Journal Starting a Forum (This One!)

Discussion in 'Case Studies and Journals' started by cardine, Dec 10, 2015.

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  1. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Starting a popular self sustaining forum is (in my opinion) one of the more challenging things you can do - nobody wants to join an empty forum, but a forum will stay empty until people join!

    With that being said I've started and ran one moderately sized forum in the past. The key to that forum was that it was attached to a very heavily visited website, so there was always an influx of people coming in. This forum has the goal of existing as its own self sustaining entity which is both a little challenging and a little exciting.

    At least at the beginning here are some of the plans to help make this something big:

    1. Continually Post High Quality Content
    People go where high quality content is, and I'd like to think that I have quite a bit of knowledge that I can share. So I'll be making it my mission to every single day be posting something that I think is both pretty awesome and pretty useful. Similarly be very responsive to all other posts by all other users and encouraging others to do the same.

    2. Get a Small Group of High Quality Members Who Also Have High Quality Content to Share
    This will mostly come from all of the different people that I know on Skype. As we start I'll be getting some of them onboard and get them to share some useful things of their own to get the ball rolling.

    3. Email all Existing Customers in Relevant Industries
    Between the two products I own (WordAi and Microsite Masters) there are nearly 100,000 people who are either creating a business or involved with making money with online businesses. A lot of them will be very interested in a discussion like this as they look to increase their presence online and grow their short term revenue into a long term business.

    4. Incentivize Users to Post
    This will happen a lot more next week, but at least to get the ball rolling you need to give people extra reasons to post, whether it is free products, access to exclusive information, or even contests that offer money as a prize. It would be nice if people posted just because they want to be a part of an awesome community, and eventually that will be the case. But at the beginning a little extra something goes a long way!

    5. Compiling High Quality Content as Digests
    In the past I've emailed all of my business and SEO userbases with high quality blog posts in the marketing, business, and SEO niches (usually ending up on Microsite Masters blog). I'll continue to do the same thing, but have the location of those high quality posts be on Apex Forum, so that people will continue to funnel here.

    6. Be Very Responsive to Feedback
    For forums especially it is very important to be in tune with the community, their wants, needs and culture. I've been a part of a million forums and I've seen in some way shape or form mutinies occur where a belligerent user isn't dealt with properly, an unpopular decision is made, or a culture clash exists between the old guard and new users. It's something that's very important to be directly involved with where users are directly being listened to as Apex Forum evolves.

    I'll be posting back here multiple times a week as I highlight what I've done today to help grow Apex Forum and to see if I'm keeping true to everything I've laid out above! :)

     
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  2. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Update #1

    This is my first update so far, and I only have positive things to report so far. I've only shared this forum in one place and there are already people here posting very high quality posts and discussions and I've been working hard to write plenty of content myself with much more coming in the upcoming days/weeks/months. Even if I didn't heavily promote this forum I believe that I have enough things to post of my own that it would start to get its own following simply as people joining to follow all of the posts that I'll be making.

    With that being said, tomorrow I plan on starting the very first "real" promotions, which I'm expecting will lead to a very nice influx of activity and posts. It will consist of not just emailing and marketing to people, but running some pretty awesome contests at the beginning which I think will really strongly incentivize people to sign up and become active users very quickly.

    So even though there is not too much to report on yet, I think I'm still right on track with all six points from my original post.
     
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  3. John Hernandez

    John Hernandez Member

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    That email regarding a free year of WordAI promotion should do the trick. Lol.
     
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  4. evgenktulu

    evgenktulu New Member

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    At least such an email regarding free Microsite Masters account did.
     
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  5. bodger

    bodger New Member

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    Hey Cardine,

    I joined as a result of an email from Word AI. However, what actually enticed me to take a look was that I haven't really seen a place like this that solely focuses on online marketing. This case studies forum should be particularly good and I have one of my own to post soon about Fiverr.

    One thing I do think that would help potential users is a description of the forum. The design looks great but there's nothing with a general description of what the forum is or does. It'd also be great for SEO.
     
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  6. hunch

    hunch Member

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    I'm not gonna lie, you couldn't have picked a better time to start this type of forum based on what happened at our old favorite hangout. But timing isn't enough, your reputation in this industry is what will ultimately make this work, in my opinion.
     
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  7. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Update #2

    Yesterday was what I would call the official "launch" of Apex Forum and it went as well as I could hope. People are responding very well, both to the promotions we are running, and to the concept of the forum itself. It's a great feeling, and I'm more excited now than ever. Thank you everyone for the feedback :)

    Now that we've got a nice initial surge of users one of the most challenging things I'll now be focusing on is making sure that the signal to noise ratio remains good. A lot of people have talked to me about this, saying that they like the discussions so far, but also that they want to make sure that shit posting doesn't become an issue. I'll be spending a lot of time both moderating content, and also working on additional incentives so that people feel compelled to write content that is high quality.

    Besides the moderating, I'll also continue marketing Apex Forum, writing high quality content myself, and just in general being as responsive as possible.
     
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  8. Brad

    Brad Active Member

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    Curious question... why did you choose a forum and not a facebook group?
     
  9. hunch

    hunch Member

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    I certainly can't speak for Alex, but I can't see why it would make sense to build a long term community that you own and control on someone else's platform. Especially considering how often Facebook likes to change their rules.
     
  10. Brad

    Brad Active Member

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    Ownership has it rewards, but the amount of traffic on FB is insane. Im not a social media kind of guy... take it or leave it, but it would appear that everyone is on there and can easily chat with other industry insiders.
     
  11. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Hunch basically has it spot on. I think that I have the ability to generate enough traffic to this forum where FB is not required, and ownership of the platform is something that is very powerful. I also like the idea of it being its own stand-alone brand, people will eventually start to think of "Apex Forum" as its own brand while a Facebook group will never be able to evolve past that.

    With that being said I agree that social is becoming a far more important component to forums. Every thread has social sharing buttons - hopefully content will be good enough on this forum that people will share some of the better case studies on Twitter/Facebook by themselves.
     
  12. dzianis

    dzianis Moderator Staff Member

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    Since you are open to feedback, let me just throw this in - transparency is huge in contests. At least some transparency to let people know they're being treated well :) E.g. one of your contests gives WordAI subscription to authors of most liked posts daily and it was started yesterday - you could announce who won the free plan and what the post was every day. That'd probably motivate people even more.
     
  13. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    I agree completely - you were a couple hours ahead of me! Here is our newly created "Announcements, Rules, and Contests" section with the results for the first day of both contests :)
     
  14. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Update #3

    As mentioned in Update #2, now that Apex Forum is on the map and in front of a lot of people, one of the biggest challenges moving forward is quality control and making sure that there is high quality content in each section and that they aren't drowned out by noise.

    Here are the things being done to lower the noise:
    1. @dzianis has been made a moderator, and I know he is going to do an awesome job helping clean things up (especially during the hours where @megodon and I are sleeping).
    2. A newbie section has been created where all threads that are both "not spam" but "not adding any new insight" are getting put. Articles that are getting moved there are things like "how to find the right niche" or "good onpage tips" that share information that is useful, but geared more towards people who have never made a website before. Content will continue to be moved into that section, and hopefully users will start to recognize when content is better in the Newbie section versus in the main section.
    And here are the things being done to increase the signal:
    1. I am starting a couple case studies of my own (in addition to this one). I just posted the beginning of the first case study and there will be several more to come soon.
    2. I am preparing the next round of promotional emails that will go out next week. These will be worded in a different way and offer a slightly different value proposition that should help attract high quality posts.
    All in all, this has been a very exciting first week!
     
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  15. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Update #4

    Since the last update there has been a very positive shift in signal to noise with much higher quality topics being discussed with very little low quality "filler" content. I think moving things to the newly created "Newbie Section" helped a lot. Depending on how quality remains from here on out we might keep that section to allow for newbie questions, or just delete it entirely and allow users to post newbie questions in any section but with the "Newbie Question" prefix.

    But all in all I feel very good about that, we have a lot of very high quality case studies and journals going on as well as good discussions in each of the other sections.

    Something we are now starting to focus on a little bit is social media. In the past I've been less involved with marketing products on social media than I would like, but I think that Apex Forum is exactly the type of thing that would benefit from that. We are currently working on building up both a Facebook and Twitter following. I've mentioned sending out high quality digests highlighting the best posts and case studies, and I think doing that through social media is a great way of promoting Apex Forum and keeping it relevant. We are starting organically for now, but after Christmas I will also be working on doing both sponsored Tweets and Facebook Ads as well.

    Besides that I sent out another follow up email to WordAi users - the first email was sent when there were literally only a handful of posts so I wanted to follow up with everyone now that people could see all of the activity that has arisen from the last week. I'll also do a couple more once the holiday season is over so that we reach everyone who has already checked out for the holidays.
     
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  16. babuni

    babuni Member

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    I also got an email as an affiliate of wordai. Certainly, I have been here trying to get a free account of wordai... but now I an bit in love with apex. (shhh hey Cardine do you listen,lol) ;) I got some ideas and tips from members shares.
     
  17. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    That was the strategy with those emails. Get people to come (and want to post great content) for the free accounts, and then stay when they see all of the content that has been shared.

    And you managed to win something yourself :)
     
  18. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Update #4.5

    I am posting this as a half update as things were relatively quiet this week on my part with the holidays and new year approaching. A lot of really awesome case studies were started as well as a lot of very high quality discussions.

    I've been talking to a lot of people privately to encourage them to create accounts and post case studies, as well as being more active on social media with the help of @megodon. We've so far been focusing just on the awesome contests we have going on, but are going to start shifting more towards digests highlighting the high quality content that is being posted. We'll also be starting next week with paid ads on Facebook and Twitter.

    Lastly we have a couple more case studies up our sleeves that we'll be starting in the next couple of weeks.

    Although Apex Forum is very young it was a great 2015, and I'm incredibly excited for what 2016 is going to bring!
     
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  19. JamesAtlas

    JamesAtlas Active Member

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    I really hope you succeed Cardine, I'm hoping this forum will replace WF. I've already seen a few of the members here. I'll try to make a post a day. With an active owner and the right mods, I think you have a good chance at getting this place off the ground. :D
     
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  20. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks! :)

    I know I will continue to be active, and doing everything I can to help grow Apex Forum and the best thing anyone reading this can do to help grow this community is to do the same - that and tell all of your friends!