So, congratulations! Now you have a bona-fide forum. You’ve birthed it, nurtured it from its infancy, and now it’s active and thriving. Problem is, you also have bills. So when does the cash start rolling in? No problem, just put up some ads! It must work, because lots of forums do it, right? Well, just like creating the forum in the first place, monetizing it is not quite so easy. Forums are inherently really difficult to monetize, and here are the A-B-Cs of why I do not recommend using advertisements to do so.
People visiting your forum are absolutely not there to buy. That’s what Amazon and other dot-coms are for, and by now in the historical timeline since the creation of the internet, people know where to go if they need to shop. A forum is most likely not one of those places (unless they’ve joined some kind of underground secret shopper society). So, you can’t put offers in their faces all the time because they’ll actually get turned off from your forum. If they’re turned off, they won’t come back, and poof! there goes a valued member of your community that you lost because the flashing ads left a bad taste in their mouth. And chances are, if something tastes yucky, they won’t want to eat it again.
“Buy now!” “Half off!” “Buy one get one free!” “Beautiful singles waiting for you!” Are you cringing yet? Exactly.
People, particularly those who spend a lot of time on the internet, ironically have very limited attention spans. If someone is on your site and happens to see an advertisement that maybe does not make them cringe and attracts their attention in a positive way, and they click on it, what happens? They’re leaving your forum! (Now smack yourself on the head and wonder why you hadn’t thought of that before.) Obviously, you didn’t put all of your blood, sweat, tears, and finger cramps into making and building your forum just to have your members stolen away by the buy-one-get-one-free whatever-it-is. Once a consumer’s attention is diverted, they may not even remember why they were at your forum in the first place.
So game over, right? Nope. What I think is a really interesting monetizing strategy that more forum admins should be utilizing is premium Facebook groups. You just create a group for free and turn it into an exclusive community. The members can share information that they don’t necessarily want the entire forum and anyone who might stumble upon it to see. It’s a status thing. People like status. Being part of a group that not everyone is allowed into makes people feel like they’re special and valued. And of course they are, if they’re Paypal-ing you $20 a head to be a part of this exclusive tight-knit community. So you gather members from your forum and tell them hey, this giant forum is open to everyone, but this little gem of a private Facebook page and all the perks that come with it can be yours for only $20. I know what you’re thinking. Twenty dollars is nothing. It won’t even pay for my internet. Well, think of it this way. If you can gather 100 members from your growing forum and invite them personally to your premium Facebook page, and they accept, that’s $2000. That’ll pay the internet for what, two years? Then, even better, you get these wonderful premium Facebook members on an automatic subscription to the group. Just twenty bucks a year, but then it’s automatically renewed for another twenty the following year. They’ll be in it for years and years to come, and the money will keep rolling in for you – so much more than you could ever get from advertisements.