Using other forums as promotional tools

by Martin Reed on 20 June 2007 in Snippets

It is hard getting a new community established. You rely on your members to establish a community, but new members will not join a community unless you have members to start off with!

In this article I will write about how you can promote your new community and gain knowledge and learn new things at the same time.

Seek out your visitors

Don’t sit back and wait for visitors to come to you – go out and find them for yourself. Work out what type of sites the visitors you are looking for will be visiting and search them out.

Once you are there, get involved in those communities. Don’t spam forums and don’t direct users to your website. Find out the signature policy of the forum you are visiting – many will allow you to link back to your site. Add your link, and get involved.

If you are adding valuable, informative posts you will soon become a respected member of that community. People will naturally be interested in your site as they will soon consider you an ‘authority’ on the site’s subject.

Learn as well as promote

In addition to this indirect promotion, you will also be learning new things. You will be learning what your target audience likes and dislikes. You will see what that site does that works, and what doesn’t.

As I have said in a previous article, you should always be aware of your competition. By using other communities that your target audience visit, you will be indirectly promoting your site, keeping an eye on the competition and learning more about your subject area and audience as you go along.

Don’t be worried about site owners or moderators considering you to be a spammer. As long as you contribute quality posts, you are adding value to their site. A signature link is the least a community owner will be happy to offer in return – but do double check their signature link policy.

Your promotion techniques

Do you employ similar promotion techniques? Does this approach work for you? Share your promotion tips and ideas by leaving a comment below.

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Tim June 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Great advice, I hope it’ll prove useful in reviving an online gaming community aswell…

Mike June 21, 2007 at 5:55 am

This is the only method I am currently using that is working. I have an adwords campaign, but it is doing nothing.

One forum I found however, said you cannot include a forum address in your signature.

ken June 21, 2007 at 10:12 am

Very interesting blog. We are looking for information about how to build a online community. Beside your blog, do you have any other books or resources that can help us learn faster. Thanks

Smiley June 21, 2007 at 1:35 pm

You know, something so simple and I didn’t think of it at all. I’ve been sat for 2 weeks brainstorming ways to advertise and only attract the right kind of visitors.

You just reminded me that I haven’t actually researched into other “friendly adult communities” that are also strictly anti-perv, joined up and got involved.

That’s something I’ll do next. Thanks for the great article!

Ken, experiment! I believe Martin made a post about experimenting.. this is the best way to learn :) First hand.

lucia June 21, 2007 at 9:19 pm

It’s hard to start a forum. I tried to start a knitting forum in April of 2006. It was just getting going when my host went belly up. The site was on, off, on off.

When I finally managed to get a new host 3 weeks later, I’d lost all my new hard earned visitors. (Then, I had to deal with spam!)It was definitely a pain in the neck!

Martin Reed June 23, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Tim – Thanks for your comment; I am glad you enjoyed the article. Good luck with your community – be sure to let me know how you progress getting it off the ground

Mike – This can be a really effective promotional method. As you mention though, it is important to check that signature links are permitted at the forum you want to target.

Ken – I am glad you are finding this blog useful. The main reason I established Community Spark was because of the lack of resources available offering advice and tips on developing online communities.

You may want to check out certain sections of developer forums such as SitePoint and Webmaster World

I hope you stick around here for a while and have a dig around our archives. I certainly look forward to reading future comments from you and hearing how your community progresses.

Smiley – It’s great to hear that my article has inspired you to think of new promotional methods. Good luck :)

Lucia – Thanks for your comment, and welcome to the blog. I agree – developing a forum is a huge challenge and requires an immense amount of hard work and dedication.

I can only imagine the nightmare of losing all your visitors due to your poor web hosting – another example of why it is so important to have contingency plans in place.

Lucia June 23, 2007 at 9:54 pm

You bet you need contingency plans! It was just a hobby site, but I did know that forums need a critical mass to succeed. So, I was very disappointed by the whole thing!

Martin Reed June 25, 2007 at 7:23 pm

Well, Lucia at least you have learnt from your mistakes so the loss of your visitors wasn’t entirely a negative event!

There can be value in failures, too – as long as we learn from them!

Ed July 20, 2007 at 8:18 pm

This is a key method for delivering targeted traffic to your own site. This works not only for forums but for regular websites as well.

I think it is key to understand what Martin says – the posts you add to the forums you target for signature linking need to be of value and on-topic to the discussions at hand.

I think it is additionally important to recognize that volume matters. If you have five posts in a community do not expect to get traffic from those links. You need post counts (typically) of a hundred or more before people begin to recognize your input on a forum. Having a distinctive avatar can also help people recognize your posts.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 20, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Ed – You are right on the money here; targeting is key. I would also agree with your statement that volume (alongside quality, of course) counts – it takes a while for others to regard you as an expert in your field, or to gain trust in what you are writing about.

Of course, a distinctive avatar (such as an evil David Hasselhoff) can also help you stand out!

Jay July 24, 2007 at 2:26 pm

As a developer, I tend to promote by creating a useful free tool or feature. The “build it and they will come” approach. Of course, they don’t always come. :-(

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 25, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Jay – I really think the ‘build it and they will come’ approach doesn’t work when it comes to online communities. How easy is it to set up a forum these days? How many ghost forums are there as a result?

I think we need to change the phrase to ‘Build it, create fantastic and unique content on a regular basis, promote, and they will come’.

Doesn’t really roll of the tongue though, does it?!?

Jay July 25, 2007 at 2:40 pm

True – it certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it! It’s a lot harder as well.

Sara August 19, 2007 at 11:48 pm

This is working for me. I’ve had over 30% of my members come from forums I participate at. Granted I only have 130 members, but still :p

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 20, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Sara – I am glad this technique is working for you. 130 members is a great start, particularly if they are all getting involved and creating content in your forum.

Franky September 9, 2008 at 2:41 pm

We started our blog and it kinda turned into a forum which is strange. The subject matter was so tight that it’ now very much a specilist forum for people in the uk promotional products industry. The thing that mad a big difference for us was putting a large clear link on the top right hand corner of our site, which really contributed to people in our industry getting to the right place.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Franky – That just goes to show the unpredictable nature of online communities! That being said, you are in an enviable position – it sounds like your community has really taken off! Well done!

Lee January 22, 2009 at 12:14 am

Thanks for the good info, I’ve been using the approaches you’ve suggested with a site that’s about 3 weeks old now. Nothing yet but I just keep adding my own content and helping users on other forums…Hopefully that will help :).