If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone who’s starting a new blog it would be to create a community for their readers. I suppose community is one of those phrases that can be confusing when looked at in the context of the internet but it’s actually quite simple, it’s one of the biggest differences between a blog that attracts visitors and earns money and one that remains static.
I would have to say that the No1 way to create community is a forum. I know that most people see the social aspect of blogs in the form of comments on posts but while comments can be fun they don’t really allow people to have their own input in my opinion. You see with a forum people can start topics on whatever’s happening that day or just what’s on their mind, whereas on a blog post people are really only allowed to talk about the topic.
There is a problem with starting a forum on new blog though and its mainly volume, there’s nothing worse than going to a message board and finding only 3 posts by the admin, you know straight away its dead. The only answer is to start posting regularly on the board yourself and trying to interact with every new poster in detail, the easiest way to impress people is to give them detailed answers to their questions, as that’s what most forums are about.
There’s actually a number of services now that will post on your forum for you believe it or not! For basic content you could try amazons mechanical turk where you can get people to post for just a few cents each time, don’t expect the quality to be stellar though! Another way is to offer a prize for the first person to get to a 100 quality posts, or even make them a moderator – people on the net are power crazy
Having a niche aspect to your forum is another way to get a dedicated audience. For example one webmaster forum I visit has a section for “seo case studies” and it’s incredibly popular, people love to talk and comment on different studies and what’s working. It’s often these little specialist sub-forums that become the heart and soul of the community. Remember what your trying to create is something unique that people can’t get elsewhere, it’s what gets people talking about you.
Another way to get people to hang around on your board is to promise information/news there that won’t be on your main blog. People always want to be the first with anything new and if you’re a blog that regularly breaks exciting news then the promise that some things will hit the forum first is a big motivator to sign up.
I still haven’t mentioned though how much a successful forum can benefit your site and I suppose that’s what it’s all about. The fact is no-one can spread the word about your blog and what you’re doing like a few thousand users, especially now that google is counting social media signals like twitter re-tweets and facebook likes as signs of popularity, having a small army of fans out on the web is a sure path to both popularity and hopefully money.