Just my two cents --
There are certainly exceptions, but in general a successful forum is more likely to be a labor of love than a money-making proposition. It used to be the only way to create enough community stickiness to keep visitors coming back to a site, but there are many other ways to do that now, and I'd think a forum would be more labor intensive than other options (and, as you said, other options are easier to SEO). If you're thinking of a forum as simply part of your business, you might do better with a blog - and perhaps a way to let visitors have their own blogs, which would add stickiness without taking away the search potential. Unless the joy of bringing people together to learn and share is at least one of your goals in starting a forum, you're most likely going to be disappointed in the results.
Thanks Beagle, that's exactly the sort of perspective I was looking for.
Beagle pretty much hit the nail on the head with his post. My forum is fairly successful considering it only targets Southern California people who ride mountain bikes, but I definitely wouldn't be able to quit my 'real' job. It's a labor of love for me. I love the community, the friends it has brought me, and the feeling of satisfaction knowing I've had an impact on people.
In the future maybe I might be able to sell ad space to local shops for a good price. But I'm not really counting on it.
It's a gold mine of article topics. Users will come up with angles on your topic that you never thought of. I promote the good ones to articles on the site, with the specifics relevant to the original questions edited or generalized away.
You can do that with email too though.
|It's a gold mine of article topics. |
Absolutely. I've been archiving some early evergreen topics from our forum to our website and to the joy of our members I've also topicised to the site old posts from our previous life as a mailing list - before forums came on the scene. These posts are recollections of what went before in the area where we grew up. For me it's a labour of love in retirement and a better way to recouperate hosting costs.
I'll add my voice to the chorus - forums started with the purpose of making money are rarely successful, because the front end requires too much labor. The forums that are successful financially now probably took at least a few years to produce any kind of return on the time invested. There are faster and easier ways to make money.
Although forums don't generally earn a ton of money I have two forums, one has about 70,000 members and brings be about $40k a month, the other 120,000 members and only brings in about $1k a month. It all depends on the topic and what type of advertisers are out there.
My first post!
The value of a forum comes from the topics you choose to create your forum on.
I have two very successful forums that make good money - no where near 40K per month! but hopefully I will get there.
I believe that user generated content is very valuable and always will be as people like to read others opinions and banter especially at work ;)