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Zaratustra

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I'm building an online community and guiding space for a small niche that my business operates in (Adventure travel). Have created a website with forum & groups, but the challenge is building it in a right way, attracting quality people and posts.
@MJ DeMarco mentioned in his book, that initially it was just some "lonely" posts before forum got some traction. What would you have changed now in terms of gaining traction more effectively?
Also, if you are a moderator on this forum - what are some of behind-the-scenes challenges that need to be addressed? What kind of users should be avoided?
 
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Gtp

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I'm building an online community and guiding space for a small niche that my business operates in (Adventure travel). Have created a website with forum & groups, but the challenge is building it in a right way, attracting quality people and posts.
@MJ DeMarco mentioned in his book, that initially it was just some "lonely" posts before forum got some traction. What would you have changed now in terms of gaining traction more effectively?
Also, if you are a moderator on this forum - what are some of behind-the-scenes challenges that need to be addressed? What kind of users should be avoided?
Yes, the FLF is a marvel. I imagine the rules one sets out and apply from the get-go is crucial.
 

missinfinity98

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I'm building an online community and guiding space for a small niche that my business operates in (Adventure travel). Have created a website with forum & groups, but the challenge is building it in a right way, attracting quality people and posts.
@MJ DeMarco mentioned in his book, that initially it was just some "lonely" posts before forum got some traction. What would you have changed now in terms of gaining traction more effectively?
Also, if you are a moderator on this forum - what are some of behind-the-scenes challenges that need to be addressed? What kind of users should be avoided?
I send you a private message about the business you do
 

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if you are a moderator on this forum - what are some of behind-the-scenes challenges that need to be addressed?
(These are my opinions, not necessarily MJ’s.)

Behind-the-scenes challenges for moderators that need addressed:

1) Spam, and disguised spam.

2) People doing deals with each other then blaming the place where they met if things go south. Make sure people know to do their own due diligence.

3) Bullying, especially where a mob develops.

4) Unscrupulous people faking it to reel in people and their wallets.

5) Staying an impartial and supportive member who doesn’t add petrol to the flames but moderates instead.

6) Representing the values of the founder in actions and words.

7) Encouraging people to contribute.

8) Trying to not be dogmatic, and helping people find their own way instead.

I’m sure there’s more.

What kind of users should be avoided?
Oh boy. How to summarise this.

1) Spammers ruin a community super fast.

2) People talking AT everyone instead of participating in the community don’t do well, but communities often ignore or self-regulate.

3) People who knock others down to make themselves look or feel better.

4) People using a community for lead gen.

5) People who don’t follow community rules.

6) People who can’t help but have flame wars or who make debates personal.

I think common sense prevails here.
 
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Zaratustra

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(These are my opinions, not necessarily MJ’s.)

Behind-the-scenes challenges for moderators that need addressed:

1) Spam, and disguised spam.

2) People doing deals with each other then blaming the place where they met if things go south. Make sure people know to do their own due diligence.

3) Bullying, especially where a mob develops.

4) Unscrupulous people faking it to reel in people and their wallets.

5) Staying an impartial and supportive member who doesn’t add petrol to the flames but moderates instead.

6) Representing the values of the founder in actions and words.

7) Encouraging people to contribute.

8) Trying to not be dogmatic, and helping people find their own way instead.

I’m sure there’s more.


Oh boy. How to summarise this.

1) Spammers ruin a community super fast.

2) People talking AT everyone instead of participating in the community don’t do well, but communities often ignore or self-regulate.

3) People who knock others down to make themselves look or feel better.

4) People using a community for lead gen.

5) People who don’t follow community rules.

6) People who can’t help but have flame wars or who make debates personal.

I think common sense prevails here.
Thanks for your write-up Andy!
 

SEBASTlAN

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I had a forum back in 2008 which took off on its own. If I was you I'd acquire a travel blog or website and just add the community tab onto it - the types of users are out of your control and you'll learn how to deal with them relatively quickly.
 

Andy Black

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Lex DeVille

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My experience building communities is that they start out slow and the creator has to facilitate discussion for engagement. Later, if the community grows large enough, then it becomes more self-sustaining with group members helping one another. You can easily increase the size of a group if you funnel people into it from email, youtube, courses (like Udemy courses).

If you build a community on Facebook then it will probably be more engaged than if you build it through another platform like discord, but then you'll be subject to the whims of FB. I left FB and the only community I keep now is through discord (unless you count my YT subscribers). The challenge with discord is that people don't show up there regularly. This can be a good thing since it naturally filters out most of the noise and you're left with only the most committed members.

If you really want to filter a community, put its access behind a paywall. $9/mo...hell, even $1 per month will filter out most low-value losers.

In terms of moderation, there were a few things I've learned from failures in communities.

1. Avoid over-moderating.
Just because something doesn't get posted in the right place doesn't make it a criminal sin. It's better to let things go sometimes than to make people feel like they'll be instantly banned for minor infractions.

2. Establish group norms.
This is only my opinion, but it is supported by peer-reviewed journals. If you want to establish strong group norms then you need to enforce punishment when someone breaks key rules. For instance, if a member of my server posts a book that they downloaded as a torrent, they will be instantly banned because our group does not facilitate theft. As time goes on, you can relax on these rules, but in the early days, rules like this must be enforced so people learn the group's norms and will help enforce them for you later on.

3. Be careful appointing moderators.
Many people like to be moderators because it gives them a sense of power within a hierarchal structure, but not everyone is cut out for that job. Until your group reaches members in the thousands, you don't need moderators. Appoint moderators who prove that they can handle the role long before they're considered for it.
 

Zaratustra

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I had a forum back in 2008 which took off on its own. If I was you I'd acquire a travel blog or website and just add the community tab onto it - the types of users are out of your control and you'll learn how to deal with them relatively quickly.
In terms of Pareto Principle (80/20), what do you think would be the best move for travel forum to increase their search ranking?
Currently I'm using answerthepublic.com to list all the potential questions & answers that could benefit my SEO.

If you build a community on Facebook then it will probably be more engaged than if you build it through another platform like discord, but then you'll be subject to the whims of FB.
Do you have any experience with attracting people to your platform from Reddit?
 

Lex DeVille

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Do you have any experience with attracting people to your platform from Reddit?
No. You couldn't pay me to funnel traffic from reddit.

@Fox did it once. I learned all of the lessons I needed from his experience.
 
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Black_Dragon43

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I have a total of around 300 members in the communities I run. About 200 or so on Discord and 100 or so on Facebook.

If you’re interested to build a community ask yourself what the purpose is and what value they will get from joining the community.

A large part of that value will be support towards their larger mission and a sense of belonging. You usually get the first few members by becoming friends with them… a community isn’t just business but a group of people who like to hang around each other.

So search for other communities who already have your target audience. Then find ways to add value to those communities - don’t just take members away from those communities as most try to do. That will lead to you getting banned. Instead, try to see how your community can add value to the other community. Maybe it can increase user engagement in the other community, provide additional support, bring new members, whatever it is. Make it a win-win deal for both you and the other community and keep your word.

Then maybe you become like the whale and the fish that never get eaten because they clean the whale’s teeth. Basically, at its essence: don’t just look out for number one, think win-win, add value, be a good person.

As for how you get your community going - it’s just continuing your relationship with the people and providing them value they’re not getting elsewhere. That may include posting valuable content, offering support and guidance, hearing them out, whatever it is.

With regards to moderation, none of the communities I’ve run ever needed any with one exception when we were invaded by some bots, and that’s only because i posted links to the community on some community boards where many communities are listed.

Also, I will add that I’ve never had a problem with engagement in any of my communities. Most of your members will be lurkers - that’s ALWAYS true. They will read/watch but not interact. That’s not a bug, just the way large groups of people behave online. Some will be active, and others will interact almost daily.
 
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WJK

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I'm building an online community and guiding space for a small niche that my business operates in (Adventure travel). Have created a website with forum & groups, but the challenge is building it in a right way, attracting quality people and posts.
@MJ DeMarco mentioned in his book, that initially it was just some "lonely" posts before forum got some traction. What would you have changed now in terms of gaining traction more effectively?
Also, if you are a moderator on this forum - what are some of behind-the-scenes challenges that need to be addressed? What kind of users should be avoided?
I come on this forum because I enjoy the back-and-forth conversations. It keeps me up on what others are doing. I've tried other ones, but this is where I landed. I'm comfortable and safe here. I'm starting a new business this spring, so I can always learn more. And I can help a lot of young people who want to build businesses by adding some wisdom that I've gained over the years. I did have one guy who made some personal attacks here a while back. Several of the other members came to my defense. I appreciated them standing up for me.
 

Zaratustra

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So search for other communities who already have your target audience. Then find ways to add value to those communities - don’t just take members away from those communities as most try to do. That will lead to you getting banned. Instead, try to see how your community can add value to the other community. Maybe it can increase user engagement in the other community, provide additional support, bring new members, whatever it is. Make it a win-win deal for both you and the other community and keep your word.
Great points, thank You!
How did you get your first 3 members?
 
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MTF

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I come on this forum because I enjoy the back-and-forth conversations. It keeps me up on what others are doing. I've tried other ones, but this is where I landed. I'm comfortable and safe here. I'm starting a new business this spring, so I can always learn more. And I can help a lot of young people who want to build businesses by adding some wisdom that I've gained over the years. I did have one guy who made some personal attacks here a while back. Several of the other members came to my defense. I appreciated them standing up for me.

You're one of this forum's greatest treasures with a wealth of life experience. I'm very happy you find value here for yourself as well.
 

Black_Dragon43

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Great points, thank You!
How did you get your first 3 members?
That's easy. Invited my friends from The Fastlane. Put the link in my signature here.

Then the rest of the members were the result of using my email list based on giving away a lead magnet with a cool, exciting offer. Offers here, on Warrior Forum, Reddit and so on. At first people didn't like me, but over time most realized that I'm here to help and provide value, not just sell some stuff. Some who got the lead magnet, got on the email list, and I advertised the community there. Many of the people from Warrior and Reddit have actually joined the Fastlane after joining my community because I always post threads I find interesting here there.

And The Fastlane is actually the community I'm most active in, because based on my experience: (1) MJ's books have been life-changing to me, especially TMF , and I owe a great deal to him, (2) the community here has some of the smartest business people I've been involved with, so I'm always learning new stuff, and (3) you have massive opportunities for support and accountability, track your progress, exchange ideas, get other opinions etc.
 

MJ DeMarco

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I think one key to spearheading a community is being active in another community, one in which people know you, and can follow you. That can be a subReddit, a Discord, or another forum. Notice @Black_Dragon43 is leveraging the value he created here to spearhead his group. In my case, I came from another forum where others enjoyed my posts and saw that I delivered value. When word got out I started my own forum, a lot of people followed. And that forum was NOT moderated very well and full of MLM and AM'ers (which is why I left, value skew)-- as such, I was able to put a signature to my new forum, from that unmoderated forum.

The rest is history.
 
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thechosen1

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I think one key to spearheading a community is being active in another community, one in which people know you, and can follow you. That can be a subReddit, a Discord, or another forum. Notice @Black_Dragon43 is leveraging the value he created here to spearhead his group. In my case, I came from another forum where others enjoyed my posts and saw that I delivered value. When word got out I started my own forum, a lot of people followed. And that forum was NOT moderated very well and full of MLM and AM'ers (which is why I left, value skew)-- as such, I was able to put a signature to my new forum, from that unmoderated forum.

The rest is history.
MJ,

I know that you don't invest in residential rental homes today (or I believe you said that), and I'm curious why you were on that forum before. I liked those books too. Just wondering if you were once a real estate nut, just loved the overall message, or what. :)
 

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Just wondering if you were once a real estate nut, just loved the overall message, or what.

No, I never was enthusiastic about the general RE message, but I totally agreed with the philosophy that working in a job wasn't a true path to wealth and freedom. Lot's of the messages there were not RE related, but entrepreneurship in general. It just happened that the bulk of the contributors had the idea that "entrepreneurship" was stock trading, MLM's, or affiliate marketing, really low-entry, low-control, low-probability ventures. That's why I bailed.
 

thechosen1

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No, I never was enthusiastic about the general RE message, but I totally agreed with the philosophy that working in a job wasn't a true path to wealth and freedom. Lot's of the messages there were not RE related, but entrepreneurship in general. It just happened that the bulk of the contributors had the idea that "entrepreneurship" was stock trading, MLM's, or affiliate marketing, really low-entry, low-control, low-probability ventures. That's why I bailed.
makes perfect sense. This attitude is still really popular, but your forum has been an oasis against that ;)
 
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Black_Dragon43

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No, I never was enthusiastic about the general RE message, but I totally agreed with the philosophy that working in a job wasn't a true path to wealth and freedom. Lot's of the messages there were not RE related, but entrepreneurship in general. It just happened that the bulk of the contributors had the idea that "entrepreneurship" was stock trading, MLM's, or affiliate marketing, really low-entry, low-control, low-probability ventures. That's why I bailed.
I feel that this is how WarriorForum has become today. I have very few posts there precisely for this reason. There are some high quality members there, but they’re drowned out by the spammers and low-levels money-makers more often than not.

Ever since Freelancer.com bought that forum, I feel that the quality has gone way down. The forum just doesn’t receive as much attention as it needs to be protected from crap. And their WSO section (similar to Marketplace here in purpose) is INFESTED with lots of crappy offers…
 

SEBASTlAN

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I feel that this is how WarriorForum has become today. I have very few posts there precisely for this reason. There are some high quality members there, but they’re drowned out by the spammers and low-levels money-makers more often than not.

Ever since Freelancer.com bought that forum, I feel that the quality has gone way down. The forum just doesn’t receive as much attention as it needs to be protected from crap. And their WSO section (similar to Marketplace here in purpose) is INFESTED with lots of crappy offers…
Same with DigitalPoint, WickedFire and BlackHatWorld. They were all great around 2006 but stagnated for one reason or another.


In terms of Pareto Principle (80/20), what do you think would be the best move for travel forum to increase their search ranking?
Currently I'm using answerthepublic.com to list all the potential questions & answers that could benefit my SEO.

If the community is high quality, SEO will take care of itself with both backlinks and users generating enough content to start ranking for many longer tail keywords.
 

MJ DeMarco

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This attitude is still really popular,

Yup, even here, except today it's WSB's meme stocks and crypto... although I think crypto has potential on the entrepreneurial/business/"sell shovels" side, not so much on shitcoin investments that involve "buy, wait, and become billionaire."
 
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Having the community attached to something that's a going concern seems to help a lot. This one is attached to MJ's books, which have a lot of readers. Yours can be attached to your travel venture, with past, present, and future customers. I have one that's a bit different, but ties together many cohorts of students. Lean as much as you can on the "other thing" you're doing, or incorporate it directly somehow. Trying to get a conversation going starting from when you're the only person in the forum is really hard.
 

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Ahhh, finally a topic I can chime in on with some real experience. I've owned and operated online forums for over 20 years now, and still operate a handful today, mostly in the automotive enthusiast market. I can tell you that the success MJ has had here is on FLF is pretty tough to replicate in the forum space these days, especially with the dominance of FB groups. FB has killed off a lot of forums all on its own, but not all of them.

MJ has a lot of things working well here - entrepreneurship is a great topic. Plenty of people will always be interested in this subject. He is an admin/owner that brings a ton of value and he's active regularly... for some members he's more of a draw than the topic itself (control). He uses what I feel is the best forum software available and has invested a good amount in customizing it to fit the niche. He's attracted plenty of quality people who also share a ton of value. Many of the quality members who hang out here don't care to waste their time on FecesBook and other social media platforms, so the quality content you're finding here isn't always easily found in FB groups, unlike in other niches.

The forum landscape is vastly different than it was when I started out. Most of the large privately owned forums were bought out by a couple large networks that now own roughly 90-95% of all the active forums out there. The rest are owned by private owners, many of which have watched their forums slow down considerably, in some cases due to very outdated forum software technology they're using on their sites. Even the modern forum software (like what is used here on FLF) is thought to be clunky and outdated by many who use the modern social media apps today, as countless people will tell you forums are relics from the past - to some, forums are dead. But that's a topic for a different thread. The forum networks that own all the forums haven't done a great job with member retention on the sites they bought up, so that leaves an opportunity open. And not everyone loves FB, IG, and other social apps. It's different in each niche.

If you're going to have any success, you're going to need a strong content plan to fill the forum with engaging content that attracts member registration and participation, and execute in a niche where there's a good opportunity. Content that isn't found and being discussed on the simple to use social media apps, and other, busier forums. You will need to invite and attract others to participate and keep them participating. That usually means that you will need to be very active until you can find a way to get the snowball effect. It really helps a lot if you are the subject matter expert, a great communicator, and can post content that inspires others to follow suit. If not, you'll need to get someone who can do that for you effectively.

As others have said above, you'll need to find a place to lure people from to participate in your community. Hopefully you don't have too many competing forums, and if you do, hopefully they aren't full of happy members who wouldn't be easily lured away. But lure them you must. You will need to add an aspect to your community that isn't found elsewhere. Regurgitated content won't do you any good these days. Whether it's special expertise, exclusive content from a special source, a highly engaging special feature, an engaging personality, an SAAS piece, something - you'll need something that is intriguing enough to get people to spend some time on your site instead of the other places where they can just as easily discuss your topic. I'll tell you right now, this isn't very easy to do these days.

15-20 years back, anyone with a bit of technical web experience could buy a forum software license (even get a free one), set up hosting, launch their forum, post some content, "spam" other forums (or newsgroups), and draw some core users to help build their vision. It's not nearly that easy to get a critical mass these days - the level in which the community starts growing without the owner having to continually seed the forum with content and do outreach to get more members. Hats off to MJ for what he's been able to build here. I know firsthand how difficult it is.

I continue to focus efforts on forums - revitalizing older, less active forums, testing new forums, and maintaining the forums I have that are active. I'm nowhere near a situation where I can rely on the revenue my forums bring in to do it full time, but I know several forum owners who ARE doing it full time. It IS possible, even in a difficult niche like automobiles. As with anything else discussed here, you just have to find the right opportunity and execute at a high level. I've had decent success with forums, but not as much as I thought I would by this point. Not as much as I've watched others have.

I've reached out to MJ to try and pick his brain a little about forums in the past privately, but I doubt he has time to chat with me about it. He's busy. I'd love to discuss this with a few people privately here if that were possible. I'd love to get some ideas on how I could have more success with what I'm doing, so that I can make that jump to doing this full time.

Best of luck to you Zaratustra. Keep us posted on how it's going for you.
 
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