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Brand new forum - ideas for drawing in new members?

Ludachris

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I thought this might be an interesting place to ask this question. Let's say you were launching a new online community around a fairly new niche - a forum site structured very similar to this site but around a completely different topic. What techniques would you employ on the site besides posting good content that is meant to spark discussion to draw in new members? I know, forums are a dated model, and yet, this forum is a pretty good example of why they can still work well. It's just much more difficult these days in the forum world.

The plan so far has been to post relevant content and invite individuals who own the product(s) in, as well as product companies in the industry to sign up - no issues getting the companies to join and post some content. But it's been a challenge getting non-business owners to sign up and participate, partly because there is another active forum out there already that has a several months head start, one which I don't want to poach from and get banned. I'm sending invitations to individuals here on social media and other channels where it makes sense. And I'm running FB ad campaigns too, but it's been tougher than I thought to get new members.

Our community will use a different philosophy than the competing forum, where we will invite product companies who cater to the niche to participate freely, without paying an advertising fee. This is not the norm in the forum world, and it will be one of a few things that sets the site apart. On the other competing forums, those companies would have to pay to participate and discuss their products. Having them post technical content and product announcements will be a draw. But that type of content will be slow in the beginning, and much of it will also be posted on their social channels, which will then be shared on the other forum by that forum's members. I have a few companies that will be posting exclusive content soon, but in the meantime...

I was thinking of coming up with a "founding member" concept to help give the initial members a sense of ownership. I just can't think of what to offer them beyond a custom user title that would be meaningful. Maybe send them some decals or get some t-shirts made and send them out. I can see about working some deals with companies in the niche to see if I can offer the discount codes or something. What else might be appealing for this?

Another idea is to create a giveaway for any new members who post photos of their products (which are relevant to the site). Any non-business member who registers and posts photos/content in a certain time window would be eligible. It would be a random drawing.

What other incentives could a forum offer you to join and start participating on a new site with only a handful of members that would be appealing to you?

Would love to hear from @MJ DeMarco on this - even if just via PM.
 

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Sizemore

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Jul 21, 2019
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Looking forward to this thread. I hope people jump in.

Sorry, i just have to get this out of my head (
I am avoiding shiny objects, because I believe in my other business, but I keep day dreaming about running a fussy baby forum. I tried a few others and just didn't get what i was looking for (people without the same issues, people just judging parenting styles etc).

IMO, great niche forum because:
1) having a fussy or colic baby is TOUGH!
2) you may not want to be in a facebook group or whatever complaining about your kid (get some anonymity in forums)
3) 4 MM babies born in the US each year, up to 25% are considered colic (crying at least 3 hours per day)
4) parent of a fussy baby is the ultimate consumer
5) ad words competition was low according to keyword planner and facebook ads allow you to target NEW parents
6) maybe most important... could really help some people who are feeling the wrath! haha
)

Okay, back to your post:
But it's been a challenge getting non-business owners to sign up and participate, partly because there is another active forum out there already that has a several months head start, one which I don't want to poach from and get banned.
What is a weakness about this other forum?

Another idea is to create a giveaway for any new members who post photos of their products (which are relevant to the site).
Since you are not charging the companies to advertise, maybe you can talk them into donating to this giveaway with their product?
Is there a cause or something that is relevant to the product that people could get behind? "for every new post with a product picture, company xyz is donating $X.00 to abc cause"

I guess you could write a book that inspires people!... may take some time though.
 
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Ludachris

Ludachris

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Mar 17, 2017
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Norcal
What is a weakness about this other forum?
The main weakness is that they use the same old model forums have always used - they built up their audience and require companies who offer products in that niche to pay an advertising fee to participate. The problem with that model is that many companies have great content to share, and that pay-to-play model drives some of them away from the community. I'm trying a new concept and I've gotten some tremendous feedback so far. It might not work in some niches, but it has the potential to work well in this one.
Since you are not charging the companies to advertise, maybe you can talk them into donating to this giveaway with their product?
Is there a cause or something that is relevant to the product that people could get behind? "for every new post with a product picture, company xyz is donating $X.00 to abc cause"

I guess you could write a book that inspires people!... may take some time though.
Yes, you're right. And I've already started some discussions about giveaways with a few of the companies who have joined. I think this is one of the best opportunities in the early stages.

I like the "donate to a cause" idea. I'm just not sure that it is something that will draw in new members in the beginning. But that will be something I consider as we grow the site.
 

mattsteinman

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May 13, 2019
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I thought this might be an interesting place to ask this question. Let's say you were launching a new online community around a fairly new niche
I read that first sentence and figured why not start a Facebook Group?

IMO forums are very difficult to get started unless you got started 10+ years ago.

Or...

You could start off with a Facebook Group, or Fan Page and then eventually drive them into your Forum site where there are more in-depth conversations.
 
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Ludachris

Ludachris

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Mar 17, 2017
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Norcal
I read that first sentence and figured why not start a Facebook Group?

IMO forums are very difficult to get started unless you got started 10+ years ago.

Or...

You could start off with a Facebook Group, or Fan Page and then eventually drive them into your Forum site where there are more in-depth conversations.
You're right, forums are more difficult to get started these days, but new ones are still being launched from scratch and gaining critical mass around newer topics all the time. I've seen it first hand.

FB Groups are certainly easier to get off the ground and are great to build if you're planning to sell something to that audience at some point, but I don't know that building a community in a group for the sake of building a community makes sense, for several reasons. Groups are not great for data archiving and data retrieval (imagine if this site was instead a FB Group, how difficult it would be to find threads and discussions on a given topic). Groups are also not an asset that you own and have control over and it's VERY difficult to try and get people in a group to move the discussion over to a new forum later - I've never seen anyone do that successfully, though I've watched several try it. And groups can be shut down by Google at any time, for any reason - without warning, and without giving you a reason for it. All that data in the group is lost forever. Again, if you're growing a group to market something to the members down the road, it makes perfect sense, and most groups are started for that reason. But as an asset you're trying to grow over the long term, it makes more sense to do the hard work and grow a forum.
 

Boychamp

Contributor
Jun 13, 2019
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Groups are also not an asset that you own and have control over and it's VERY difficult to try and get people in a group to move the discussion over to a new forum later - I've never seen anyone do that successfully, though I've watched several try it.
So I first wanted to touch on this - you're right you don't own them. However you can require an email address entered to join (make it a private group) which then translates to an asset you DO own (an email list). This can then be used to promote the forum or whatever else. As you said, forums do have a unique ability to catalogue and archive information in a way that's much more difficult than groups but groups are easier to gain members. By building the email list, you could then weekly, send email updates about exciting/hot/interesting topics/posts/threads from the forum to group members on your email list (very similar to this forums weekly hot topic update) that would help drive some of the group traffic to convert to users on the forum. It's not a perfect system but it may help in initial growth.

Another tactic might be writing guest content that then points back to your forum - Join the Conversation over at XYZ.

Other, albeit more intensive ways, could be a podcast/and or YouTube channel centered around the niche to help drive top level awareness that points people back to the forum.

Quick Edit Here: Also, doing interviews on OTHER podcasts/YT channels can be a good way to gain awareness and then point people back to your forum.
 
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