big board".

Sounds easy, doesn't it? ;)

amnesia623
28 Mar 2007, 20:38
Ted - thanks for a great post!

I love marketing tho! Sometimes I spend too much time marketing and not enough time 'fixing' my board. One question tho - what is KPI?

Ted S
28 Mar 2007, 21:21
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators and are a subset of metrics that you should be monitoring constantly to gauge your growth, challenges and overall site success.

Keep in mind that marketing ties into the whole user experience. I can drive millions of people to your website, that's what I do -- but if they get there and the site doesn't meet their needs, doesn't have a clear path, action or way to take the next step -- people will leave and all the marketing in the world won't stop that. When you think about a campaign, think about the objective you want the user to make it through, how you are going to measure if they make it through and how you are going to tell what is going wrong when they don't.

SmashinYoungMan
30 Mar 2007, 11:56
Ted - thanks for a great post!

I love marketing tho! Sometimes I spend too much time marketing and not enough time 'fixing' my board. One question tho - what is KPI?
I have the opposite problem. I love to work on the design and technical aspects of my forums, but I loathe marketing. My forums in my sig, despite winning BOTM both here and at vbulletin.com, are completely dead. I keep promising myself that one day I'll get around to properly promoting them, but I never do.

blogtorank
03 Apr 2007, 02:26
Ted great post sir!!!


None of the big boards I've ever worked for made it there overnight, or quickly for that matter. For most of them, they were in the right place at the right time and with the right set of features and approach to the whole community thing. 7 years ago, starting a forum was much easier than it is today but that doesn't mean it can't be done and done well.

The best method of promotion is doing whatever is necessary to build a core that promotes for you. Nothing beats word of mouth in marketing, no matter how much money you have. Right behind word of mouth is PR. PR can be free, or cost virtually nothing, yet yield huge results -- if you can leverage it. Beyond that throw every paid and free solution that's legal, ethical and that you can afford at your site to test them and keep the winners. For some sites free directory links does a lot, for others swapping articles, while some swear by AdWords and others can't get a member from it. The more you can target your marketing, the better it will convert but the more it will cost or more exclusive it tends to be. For these reasons you need to establish success metrics -- registration, views per visitor, ad revenue per visitor, posts per user, photo uploads, time on site, etc... Set your KPIs and start different campaigns. Anything paid should be measured to a t, anything free, measure as best you can and compare the results. No campaign works in a vacuum so plan to do more than one thing at once and don't stop.

Getting a critical mass immediately is vital to making your community succeed. You can be involved 24x7 for a short while but soon you'll get burned out as will your initial members, unless there's enough people to keep the site growing and building on its own. Once you have this established look for unique marketing angles to leverage be it custom content, local event marketing, print magazines, tv or radio, swaps with a local business, insertions into a video game, viral marketing with video, podcasts, whatever relates to your audience. Build things bit by bit and keep your KPIs in mind. As you grow more and more the grow rate should accelerate until you're a "big board".

Sounds easy, doesn't it? ;)

amgboy
07 Apr 2007, 01:10
On a brand new board, you should not be concerned with marketing it. Ask yourself, what is there to market? Let word of the forum spread by word of mouth, and focus on getting better content by rewarding your members that post good threads. Have the moderating team clean up the content by editting thread titles so they are clear and of course do some basic SEO work to get your forum indexed.

Focusing on huge growth is likely to result in failure if done too early. Of course there are exceptions as I have seen some boards grow rapidly from day one because of the niche they cater to.

gnolasco
12 Apr 2007, 14:48
This is comforting! I opened up my site 2 weeks ago. I'm getting people in, just having problems getting them to participate and be active :)

None of the big boards I've ever worked for made it there overnight, or quickly for that matter.

Nordinho
12 Apr 2007, 15:38
I have the opposite problem. I love to work on the design and technical aspects of my forums, but I loathe marketing. My forums in my sig, despite winning BOTM both here and at vbulletin.com, are completely dead. I keep promising myself that one day I'll get around to properly promoting them, but I never do.

Great work on those designs though. They're extremely well made. Keep in mind that content brings visitors. Visitors won't become active if there isn't a lot to do on your site. Create some articles in the forums yourselves. In your case a unique insight article or promotion might spread a word of mouth that brings visitors. Once people arrive at the site and see there are more interesting articles (topics) they will start participating, and a community is born...

legionofangels
15 Apr 2007, 23:04
Getting a critical mass immediately is vital to making your community succeed. You can be involved 24x7 for a short while but soon you'll get burned out as will your initial members, unless there's enough people to keep the site growing and building on its own. Once you have this established look for unique marketing angles to leverage be it custom content, local event marketing, print magazines, tv or radio, swaps with a local business, insertions into a video game, viral marketing with video, podcasts, whatever relates to your audience. Build things bit by bit and keep your KPIs in mind. As you grow more and more the grow rate should accelerate until you're a "big board".


I've actually heard the opposite of your first statement there.

I've heard that growing a forum board can take up to 2 to 3 years perhaps. So I don't understand how it's vital to immediately have mass members there.

Granted I do notice some burn out, or not really that, but just inactivity of some, but at the same time our activity in general overall is consistent.

My question initially is, since tv or radio and such is highly unlikely due to probably high costs of advertising. What is the first best step one could do to market there forum?

SEO?

Google Adwords?

Or do I look for other outlets of advertising?

I'd like to get started on this and kind of refresh upon my existing or initial growth. I'd like to know the next best step basically in getting started.

Ted S
16 Apr 2007, 04:53
Mass members is not necessary immediately but an active base is. New forums have a big problem -- there are only a finite number of people posting at any time thus there are few topics to post about and at the same time, people who come and who may join the site aren't impressed because of the lack of activity. Without a "critical mass" you won't create enough of a base of members to keep the content flowing and the discussions happening. This means visitors don't register as often, members don't return as much and basically your forum goes no where fast. I've seen some communities get off to a great start but fail to lose their critical mass and spiral down to nothing.

In terms of an opening marketing campaign, you should be doing a bit of everything. Some methods have a shorter payout than others but there is no one magic formula. You're going to want good SEO as it's free and can be a huge traffic source. Local/ offline advertising is great as it lets you reach into people's lives when they aren't considering a community. Adwords and banner advertising lets you drive in targeted traffic on demand (based on your budget) without the wait. Link exchanges and "viral promotion" can bring in more members without cost as well. All of these techniques work best when combined... after all, your SEO rankings can drop without warning, your AdWords campaign can run out of money, your link exchanges can be removed and so forth. More importantly, it's well known that to create any brand awareness you need multiple impressions of your name... so you want to hit people online, offline, on google, on other sites, anywhere you can to get them to consider checking you out.

Good luck!

petertdavis
17 Apr 2007, 05:45
Hey Ted, do you have a spreadsheet template that you use to track KPIs that you could share? :)