When is the last time you became a member of a forum?

Your mind is drawing a blank – isn’t it? No worries, though, because forums aren’t exactly the hot ticket items as they used to be in the earlier days of the Web; this last decade has seen forums die off rapidly because of new platforms touting new technologies for communication.

However, who said they were dead?

Better question: who said they weren’t a viable form of community building and traffic generation?

In this guide, I’ll share how to rediscover forums and turn your forum accounts into some of your most prized possessions in your affiliate marketing campaigns.

The Old Web is back in the New

Forums have been around for ages and although they do not possess the same level of engagement as modern social networks – they’re still thriving and contain tight-knit communities. In fact, forum users are generally very active within the community because of the limitations imposed by forum software; there’s less fluff (on most occasions) and more discussion.

The best way to begin finding a forum in your niche is through Big-Boards; this website is a directory for forums.

Go on over to the site and input a few of your main keywords and sort through the lists. Pay attention to the number of posts and members because you’ll most likely want to get your start on one of the larger forums in your niche and then find your way into the smaller ones which gives you a tighter connection to the members.

Finding (Active) Forums within Your Niche

There are a few criteria to take into account when you’re finding a forum:

  • Active members
  • Number of posts
  • Categories (topics)
  • Profiles
  • Niche focus

Sure, you can jump on some of the massive forums that house millions of users but your message will most likely be lost in the chatter. Smaller forums provide a better opportunity to make your mark but they also have a greater chance of closing down due to inactivity.

Perhaps your best bet is to go somewhere in between – the middle – since the forum would be right at that moment before becoming too popular but still active enough to stay afloat.

Here are three in the world of affiliate marketing to give a go:

The last of these, Warrior Forum, is one you’ve most likely stumbled across and although it is often littered with overly promotional topics – it still has a wealth of information and keen marketers that definitely know their stuff.

The Basics of Forum Marketing

The short version: post and respond to interesting topics, fill out your profile, and be helpful.

The long version:

Content – Forums are all about discussions and sharing information. Most contain ‘general’ areas for any type of discussion and the rest will house specific categories. Furthermore, these main topics will often break down into smaller threads.  Generally, you’ll find just a handful that you’ll be active on but think of them as your “home”; this will be the areas where you build your expertise through the sharing and commenting of content. People will check out your profile, send you messages, show thanks, and get in touch if you have something good to say.

Tip: Treat your content creation, on the forum, like you would on your website. Go for the ‘big’ wins through detailed tutorials and interesting discussions than just a one or two sentence question.

Profiles – The profile, like what you’d make on social networks, is how you represent your brand (outside of what you say). There isn’t much you can place on most forum profiles but it’s enough to add in descriptions, links, and some additional information. Make the most of the space since its limited.  The other aspect will be your byline which can generally hold a link (this appears at the bottom of your posts).

Tip: Pay attention to who visits your profile and go back to theirs; kick up a conversation and see if it leads to a better networking experience.

Helpfulness – People dismiss forums far too readily because they are reminiscent to the older Web all-the-while placing their chips on a new social network that sprang up overnight. The problem, in this picture, is that forums are still around because it’s a different type of individual. Forum users aren’t really out there just to get more likes, shares, and comments – they’re there to help each other. If you get active on the forum – you should too. Dismiss going straight for promoting a product or traffic building and, instead, become an integral part of the community. Become known for being helpful. Your helpfulness will lead to a far richer experience on the forum and greater rewards when the visitors to your site, from the forum, participate in a deeper manner than the one-off visitor you gained through a random Twitter click through.

Tip: Go above and beyond for those you’ve built connections with on the forums. These individuals have already shown their merit through their activity on the forum; teaming with them can lead to many great opportunities in cross promotion and joint partnership on new projects. Plus, they’re going to promote your brand harder than any other follower which means good traffic.

The Traffic Element

The traffic will come.

Forums require a bit of dedication compared to other social networks as it takes time to establish your presence in the community, in comparison to just blanketing your message on many other networks, but it will be worth your while because the connections and relationships you form on the medium will be very powerful for the long-run.

Combine your willingness to share information, linking to your website in your byline, filling out the profile, and being a very helpful person, on the forum of your choice, and you’ll create a traffic source that will go beyond your expectations especially on the conversion side of things.

Do you still use forums?