- Jul 15, 2019
- by Alex Ali
As a website owner, it’s likely that you’re always looking for ways to boost engagement. There are many ways you can do this, such as by creating great content, being active on social media, and collecting a thriving email list. One technique you may not have tried, however, is starting an online forum.
If managed correctly, forums can skyrocket engagement figures. A high-quality forum can make your website a destination for your audience, improve your brand authority, and increase retention across your community. Plus, it encourages visitors to interact directly with each other and with you.
In this article, we’ll discuss the attraction of forums and their history. Then we’ll talk about why a forum may be useful to your marketing efforts, introduce XenForo, and offer some tips on how to get started with it. Let’s get to work!
A Brief History of Forums and Their Attraction
A forum is a type of message board where users interact via posts and replies. Forums can act as centralized locations for discussions dedicated to any number of different topics, and are a great way for like-minded people to interact:
Forums can be traced back to the early days of the internet. KOM was the first Bulletin Board System (BBS), and was in use as early as 1979. The first software dedicated to forum protocol, however, came out in 1994.
Some consider forums an early form of social media, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been replaced. Big Boards, for example, has a listing of thousands of online forums, some of them with membership counts of over one million. In other words, forums are still a popular method for communicating online.
Why a Forum May be Useful to Your Marketing Efforts
A forum can be a smart addition to your online presence. Not only can it be a source of quality content, it can also help to build a community around your brand:
A forum brings your audience together in a centralized location (such as the NerdFitness forum above), and can make your site a destination for discussions related to your business, niche, and/or industry. This can improve your brand authority, and also attract both those who are knowledgeable about topics related to your business and those looking to learn more.
What’s more, a forum is a great way to answer visitors’ questions about your website or other online content. When an audience member has a question about one of your blog posts or products, they’ll know exactly where they can go to ask it. If the question is a common one, this can save you a lot of time, since you can reply once rather than answering a bunch of individual messages.
Finally, an active forum can be an incredible tool for market research. On your forum you can learn a lot about your target audience, their interests, and their motivations. This is a great place to start when building a target audience profile, or looking for ways to expand your business.
An Introduction to the XenForo Forum Tool
There are a lot of tools out there for starting your own forum, including some free open-source options. If you’re looking for quality features such as social media integration and built-in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), however, you may want to consider a tool like XenForo:
XenForo has a style property editor to help you customize your forum’s appearance. It also includes systems for users to earn ‘trophies’ and leave ‘likes’. In addition, it has built-in SEO functionality in the form of human-readable URLs and embedded microdata.
If any of these features appeal to you, XenForo may be a smart option for your forum. The software itself costs $160. There are also extra licenses you can buy, enabling you to add options such as a media gallery and a resource manager, which range from $50 to $65. If your budget allows, you can even get a license to remove the XenForo branding from your forum for $300.
How to Get Started With XenForo (In 4 Steps)
XenForo has a lot to offer if you’re looking to create a quality forum. To get started, all you need to do is follow these four steps.
Step 1: Download and Install XenForo
To get started with XenForo, you’ll first need to download the software. Click on the Buy tab at the top of the XenForo website, and you’ll see a screen like this one:
Fill in your personal information, and then select the Checkout Now button at the bottom of the screen. This will lead you to another screen where you can enter your payment information and begin the download.
Step 2: Familiarize Yourself With the Dashboard
Now that XenForo is installed, you can begin to set up your forum. When you open the program, you’ll see your main dashboard:
From there, you can manage your admin account and create new posts:
If you click on the Members tab, for example, it will take you to a listing of staff members. This is where you can add new members to help you manage your forum.
Step 3: Add Content to Your Forum
Once you’ve set up your members, you can create some initial posts. Offering some engaging content is key, especially when you are just starting out with a brand-new forum. You want to provide some posts that will attract new members and get people involved in the community’s growth:
People are often reluctant to post in a forum that is empty, so this is a great way to get the ball rolling. Good starter content might include a description of the forum’s rules, a thread for new members to introduce themselves, and some questions or polls to start conversations.
Step 4: Customize Your Forum
After you’ve added some content, you can move on to customizing your forum’s appearance. It’s important to build a forum that is unique, and matches your site’s branding.
Click on the Resources tab, and you’ll find a list of add-ons:
XenForo has a large community of developers making add-ons of all kinds, which enable you to tweak the way your forum looks and works. With a little searching, you should be able to find the tools you’ll need to get your forum looking just right.
A forum can add quality content to your site, create a strong sense of community, and even assist with market research. If you’re building a brand-new forum, XenForo is an excellent solution, offering a vast array of add-ons and important features like SEO optimization and an intuitive ‘like’ system.
To get started with XenForo, just follow these four steps:
- Download and install the software.
- Familiarize yourself with the dashboard.
- Add content to your forum.
- Customize your forum.
Image credit: Jopwell.