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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

HOW TO START A FORUM: Simple guide to building a successful forum that brings in money


What Is A forum and how do I start one?

After seeing the success of Forum owners in recent years, a lot of bloggers or aspiring bloggers are now jumping into the forum idea; no doubt a forum can make you an extra-successful personality in the blogosphere such as the likes of Osewa of Nairaland and some other geeks but you can fail woefully without being noticed by anyone if you don't get your things straight. From my understanding of how internet biz works which I summarize as "One year on reasearch and strategy formulating, one day launching" I mean to say, it is better to spend much time drafting your strategies than starting a business that fails even before it's started (same goes to offline business anyway).

An online forum is a website that basically brings people with similar interest together online in other to converse and connect with each other. People have to usually register before they can join in the conversation.
Conversations are usually called threads. A topic of discussion or question can be asked by anyone who is a member of the forum. Replies are made.

-How To Choose A Topic For Your forum
There are no specific rules in selecting a topic for your forum but there are general principles that
will help you push your forum to success. You can start a niche on anything you want but there are things that can guide you in picking a winning topic.
 
 1. Avoid Heavily Contested Niches
A lot of Nigerians who start forums that seem to look exactly like nairaland.com forum.com, in terms of the content and topics of discussion. There is nothing really wrong with this, only that it is usually better to look for less competitive topics or niches to start a forum than just copying others. If you start a forum that competes directly with www.nairaland.com forum, I really doubt you will make it. If you have the money to promote and do many other things, may be you can compete and beat nairaland.com forum. But I know many people will rather stick with Nairaland than fraternize on your forum, unless you have something very different to offer them.

2. Pick A Niche Or Topic You Can Easily Get Information On
It is good advice to stick to what you are passionate and interested in because in the first few months of the life of your forum, you will have to be updating and posting lots of information about the topic by yourself. It is only after a critical mass of
information is reached that people will naturally join in the discussion. This is perfectly normal. So pick a forum topic about stuff you can easily get information about, preferably, what you are passionate about(something you love).

Now To The Main Aim Of This Post Which Is How To Set Up Your forum
I will be discussing the technical part of setting up a forum here. Here are what you need in setting up forum.
a. A Domain Name- A domain name is same with website name.A domain name is the identity and location of your forum on the internet. It is what people will type into the browser in order to visit you forum. You need to put in money in buying a good domain name You should remember branding and keywords when picking a domain
b. Hosting- Hosting refers to the space you will need online to house (Host) your forum. when buying a hosting space for a forum try to buy a dedicated hosting or something close to that like up to 50G storage space/bandwidth since a forum grows rapidly, use domainking hosting if you are in Nigeria to pay in Naira making it to be at a low price too or if you can afford, use hostgator.

c. forum Software - After getting your domain name and hosting, the next thing to do is install a
forum software. There are so many free forum software and other paid versions too.
www.nairaland.com forum is powered with free and popular forum software called simple machines. You can see the software here at
www.simplemachines.org. Many forums owned by Nigerians use this software but there are many other free forum software. I've made a post on a collection of forum software you can choose from (both paid and free ones), you can check them out and see which one will suit your need. 
One reason I recommend hostgator and is because you can install your forum by just clicking
your mouse a few times. You don’t need to know anything about coding and web design. This is done by the use of something called scripts. Scripts are ready made programs or softwares that some hosting company provides on their servers so that you can easily add to your hosting space. The simple machine software and other softwares can be installed on the hosting space with a single click of the mouse.

How To Promote And Manage Your forum
How To Manage Your forum Is the next thing to come into your mind after creating your forum. After setting up your forum, the next thing is to set up the different categories and boards you want to have on the forum. For example, if your forum is about “Social talks like Nairaland” you can have categories like
-Entertainment
- Jokes, TV/Movies, Music/Radio, Celebrities, Fashion, Events, Sports, Gaming, forum Games,
Literature/Writing
- Politics, Romance, Business, Investment, Jobs/Vacancies, Career, NYSC, Education, Autos, Car Talk, Properties, Health, Travel, Family, Culture, Religion, Food, Diaries, e.t.c

This same idea can be used when categorizing other topics.

Now Over To How To Promote Your forum and make people know that it exists
Setting up a forum does not guarantee success. It does not even guarantee that people will know
about the forum. In other words, you need to promote your forum in order for it to boom. By promotion I mean, advertising and getting people to know about the forum and visit it. This means you need to drive traffic to your forum. There are hundreds of ways of promoting your
forum online and offline.

Here is a list of ways of promoting your forum Online
1. Add it to the signature of your email messages- [That is after sending mails to your subscribers put a link to your forum at then of the mail]
2. Add to the url of your forum to the signature or related forum you join- [write the names of your forum in any forum you join]
3. Share links to it on Facebook
4. Start a page for it on facebook and ask friends to join-[click here to create a facbook Page]
5. Tweet some posts made on the forum on facebook
6. Post links to it on book marking websites like www.digg.com, www.stumbleUpon.com, www.reddit.com. You can automate this process by visiting www.socialposter.com
7. Submit to forum directories
8. Make comments with your url on blogs of related topics
9. Write guest articles in other blogs in your niche

How To Promote Your forum Offline
1. Advertise on offline newspapers and magazines
2. Advertise on flyers and posters
3. Advertise on TV and radio programs
4. Sponsor related events and get your name out there How To Promote Your forum Using Paid Means Online This is the fastest way to send traffic to your forum or any kind of website.
11. Advertise on facebook
12. Advertise on Google Adwords
13. Advertise on otherforums or blogs like joingurus.blogspot.com
14. Advertise directly on websites owned by others talking about your topic How To Get People Talking In Your forum After setting up your forum, the next thing to do is get people to join in and start talking. It is easier for people to join a forum but a bit difficult for them to start talking. There are many different people who visit a forum. There are active people asking questions and answering questions and there are other group of people who just visit, read the threads and leave.

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