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

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Client Profile: The Matterport User Group Forum

Note: Guest blog post by Dan Smigrod. Dan is the founder of the Matterport User Group Forum which is powered by Ninja Post. Thanks, Dan!


Here’s why we created the Matterport User Group Forum and why we engaged Ninja Post to host it.

First some context. Atlanta-based We Get Around is Georgia’s first and only photography service company dedicated solely to providing Matterport three-dimensional (3D) photography services. We started a Network of 3D photographers from around the globe in September 2014 and needed a way to bring everyone together.

We launched our Ninja Post forum so that we could connect Matterport 3D content creators worldwide. As I wrote then, “Our vision is a community of Matterport users getting help and helping others with Matterport capture, creation and sharing.” Or as Ninja Post describes: “Collaboration. New friends. Inspiration.”

Now, on any given day, as many as 300+ people worldwide check-out our Forum to browse 1,500+ thread posts among 150+ topics. More than 100 Matterport Pro 3D Camera photographers from five continents have registered as members. Forum readers have collectively spent more than 1,000+ hours on the Forum, including more than 41,500+ page views and spend an average of 5:43 minutes on the site during each visit. All that in just our first six months!

Forum members often comment how helpful and quick other members are responding to questions. Plus, members have created an awesome knowledge base for those who are just thinking about buying a Matterport Pro 3D Camera to those of us who are prolific 3D content creators. For example, I posted a question about Matterport iFrame embed code for WordPress before I went to bed and the next morning there was a very detailed answer waiting for me (and subsequently many thread posts on this topic).

Starting the Forum has also helped us find other Matterport pros for our Network and helped with SEO for We Get Around. (To see for yourself, Google: Atlanta Matterport Photographer)

As you can imagine, starting a Forum just a month after the Matterport 3D Showcase solution was announced meant that it was likely that we would only have a couple of members to start. Mike coached us on suggested thread topics, initial content strategy and, enabled Matterport 3D Showcase content to be easily embedded in thread posts. Essentially, everything that would help us success in forming a robust community around the Matterport platform.

We’re thrilled with the Matterport User Group Forum powered by Ninja Post. That’s why I asked if I could share my enthusiasm for Ninja Post in this guest post.


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5 Steps To Revive A Dead Forum

Some say the rise of social networks like Facebook and Twitter has led to a decline in forum use. Others say the shift to mobile has led people to abandon forums. However, many forum communities continue to thrive in the age of social media. This tells us that even if your forum is on life support, there is still hope.

What steps can you take to revive your community? In the short term, it takes a blast of adrenaline. Over the long term, it requires good old-fashioned persistence.

When relaunching a forum community after migrating to Ninja Post, we incorporate elements of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula into the process to pique interest and to collect feedback from users. After the launch, we take steps to keep users engaged and attract new members. The steps break down like this:

  1. Pre-launch Announcement #1. Send announcement to all users that “something big is coming soon”. Take this opportunity to ask users to complete a short survey. The survey can be used to see what users want from their community.
  2. Pre-launch Announcement #2. Send a follow-up announcement to all users. Remind them that “something big is coming soon” and remind them to take the survey.
  3. Big announcement. Share high level survey findings with users and invite users to the new forum.
  4. Regular newsletter. Send a weekly newsletter to all members to recognize contributors and highlight popular content. This step is about training users to visit the forum regularly.
  5. Funnel users from the main site. Forums sustain themselves by adding new users to the mix. We know the best forum users come from your main site so we advise funneling them from your main site to your forum.

Following these steps will give your forum community a rosy outlook. As soon as you get a pulse back, the best long terms solution for any forum community is to post fresh content on a daily basis. This takes dedication and persistence and creativity. Although you could do all the heavy lifting yourself, we recommend engaging your most passionate and prolific users using the steps outlined above to revive a dead forum.


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3 Reasons Why Unpopular Forums Require So Much Effort

Earlier this week it dawned on me: running an unpopular forum requires more effort than running a popular forum. This seems counterintuitive because a popular forum requires lots of effort so it follows that an unpopular forum would require less effort. But hang on. Let me explain why an unpopular forum requires so much effort. Here are three reasons:

  1. Content generation by large crowds is easier than content generation by a single individual or a small group.
  2. A forum that is unmonitored is a haven for spammers and bots.
  3. It is difficult to attract new users to an unpopular forum.

This list reflects the importance of making sure your site has sufficient traffic to support a forum community. It also underscores the importance of staying vigilant to keep the forum protected from spammers. And it demonstrates the empty restaurant problem which is that it’s difficult to attract people to a place that seems deserted.

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Top 10 Things To Look For In A Forum Hosting Service

Whether you are considering hosting your forum with your traditional web host or if you’ve migrated to a service that provides forum hosting in the cloud, it’s critical to understand what to look for in a forum hosting service before you get started.

This checklist will help you determine if the provider you’re considering for your forum community is trustworthy and reliable.

1. Tech Support

What level of tech support does the service provide? Most forums run smoothly but every once in a while, the s*** hits the fan and an immediate resolution is required! Get a sense for the level of support available to you by speaking with the provider to determine their availability and ability to help you solve unexpected problems.

2. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

In this day and age, rich media support has never been a bigger part of the forum experience. When a user uploads a photo, that photo should automatically be ported to a content delivery network (CDN). This approach keeps pages loading fast which keeps users happy and compels participation. Ask your prospective service provider how they handle rich media like images and videos.

3. Automatic Software Updates

There is nothing more tedious than downloading, unzipping, and installing software updates manually. Many people don’t even bother… until there’s an emergency and by then it’s usually too late. We advise you to ask your service provider how software updates to your forum are deployed.

4. Uptime Guarantee and Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Find out how your forum host monitors and guarantees performance. If your potential forum host is unwilling to provide historical reports that demonstrate the company’s uptime history or enter into a specific guarantee regarding their service, this could be a red flag.

5. Statistics and Analytics

Understanding how users behave on your forum and what topics generate the most interest helps you create new content that appeals to your audience. Does your forum host provide sophisticated statistics and analytics that show trending content? Find out before you sign on the dotted line.

6. Performance and Scalability

Over time, forums grow like wildflowers. But wildflowers eventually wilt and wither and return to dust. On the other hand, forum content never dies. This means that forums become more complex when they grow: more users, more posts, more rich media, etc. You need a service provider capable of handling such complexity; one that will allow your community to flourish while protecting and preserving your content.

7. Automatic Backups

Right behind manually running your own software updates, backing up your forum data is one of the most critical-but-still-overlooked tasks. Make sure your forum host does this automatically. We advise backing up data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

8. Mobile and Tablet Support

Find out what the mobile and tablet experience is like on the platform you’re testing. Is the default site design responsive to different devices? Is there a mobile app for the forum? Answers to these questions will reveal if the company understands the importance of catering to mobile users.

9. Platform Lock-In And Data Ownership

There is nothing more insidious than data lock-in. Ask about the forum host’s policy with regards exporting data should you decide to migrate later on. If you wait until after launching your community to learn about this policy, it might be too late.

10. Advertising policies

If you’re considering a “free” forum hosting service beware that your forum might be covered in ads that you have no control over and generate no revenue from. You deserve the right to include ads at your own discretion. Think twice about working with a forum host that does not give you this control!

Whew! So there you have it: 10 steps to take to ensure you find the best host for your forum community. Some of these questions may be difficult to ask. But don’t be bashful. It’s better to ask the hard questions now so you don’t get burned later. Hopefully, Ninja Post’s answers to the above questions are already obvious. But if you ask us or elaborate, we certainly won’t be offended! We want to make sure we’re on the same page before we proceed.

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3 Strategies To Test Your Forum Community Concept

Assuming you have enough traffic to make a forum viable, what steps can a webmaster take to test their concept prior to investing too much time or money into a new forum?

After all, galvanizing users to contribute to your forum can be challenging. Overcoming the empty restaurant problem, getting users to make their first contribution, or simply finding likely participants is often easier said that done. Even when done correctly, this process can be tedious and slow moving.

In this post, we identify three techniques to test your community concept and generate more activity in less time.

  1. Lighting rod. This strategy involves bringing in a well known, well respected, and possibly even controversial figure to the forum. Think of this person as a high powered influencer, like a company’s CEO or a special guest brought in to entertain questions from users. (Note: mature forums often have a handful of “power users” that serve as de facto lightning rods.)
  2. Magnetic force. This strategy relates to the subject matter of your forum. How is your forum positioned? We have found that if your forum can help people get laid or make money, users will flock to you. In cases where the forum topic is mundane, we advise altering the topic to be more appealing or employing the lightning rod strategy described above.
  3. Anchor. The “anchor” strategy refers to common interest that brings people together. For example, an anchor could be a physical location such as an office building or college campus or it could be a cause that binds people together (such as those afflicted by the same disease). Another example of the anchoring strategy is bringing together people who share the same goal.

If you have adequate traffic and feel prepared to employ at least two (if not all three) of the strategies described above you should be in good shape to proceed with your forum community. If not, take a step back and consider how you can make your concept more provocative.

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On Boarding Users To Your Private Forum (Diagram)

Yesterday, we examined how to Add Users To Your Private Forum In 4 Easy Steps. As a follow up to that post, we created a diagram to illustrate how our on-boarding process works.

Obviously, some users will respond to the first invitation but there will be stragglers. We need to entice stragglers. Therefore, in addition to automatic reminders generated by Ninja Post, we have found that leadership from the site owner to engage users even before they join goes a long way toward facilitating the on boarding process.


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Add Users To Your Private Forum In 4 Easy Steps

When it comes to launching a new forum it is absolutely critical to tell people that it exists and then entice them to participate. The need to on board users effectively is especially true with a private forum. In this situation, the potential user base is smaller and the visibility of the forum is lower because the content is private.

Most site owners that create a private forum have an existing user base. This could be a group of subscribers who already pay to access the site, it could be a group of students and/or alumni, or it could be members of your newsletter. In each of these cases, the users need to be corralled into the forum.

This formula works well for us:

  1. Tell users to be on the lookout! The company CEO sends an email blast to all prospective members. This email should contain enticing language the describes the amazing forum is warn recipients to be on the look out for a special, top-secret, super exclusive invitation.
  2. Send the invitation. The Ninja Post admin panel has a special “white list” invitation generator that sends unique invite codes to emails pre-approved by the site owner.
  3. Herd the cats. Not every user will accept the first invitation. It pays to be persistent! We make it easy to re-send invitation codes and recommending sending 3-4 invitations to any stragglers.
  4. Show activity. When the early adopters begin participating, we can then show proof of activity to anyone who still has not joined. This is like giving someone a sneak peek into the VIP section of a club and usually does the trick!

When we work with a new client, we take great pride in working with them to “herd the cats”. This process is not glamorous but when a new forum springs to life it is unbelievably rewarding and exciting.

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Six Key Topics To Seed Your New Forum

Starting a new forum can be daunting. Your job is to build something out of nothing and creating something out of nothing is not easy. But we know that no one goes into an empty restaurant and no one posts to an empty forum.

Therefore, it makes sense to seed the board with some topics that are sure to get people talking. Here are a few classic techniques and seed topics to jump start the conversations on your forum!

  1. Introduction thread. Get the ball rolling by encouraging members to introduce themselves. Ask users to answer a few specific “icebreaker” questions, such as “Your location?” or “State one interesting fact about yourself”. (See screen below for an example.)
  2. Inspiration and motivation thread. As the site owner, you have a strong understanding what inspires and motivates your users. Post some success stories that will excite users. Users will instinctively add their own sources of inspiration and motivation.
  3. Social media links thread. Some people prefer to keep their social media profiles separate because they want to project different images on different sites. However, when there is significant overlap between a user’s social media accounts, their true passion, and the forum topic they will share their social media links to gain more followers and exposure.
  4. Help, feedback, and suggestions thread. People love to provide useful and constructive feedback. And when we say that, we mean that people love to complain. Make it easy for them to air their grievances. This feedback is very helpful for us since we are always striving to improve and it proves to users that their voices will be heard by the powers that be.
  5. Funny pics thread. The say laughter is the best medicine. We know that hilarious meme pictures create laughter so it’s safe to say that funny pictures are a great way to cure boredom and get users to actively contribute.
  6. Mobile instructions. One key to running a forum these days is to have outstanding support for mobile. It is crucial to be “in the pocket” or “in the purse”. When your users are bored and scrolling through the apps on their phone we want them to click on the icon for your forum.


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What Happens After I Place My Order?

One of the most popular questions we get from new clients is, “What happens after I place my order?” Great question because most platforms give you a zip file to download and install and host yourself or an ugly looking template that you need to customize. Kind of like coming home from IKEA with a giant box that needs to be assembled. Rest assured: that’s not what we have in mind!

Starting a new forum community is difficult enough without having to worry about the setup and design. That’s why, when you sign up with Ninja Post, we begin working on your behalf as soon as possible. New forums are deployed and customized to your specifications within 24 hours of signing up for your demo.

We believe in the power of checklists so here is the checklist we use internally when setting up a new client:

  1. Ask the client to point the sub domain of their choice to the Ninja Post server.
  2. Deploy the forum on behalf of the client.
  3. Setup statistics, analytics, and trending content dashboard pages.
  4. Match the design to the client’s site.
  5. Create the mobile logo and test on mobile devices.
  6. Ask client for feedback and respond to any special requests.

It’s so easy, it’s almost like magic. We love handling the technical stuff so you can focus squarely on your users and your community.

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