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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5 Strategies For Forums With Paid Memberships

Regardless if your forum is public or private, you might decide to generate revenue through membership fees. Five strategies are generally available:

  • Supporter Badge. Allow members to join and participate in your forum for free. Encourage users to show off their community pride and donate money to the site in exchange for a “Forum Supporter” badge next to their user name.
  • Exclusive Content For VIPs. Encourage users to to upgrade to paid, VIP memberships in exchange for access to exclusive content, areas of the forum or site, and other benefits.
  • One-Time Fee. Charge a one-time admission fee for forum access, creating a lifetime membership group.
  • Recurring Fee. Charge a monthly or yearly subscription fee for access to the forum.
  • Lurkers Pay. Regular participants (e.g., those who make at least 10 posts per month) are exempt from paying a monthly fee but lurkers are not.

Allowing basic memberships for free is advantageous because it helps grow your user base, and growing participation in your forum may encourage users to upgrade by increasing their involvement in the community. However, not all users will upgrade, so your subscription fees must support the cost of non-paying users.

One-time application fees may limit initial participation in your forum, but will create a group of committed members who are strongly disposed to participate in the forum by virtue of their investment. Renewable subscription fees provide a happy medium, but renewals should be automatically recurring to encourage continued membership.

Many options exist for forums with paid memberships. The biggest strategic question is whether to make your forum’s content public or private. In turn, this decision dictates the optimal solution for your community.

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Private Forums With Paid Memberships: 3 Examples

When discussing the 5 Types Of Private Forums, we noted that private forums with paid memberships require users to pay a monthly or annual fee to access some or all parts of the forum. However, there are several variations on this theme that create a spectrum of options for anyone wishing to launch a private forum with paid memberships. We offer three examples below.

The Walled Garden. First, we have sites where the main site requires a paid subscription, but the forum is one of several exclusive benefits that members can enjoy.

For example, Endurance Nation offers its subscribers access to training plans, resource libraries, equipment reviews, and robust online forums for input and feedback from other members. In essence, the forum is one of several benefits for paying subscribers.

Forum For Paying Members Only. In this scenario, the forum is not one of several perks; it is the perk. All content (or nearly all content) is restricted to paid subscribers. The forum is the main draw.

One example of this is RedIssue, a site for soccer fans (although they’d prefer I call it ‘football’). The forum provides a ‘teaser’ of 85 threads for public viewing, but the rest of its 30,000 threads are accessible to members only. This particular site provides a direct link to PayPal to facilitate sales of private memberships.

The Night Club. Finally, there are sites in which the forum is freely accessible to registered users and guests, but certain sections of the forum are for paying subscribers only. Very similar to the VIP section of a night club.

One example of this can be found on Simply Discus, in the sub-forum for hobbyists titled “Homesteader (It’s Your World Within Our World)”. In this particular case, content is visible to all users, but participation in discussions is limited to members paying a yearly subscription fee.

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