Specialty forums are closely related to membership sites, but there are a few points that I wanted to make specifically about forums and decided to make it a separate posting.
You have two choices with specialty forums. You can run them as a stand-alone offering, or you can include them as part of a membership site using the same delivery system.
I have recently participated in two different types of specialty forums – both for authors. One was a networking forum that was used by the majority of the members to exchange reviews for their books. The second one was for authors to share ideas, challenges, frustrations, and successes. I was an infrequent participant in the first example; and extremely active in the second because it was more stimulating and value-added than the first one.
Adding a forum to a membership site that teaches a specialized skill or a technical function can be useful for three reasons.
- It builds a sense of community among people who share a common interest and enjoy discussing the subject.
- It also creates a peer support group in which members help each other. This is particularly valuable for members who are new to the field. For the novice participants, getting assistance from more experienced and skilled members can be invaluable. It also gives the experienced members an opportunity to refine their skills by teaching.
- The best news of all is that peer support within the group will save you a lot of time and many support headaches.
The secret to success with both forums and membership sites is to establish a recognizable, high-functioning entity that is an easily accessible source of learning and provides timely, ongoing support.
An important element that should not be overlooked is “branding” your forum or membership site with a great name, a memorable logo, and appealing colors.
Yes, colors do make a difference. An article on the Think Brilliant Website, notes “Colors possess the power to move and sway human behavior and emotion, and when properly used can be a vital tool in a successful marketing strategy.” Click here to read the full article.
Rewarding members for their loyalty and long-term status is an excellent way of nurturing those important relationships. One popular method is a ranking system such as: Novice, Knight, and Hero. As members become a Knight and later a Hero, their photos could be posted on special Web pages for that purpose. They could also be awarded other perks such as a free hour of private one-on-one coaching from you, “The Master.”
One membership site of which I am a member recently sent t-shirts with the company logo to everyone who had developed an income stream (no matter how small) as a result of what we had learned through the site. Many great stories were shared, there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie . . . and it was fun, something I will remember for a long time.
As with membership sites, you have a number of choices for a forum delivery system – including membership site software that has the ability to add a forum.
However, if you are thinking about creating a stand-alone forum, Simplemachines Forum would be a good option. It is a “free, professional grade software package that allows you to set up your own online community within minutes.”
There are other free delivery systems available, but most of them are missing a key element that Simple Machines Forum offers – outstanding support. The system is easy to install on any server as long as your web host supports PHP and MySQL.
As a side note . . . Private Facebook groups are now a hot item and serve some of the same functions as a forum. Membership in the private group is by invitation only and is usually included as part of the package when you buy a pricey training course.
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