Driving Traffic to Your Forums with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube

Posted by Patrick on May 28th, 2015 in Community Cultivation, Promoting Your Community

In the past, I’ve seen forum owners and managers suggest that it was harder to grow their forums or their hosted community because of people spreading their time out across different forms of social media. I think that’s probably true, but I don’t see it as a bad thing.

What we’re seeing is platform diversification. Forums are fine. We just have more options, and we use the options that best fit a particular need.

But if you run a forum or a hosted community, you have to accept a simple reality: people will spend time on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms. Once you accept that reality, you can begin to utilize these platforms to offer community members more value and to engage with them – and others – with the idea of driving traffic back to your community.

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How to Kick Start Your Forum

Posted by Patrick on September 25th, 2014 in Promoting Your Community

Credit: Todd – CC BY 2.0

When it comes to launching a forum, everyone faces the same challenge: how do I get things going? How you answer this question will help determine how successful that you become and how soon. You can either drastically help your odds or (to be a little dramatic) deal your new community a death blow. Or maybe something in between.

It’s not really that scary. It’s about having a process and not trying to skip any steps or take shortcuts. Recently, a Quora user asked, “how do I successfully kick start my forum?” Here’s my answer.

There are three big things you need to do: seed, curate and appreciate.

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Amazon Uses Purchase History to Seed Customer Questions and Answers

Posted by Patrick on August 18th, 2014 in Promoting Your Community

Amazon.comWhen viewing products on, you may notice a section on the product page labeled “Customer Questions & Answers.” For example, on the page for the Flash Point board game, which I purchased last week. In this section, you are encouraged to “ask the owners” (of the product) a question.

The labeling is misleading because they don’t actually limit the ability to answer to owners only. You don’t have to have purchased the product on Amazon to be able to answer the question. I guess you could say it is based on the honor system. But that’s beside the point.

I was reminded of this feature recently when I received an email from Amazon. They knew that I had purchased a particular product (since I bought it from them), so they wanted to know if I was willing to answer a specific question that was asked about that product. The question was included in the email as well as a link to answer. I found it compelling, so I clicked and found that others had already answered the question adequately. I assume that when the email was sent, there were no answers.

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Facebook Cut Your Reach, Google+ is Dead and Twitter is Over (or “It Always Goes Back to the Spaces You Actually Control”)

Posted by Patrick on May 1st, 2014 in Developing Your Community, Promoting Your Community
I've got nerd bling... Too much or just enough? #geek #nerd #bling
Creative Commons License photo credit: betsyweber

If you work in community, marketing or “digital” (whatever that means to you), you’ve probably heard a lot about the declining reach of Facebook pages, the death of Google+ and how Twitter isn’t far behind. Everybody loves to talk about platforms dying.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think any of these stories are that big of a deal. The Facebook reach drop is probably the most impactful one, but Facebook doesn’t owe pages anything and it was never said that they wouldn’t change how reach works on their platform. Google+ has provided value for some people, while others never found traction. And Twitter is still what you make it.

No matter how great third party platforms are performing, even if you could go back to the days when beer flowed like wine for brands on Facebook, one simple fact remains. It always goes back to the spaces you actually control.

When I keynoted at Podcamp Topeka in November of 2010, this slide was in my deck:

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.community Domain Name Enters Pre-Registration (and .forum is Coming)

Posted by Patrick on April 10th, 2014 in Promoting Your Community

ICANNYou will soon be able to own a domain name, thanks to ICANN’s New Generic Top-Level (gTLD) Domain Name Program.

In case some explanation is needed, ICANN is the organization responsible for the domain name system. A top-level domain (TLD) is what comes after the period in your web address. .com, .net, .org. These are all examples of top-level domains. The new gTLD program has been in the works for years, with applications initially opening in January of 2012.

During that period, many companies and organizations applied for gTLDs, for different reasons. For example, Amazon applied for .amazon. They also applied for .book, .movie, .author and many others. But .book and .movie both have multiple applicants, so Amazon will be one of several companies vying for them. Applications aren’t cheap – $185,000 each – and that doesn’t include the ongoing costs tied to maintenance and whatever goes into managing a TLD from the applicant’s end.

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Conference Sponsorship Offers Online Communities a Way to Reach New Members and Connect with Existing Ones

Posted by Patrick on February 13th, 2014 in Community Cultivation, Promoting Your Community
Invo at UXPA Boston
Creative Commons License photo credit: juhansonin

Earlier this week, I wrote about organizing low-key meetups with your community members at conferences and events. This approach is limited, though, because if you are not sponsoring an event, you should really only engage in behaviors that do not compete with the conference and its sponsors, otherwise you risk breaching conference policies or ethical standards.

By sponsoring an event, you open yourself up to a bigger world of opportunities. You are simply allowed to do much more. Each event will vary, but sponsorship has its perks. In how you can interact with attendees, how you can promote your community and how much the conference organizers can help you.

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Why Spamming Competitors’ Online Communities to Get Members (Nearly) Always Backfires

Posted by Patrick on November 18th, 2013 in Promoting Your Community
Yeah right.
Creative Commons License photo credit: jadakatt

I have a new online community. I am going to go to other, similar online communities and tell them about my community and they will join! I’ll post threads about it or, if I want to be really sneaky, I’ll send private messages to the members there, telling them about it. The community manager will never know!

So said far too many people. It’s a tactic of the inexperienced, the naive, the lazy and/or the unethical. People justify it in ridiculous ways. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to get permission! No, it’s not. It’s embarrassing and it fails to pass a basic test of humanity: treat people as you want to be treated.

If you don’t care about those reasons, you don’t care about your own credibility or self-respect, let me give you one more and this one you ought to really care about. It’s a waste of time. Efforts like these tend to fall on deaf ears. Here’s why.

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Having a Small Online Community Allows You to Focus on What Matters

Posted by Patrick on November 7th, 2013 in Community Cultivation, Promoting Your Community
coming out
Creative Commons License photo credit: loop_oh

Being small is generally seen as a bad thing. We want to be bigger, we want to have as many members as possible. But if you are small, while you are small, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are provided with a laser sharp focus on what really matters.

When you only have 3, 5, 10, 15 regularly active members, you have a great opportunity to make sure that they are enjoying the community, that they are appreciated and to see if there is anything that you can do from them. You have the time to do so because they are truly all that you have.

That is how communities grow. 1 by 1. For some it is faster than others, but it is always 1 by 1 and the members that you have now form the foundation for future growth.

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The Two Things You Need to Do to Convert More Lurkers on Your Community

Posted by Patrick on September 24th, 2012 in Community Cultivation, Promoting Your Community
flat cat
Creative Commons License photo credit: dotpolka

Back in July, when I asked what you’d like me to write about, Ben asked about lurkers. Specifically, how to convert lurkers to active contributors without changing the forum platform in use.

In Ben’s case, his forum is for a browser based game. 50% of the people who play the game have a forum account and 2% of those members are active on a daily basis. Are those numbers poor? It depends. But, not necessarily. Lurkers will represent a large percentage, usually a big majority, of the traffic for most publicly viewable, successful online communities. Still, it never hurts to consider how you can improve.

Lurkers are a common concern for community managers and a persistent topic when it comes to growing an online community. When it comes to converting lurkers, there are two big areas that you should focus on.

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Secure Your Community’s Brand (Username) on Third Party Platforms

Posted by Patrick on April 5th, 2012 in Promoting Your Community
Leader lock
Creative Commons License photo credit: Joybot

Your community is a brand. And it’s a brand worth protecting on third party communities and social platforms, especially the ones that you may one day engage in.

In other words, secure your username. I run What is the ideal username, on a platform I don’t control, for karateforums. If that isn’t available, then I have to settle for a much, much weaker second one. Try to be consistent on your fallback username.

No matter how great your fall back, people will always first guess that the ideal one is what you have. This impacts you when you go out to build outposts and community outside of your site. On Twitter, for example, they might guess that you are @karateforums, for example. It creates more work (and more missed opportunities) for you if you don’t have it.

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