This article was first posted on our blog on 11/03/2011. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.
In this blog post, you’ll learn a few ways in which you can turn your forum into a fully functioning business, possibly without the need to manage it depending on the size of your forum and activity!
I see so many new forums listing advertisements from Adsense, Chitika, Adbuzz etc. I hate it when new sites, try and make money from the start. Focusing on making money from the start only depletes the chances of your success where other forums won’t have this issue by focusing on the community. However that’s a different blog post all together.
Your best bet at success is to start off without any advertisements, until you hit the 1000 post milestone. This means that you should have reasonable activity, a few active members and posts coming in every day without paying for them via FP or paid forum posts.
I would personally go with setting up private adverts on a click basis (as opposed to an impression basis, where the advertiser pays for the amount of times it’s displayed instead of visited.)
This will give your advertisers more freedom of advertising, and try to be more slack with the type of adverts you want when you’re small. Obviously try and keep the adverts suitable for the type of forum you run.
Once your growth begins to vastly increase, start to raise your advertising costs. This means you’ll get more premium members from your forum advertising,members from real sites which convert into cash in the end. You’ll be seen as a business partner, and you’ll begin to gain contacts which are always useful in a dry spell.*
* If you start to build business contacts, make sure that you ask their permission to keep their details. After doing so, only contact them if needs be. Don’t try and be a friend to them, from their perspective you’re another method of getting business and not looking for a 4 hour chat on Skype.
2. Exclusive unsaturated niche
A few members here may read that title and think “WHAT?!”, well I’ll explain.
Exclusive: Something other forums don’t offer. This is the hardest part of running a forum, as there are so many out there it’s hard to break into the field.
Unsaturated: This means (in the simplest form) not full of the same idea. Such as surveys > gifts sites such as Points2Shop. If your forum is completely unique and all aspects of it are only used by you, advertisers will come flocking in asking for advertising quotes. This is what I mean by autopilot business.
Niche: The area of the market you’re entering. If you’re in the gaming aspect of forums, only advertisers with adverts relating to gaming will approach you (normally). It’s a good idea to vaguely broaden your boards, opening opportunities to advertisers and people looking to join a board.
You’ll want to start a board that people will want to join. For example, the most recent one I’ve seen here would be phpBB Communities. They offer a completely new niche for people who own phpBB communities. They had instant success, and still do today. I personally recommend joining the board if you own a phpBB community, it’s extremely useful and helps a lot when creating and updating your board.
3. Making a return
This is the most important part of a business, is whether or not it will actually function as a profitable transaction. You need to focus on getting your name out there, which can take a lot of time and money. SEO is an extremely important method of gaining activity and thus money, because it can get tedious having to refer people through hundreds of different boards and mediums when you could be getting organic traffic from Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Once your site is listed, don’t give up! Keep on posting daily fresh content, fight spam and support your members with their problems. People love to get help when they need it, so try and be a loving admin and you’ll see the result of it!
Once you start to make cash from your site, don’t stop there. Reinvest it in methods that work. You need to spend money to make money, so why not use the cash you got from your site and use it for your site again?
$1 into your paypal isn’t much use to you, but it could buy you 100 visitors which could become registered users, a backlink on a premium web link directory or simply save it toward custom features!
I hope this guide has started to help you and that you have gained something of value from it.