Find New Readers in Forums

new_readers_in_forums

We create content in order to share it with others. We want those others to be both numerous and engaged in what we’ve created. Forums and message boards offer us an opportunity to reach many new readers who are actively engaged in the topics we write about. Unfortunately, making effective use of forums to find new readers requires more than creating a signature link to your blog or website.

New readers

Here are some tips to effectively convert forum members into fans of your content.

  • Strike a balance between activity and relevance

If you consider a signature link to your content a type of advertisement then it makes sense to expose the link to as many eyes as possible. Thus, it’s tempting to go for a very active, more general forum.

Let’s say your site is on the topic of Horror Novels, but you stumble across a message board dedicated to all kinds of books which has thousands of members. It might seem smarter to become involved in the larger, more general forum, but keep in mind that the number of users passionately interested in Horror Novels may be very small. In some cases it will be more fruitful to join a smaller, less active forum which is more relevant to the topic of your content.

You can find suitable forums via a Google search or by visiting categorized message board directories like Big Boards.

  • Be a respectable figure

Other forum posters will know nothing about what you look like or who you are. You’ll be known to them simply by your username, your choice of avatar, and the words you write. Any username will do as long as it is not offensive. When picking an avatar, try to ensure it is tasteful and does not take a long time to load.

When writing, use capital letters and punctuation where appropriate, spell as correctly as possible, and treat other forum members with respect. It’s also worth learning BBCode basics in order to format your posts and quote other forum members.

These steps might seem insignificant, but consider how little information users have to judge each other on forums. First impressions do count, particularly when you are trying to build enough trust in other users to view content you’ve recommended.

  • Establish yourself as an expert on the forum topic

The best and least obnoxious way to do this is to answer the questions of other users, to provide helpful feedback when it’s appropriate, to start interesting discussion topics and contribute well thought-out posts to existing discussions. This sounds difficult, but if you’re passionate about your topic and enjoy being part of the forums it will come naturally.

Another excellent way to establish yourself as an expert on the forum topic is to create a thread which is ‘Stickied’. For those who haven’t used message boards before, a ‘Stickied’ thread is one which is fastened to the top of the front page, meaning it will not drop off the screen after a period of inactivity.

The kinds of threads which get stickied are threads which are of enduring use to forum members. Stickied threads are often FAQs, How Tos, Guides, resource lists and link lists. They are almost always packed with content. Such threads are more likely to be stickied if they are well formatted and easy to read.

Another way to establish your expertise is to become a moderator. Because forum moderators have power over other users they are viewed with respect and content recommended by them is more likely to be taken seriously. Being a moderator is also a sign of veteran status on the forums because such positions are usually only awarded to very active forum members. On the other hand, a moderator position is usually bestowed, not earned, therefore attaining moderator status is not something worth obsessing over.

  • Use your signature effectively

Your forum signature is the customizable space which appears at the end of each forum post you make. You can insert custom links into your signature. This is the primary doorway you’ll offer forum users to your content.

While a signature link to your blog or website will probably encourage a few curious click throughs it’s not the most effective way to find new readers. Even if I’m interested in Horror Novels and I see a link to a blog on the topic there is little chance I’m going to click the link. If I was interested in finding general information on Horror Novels I could do a Google search. I also might also assume, being active in the topic, that the site would not have any information I didn’t already know.

A link to ‘The 10 Best Horror Novels You Probably Haven’t Read’ is likely to be much more effective at enticing click-throughs because it piques curiosity and indicates potential value. It piques curiosity because the reader wonders if they’ve read any of the books on your list. It indicates potential value because there is the lure of discovering a new, great book – surely a good thing among fans of Horror novels.

Think of the content on your site which you believe has the headline or description that will be most enticing to forum readers and link to that rather than your main page. If the forum reader likes the content you’ve shown them they’ll probably view the main page anyway. Occasionally place a link to a different content item in your signature to attract new readers and pique the interest of old readers once again.

  • Make your content part of the discussion

Sometimes a question will come up on the forums that has been answered via web content you’ve written. Rather than answer via repeating yourself in a forum post, link to your content and briefly explain how it will answer the question.

When a thread is started on a topic you’ve written about before, link to your writing rather than repeating your thoughts on the matter.

When you create content you think many forum members would find useful or entertaining, introduce it to them via a thread. You will have to use your judgment when doing this to avoid being seen as blatantly promoting your site. Make sure it’s content forum members will appreciate, and don’t promise something in your link which isn’t delivered by the content.

These steps can be the most effective way to share your content but should be used carefully. Only link when it’s appropriate and when you truly believe the link will have benefit to the other forum users. Ask yourself: is this to benefit me, or them?

In-post links to your content should also be used sparingly, even when appropriate. Regardless of how useful your content is, linking to your own material too frequently is bound to make other forum users suspicious of your intentions.

  • Participate for the sake of it

Don’t only post when you see an opportunity to bring your content to the attention of others. Genuinely enjoy being active in the forum community and help others even when there is no direct benefit to you. If forum users respect you they are more likely to be interested in content you’ve created.

Lastly, don’t attempt this method if you don’t enjoy being part of the forums you’re posting in. If you don’t respect the community there, you don’t like message boards or you’re not truly passionate about your topic, it will show through and users will avoid engaging with both you and your content. Forum readers not going to flood to your content in a Digg-style tsunami and the pay-off for forum involvement is one that will increase in the long term.

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