Posted: 3:07 pm by tom in Blog
Blogs and forums often seem to be regarded as entirely different things, but they don’t have to be! By adding a forum to your existing blog you can add value and interact with your readers like never before. Firstly I should make it clear that a forum doesn’t have to be a difficult thing to do, in fact it’s never been easier. With the advancement of plugins adding a forum to your blog is as easy as installing it - no programming skills required. Check out WP-Forum, an ingenius forum plugin for Wordpress bloggers as seen in action at the sentences.org forums.
So just what are benefits of running your own blog forum?The invention of blog comments saw a new era of social networking and blogger interaction. However, forums take this one step further. Comments can only really respond to whatever it is that you’re posting about, leaving no room for getting to know people and receiving valuable feedback. You don’t want to have to bring the professionalism and quality of your blog down by posting ‘What does everything think of my website?’ every time you want opinions from your readers. By adding a forum to your blog you can interact in a more personal, informal way with your readers and casually get valuable feedback and suggestions from them.
Another great impact of running your own forum is that often your visitors will become your inspiration to write. By engaging in relevant discussions with them daily you will feel more inspired to write fresh content, and will be thinking more about ideas related to your niche.
Your blog forum makes it even easier to trade links and posts with other blogs. Don’t rely on a contact form to help promote your website, you have to make the effort and get to know your potential link-traders. What better place to do so than your own website?
Your forum creates a whole new pull-factor for your website, as you will gain readership to both your blog and forum. If people notice that interesting discussions are happening in your forum they will be more inclined to link to you. This may also take the pressure of you to post as frequently in your blog, as your site will still appear very much live, with forum posting happening daily.
How do you make your forum a success?
First of you must let people know about it. Adding a ‘forum’ link to your menu isn’t nearly enough. You should write a large post in your main blog advertising the new forum and spend time advertising this post through social networking websites. Perhaps consider getting a paid review done with a high profile blogger.
Consider opening with a forum contest to encourage member interest. Perhaps give something away as a prize. However, be careful with this, you don’t want to reward number of posts as this may encourage spamming. Instead give away small prizes to the best posters, or best individual posts - you want to encourage quality not quantity posting.
Using the example of my music fansite blog InterpolOnline I gained over 100 forum members in the first 30 days, despite the site being a VERY specific niche. How did I do it? Very simple: post, post, post! As the analogy goes, ‘nobody wants to play in an empty playground’. You can’t expect people to post in your forums if you aren’t interested in doing so yourself. YOU need to spark the interest. When I launched my forum I spent several hours a day for the first couple of weeks starting interesting new topics, and replying to every single post from my new members. Far too many new forums die out or grow at a much slower rate than they should be by not replying to their members. Even the most active members won’t stick around long if they’re talking to themselves. This initial stage needn’t be painful… You may only have 3-4 members to start off with, but if you’re all posting regularly and discussing what you love it will be fun - and other people will want to join in. Everybody starts off somewhere, but it’s up to you to you drive your forum. You should have, or at least portray 100 times more interest in your forum than your members, otherwise why would they care about being there?
If this post seems strange considering that Push Standards does not yet have a forum, rest assured that I will be adding one in due course. You must remember that this website has only been live for 2 days though, and my main concern is posting quality content. I would suggest launching your forum when you have a decent readership for your blog, as you know then that you will be providing a useful resource for your loyal readers.