Three Reasons To Welcome Users When They Join Your Forum Community

While it may seem obvious to some, when a user engages with you in some way—joins your email list, follows you on social media, joins your forum, etc.—it is polite and potentially lucrative to personally welcome them and thank them for following you.

For starters, this act of kindness creates a warm and fuzzy feeling and tells the person they’re “more than just a another follower”. Incidentally, this moment also represents a perfect opportunity to make a request of the user. It could be a request for feedback about a new product, a question about the biggest challenges they currently face, or the next steps the person can take to build a stronger relationship with you.

In the best case, a good welcome message provides instant value to new users when they join.

We have found this opportunity is often overlooked by forum owners. However, the Ninja Post platform is designed to help you avoid this costly mistake because we allow site owners to automatically send a Personal Message to new users when they join your forum community. By welcoming users, forum admins can accomplish three important goals:

  1. Nudge the user to proceed. For example, you can encourage the user to introduce himself or herself or to create a new thread. Many people are bashful when they join a new group and never get involved beyond lurking. A warm introductory message helps users get comfortable right away.
  2. Alert the user about special deals, new products for sale, account upgrades, etc. When a user joins your forum his or her enthusiasm is very high and he or she might not be aware of products for sale. Bring this information to their attention.
  3. Set expectations for user behavior. By explaining what is or is not tolerated, the site owner can set a constructive tone for the entire community. The user gets a direct line of communication with the site owner. This approach encourages members to work together and help one another and is designed to reduce vicious personal attacks and things of that nature.

Not everyone will take you up on your offer… but it doesn’t hurt to extend a warm welcome to new users. As long as your platform can take this action automatically on your behalf it’s a no-brainer to implement. How you take advantage of this opportunity to engage is up to you!

It's important to welcome new users when they join your forum

Posted in Marketing Your Forum | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How I Convert Twitter Followers Into Active Forum Users

Note: Guest blog post by Bill Belew. Bill is the founder of the Content marketer Forum which is powered by Ninja Post. Thanks, Bill!

On May 23, 2014, relying on Ninja Post, I launched my forum:

Content Marketer Forum. <= Sure. Check it out. You know want to. But more importantly you will be able to see what it is I am writing about here.

Before May of 2014, I had never been actively involved in a forum and what I didn’t know about forums far outweighed anything I knew. That didn’t deter me. What I did know was that a community of like-minded users could be a great resource to have.

Build a tribe

2 Big Problems New Forum Owners Face

Like many who have visions of creating a tribe, the immediate problem #1 was, “How do you get a whole bunch of people to hang out where nobody is hanging out?”

Then once you form a base of users, problem #2 was, “How do you get even more people to happen on your forum and stay engaged?

I know the answer to both of these questions. However, it’s the second question that I want to address is this post.

The short answer: Twitter.*

Say what?

Twitter. Twitter can be a good source of new forum users.

Forum users from Twitter

Six months ago I thought Twitter was more or less a useless platform. Believe it or not, it was one of my forum users who taught me how to effectively use the platform. It shouldn’t surprise me that in a forum devoted to how to do content marketing, someone in the forum would teach me more about content marketing.

The real goal, however, was to get people off of Twitter and onto the forum.

How to Get Tweebs to Visit and Stay in Your Forum

Step 1 – Get a lot of Twitter followers.

Not so easy you say.

Not as difficult as you think.

Step 2 – Watch this => WEBINAR: Real Followers and Engagement on Twitter.

This webinar was done by Steve Cartwright, consistently recognized as one of the top 5 content marketers in the world … and has nearly 200K legitimate Twitter followers.

In this webinar you will be introduced to CrowdFireApp. CrowdFireApp allows you to follow and unfollow Tweebs that you would like to engage with or not be seen in the same screen shot with. You can target who you want to follow, or you can follow indiscriminately. It depends on your strategy.

CrowdFire App Twitter followers to forum users

In July of last year, I had 11,400 followers on Twitter. As of this writing I have grown to 42,300 followers by using CrowdFireApp (there are others). Not bad, not bad. All I did was follow the advice in that webinar.

Read this part first and last.

Step 3 – Pay $10 for the advanced PLUTO version.

There’s an advanced function on CrowdFireApp that makes all the difference. It costs $9.99 / month (Pluto). No, I don’t have an affiliate link. Maybe I should. 8-)

With the $9.99/month version you can follow and unfollow considerably more people than with the free version. You can follow up to 1000 people, and unfollow an unlimited number.

But what you really get with the advanced version is the ability to direct message (DM), new followers. More than 30,000 new followers were DMmed when they followed me.

CrowdFire App DM Twitter followers to forum

You can see my DMs in the screen shot.

CrowdFire App DM Twitter followers to forum Part 2

Every time I was followed by someone they got a message that invited them to check out my forum.

And they came.

Here’s a screen shot of how many visitors I have had from Twitter since I implemented this strategy.

Visits to Belew's Forum referred by Twitter
(Click for full size image)

Full disclosure: I also have a really cool header, a rock star profile blurb that includes and invite to my forum, and I tweet a LOT (automated).

I can tweet a LOT because I can automatically recycle old content from my home site – billbelew.com where I have a deep well of relevant content – nearly 2,000 posts.

My members get engaged. Not only do they get engaged, they have become paying students, which more than cover the costs of my forum. Some of my forum members have become contractors, earning them and me more money. The best part is some of my members have become friends. Not all of them, but some have come from Twitter.

The Most Important Takeaway Questions & Answers

Are you using Twitter to grow your forum membership? If not, then when?

Can I help? You won’t be the first nor the last person to ask me, “Bill, how did you do that? Can you teach me?”

Contact me at my forum via private message.

* Twitter is NOT the only way I acquire new forum users.

Posted in Marketing Your Forum | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Methods To Market Your Forum On Social Media

Funneling traffic from your main site to your forum is probably the most efficient way to build your forum’s audience. However, it’s not the only way to attract new users. If your site has a huge following on social media, it makes sense to convert these users to forum users. This allows you to hold the conversation on your turf.

Be warned that it’s very difficult to draw users out of the “walled gardens” of social media onto your forum. But it’s worth it if you can find a couple power users. Here’s some advice for marketing your forum on social media:

  1. Make users curious. The link to your forum should arouse the reader’s curiosity. This can be achived by linking to a specific thread with a provocative title.
  2. Be funny. Who doesn’t love to be entertained? A thread featuring a series of funny photos can get readers to click through to your forum.
  3. Ask users to help one another. Asking users to help one another is a great way to inspire teamwork in your community. It also has the effect of bringing together experts and newbies.
  4. Post multiple times. It can be frustrating if your first cross post doesn’t net hundreds of new users. But don’t lose faith. It takes time to train people to use and check your forum so make marketing your forum on social media a habit. If you follow Rule #1 on this list to make users curious then you’ll probably post a different link every time so users will not be annoyed.
  5. Schedule an event. Lots of options here: conduct a Q&A with an expert, set a time for a live chat, announce plans to meet up in real life, or run a contest or giveaway. If the event is done in conjunction with a sponsor, this approach can produce a variety of benefits such as increased notoriety, more freebies for users, and it can attract more focus & energy since more stakeholders are involved.

Marketing your forum is about generating momentum. Be original, be persistent, and get people excited about your community. This is easier said that done but if these activities become habits you can convert your followers into forum users.

Posted in Marketing Your Forum | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

3 “Must Have” Rules For The Like Button On Your Forum

Last week, we discussed how the “Like” button on your forum triggers an engagement loop. In the same way that forum communities must make the registration process for new users both obvious and easy, the “Like” experience must be intuitive.

Here are the rules we follow for the “Like” button on our forum communities:

  1. Make it prominent. The “Like” button must be obvious and easy to use.
  2. Provide visual feedback. Give feedback to the user after he or she presses or taps the “Like” button, so they know their feedback was recorded. This needs to happen almost instantly even though this can be challenging if the user has a slow connection.
  3. Reward and notify the recipient. Award reputation points to the content creator who earned the “Like” and send them an email notification with the good news. Chances are that user will come back and pay it forward to someone else, which will spark a new loop.

The “Like” experience is satisfying for everyone involved. It draws people into the conversation because it does not require much effort. Finally, it’s a great tool for both new and old members alike to stay engaged with the community and bring the tribe members closer together.

Posted in Forum Architecture & Design | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

3 Types Of Badges To Gamify Your Forum Community

When it comes to forums and gamification we prefer to keep things simple. Allowing users to give out reps to other users for adding valuable content is the best example of forum gamification because we want to reward constructive contributions without being too distracting.

At its core, the concept of badges as they are commonly used around the ‘Net today is basic as well: the user achieves some goal, and in turn the user gets a shiny piece of flair for their profile.

Computers are perfect for detecting certain milestones: it’s been one year since you joined the forum; you achieved a rep score of 100 points; or you created a thread with 1,000 views.

But in the context of forum communities, where user-to-user interaction is king, this purely automated approach seems rather boring and difficult to customize.

Besides, there are plenty of other tasks worthy of shiny profile flair that are more nuanced. Does the user go out of his or her way to help newbies? Did the user donate to the latest forum fund raiser? Is the user a leader in the community? Is there an inside joke with the community that we can pay homage to? It is much harder for a computer to create, judge, and reward such feats.

Bearing this complexity in mind, we designed the Ninja Post badge system to accommodate three scenarios:

  1. Badges automatically generated by the system. For achieving a milestone…
  2. Badges only created and awarded by Admins. For going above & beyond the call of duty…
  3. Badges users can award to one another. For impressive accomplishments and perpetuating inside jokes…

Most badge systems stop at the first item on the above list. But our goal is to maximize user engagement and user-to-user interaction. We believe that allowing users to create badges and award to one another is a novel way to make your forum more fun and engaging. See some examples in the chart below.

Forum badges

Posted in Forum Architecture & Design | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Celebrate Members’ Birthdays On Your Forum

Assuming your forum has more than 365 members, chances are that it’s somebody’s birthday everyday. With Ninja Post, we recognize everyone’s birthday by automatically inserting a birthday cake next to their user name on their special day. It’s simple and fun without being overly dramatic.

We have considered doing more. For example:

  • Display the cake icon next to the user name in the “user panel” at the top of the page.
  • Sending users a special birthday greeting in the form of a Private Message.
  • Display a special birthday message on the forum homepage for that particular user.
  • Create a special page and/or link in the footer that displays “Members’ Birthdays Today”.

Of the ideas listed above, we believe the Private Message is the best way to engage a user. One reason is that this message will reach the user via email so they don’t even need to visit the forum on their special day. In turn, a customized birthday greeting from the site is likely to inspire the user to check into the site and say hello to everyone. People love celebrating birthdays, whether it’s their own or somebody else’s. One of our goals is to tap into this positive emotion.

forum_birthday_cake

Posted in Misc. Forum Discussion | Tagged , | Leave a comment
Posted in Marketing Your Forum | Tagged , , | 1 Comment