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On some sites, blogs and forums seem to go hand in hand. For example, this site manages to have both a very active blog, complete with active coments, and a very active forum. Other well-known blogs, such as Smashing Magazine, also manage to pull it off as well.
But is a forum right for you blog and what should you expect if you open one? I sat down with Patrick O’Keefe, the owner of the iFroggy network of sites and the author of the book Managing Online Forums to ask him what he thought bloggers should know before considering a forum.
As he points out, forums are not right for all blogs, probably not even most, but for some it could be a very valuable resource and a great way to add a new community element to their site.
Why Have a Forum?
The first question most bloggers need to answer is why they want a forum in the first place. Blogs, by their very nature, act very similar to a traditional forum, only the blogger is the conversation started for each topic.
However, for some sites, that may not be enough. Often times, comments tend to go off topic or introduce new stories that the blogger(s) can’t cover on the main site. This can create a problem for other commenters and can cause the conversation to go astray. However, a forum may be able to fix that.
“On a blog, a blogger or a team of bloggers tend to control the topics introduced – a forum would allow those people who want to discuss other issues a place where they can start their own topics,” Patrick said.
In short, a forum is an ideal place for visitors to talk about the issues that are related to your site, but aren’t or can’t be discussed on the blog itself. It lets commenters, who would otherwise be forced to go off-track with their replies, have a place to put their thoughts while keeping the flow of the site clean.
However, not every site has that problem, including many with very high traffic. Some, by design or by nature, are more one-way. As such, it is important to look beyond the reasons for having a forum and see if it might actually work.
Would a Forum Work?
The ugly truth is that most forums are started and then go nowhere. Very few community sites grown to become very active in any way and most shut down after making barely a blip on the radar.
When determining whether a forum could work on your site, the best indication is the comments section and how much people are participating now. However, according to Patrick, “If you have traffic that you feel could support a forum and you are committed to the idea of one, it’s worth considering. You could always poll your readers to ask them if they’d participate, as well.”
In short, the best way to ask if a forum might do well on your site is to simply ask your readers if it is something they would be interested in and, if there is enough of them to keep the community alive, it is likely a good idea. That is, so long as you’re willing to invest the needed work into it.
What is Required?
Unfortunately, a forum can be a major headache. As anyone who has been a moderator or administrator on a busy forum knows that it involves constant vigilance and, at times, a firm hand. In addition to trolls and spammers, which are a part of blogging life now, one also has to deal with the personal interactions between members, managing a new application and creating a whole new set of rules and regulations.
According to Patrick, “A forum is a committment and a responsibility. Too many people just throw a forum online and then leave it. You just can’t do that. It takes time to manage – from setting up to enforcing policies, to posting (if appropriate) and dealing with trouble makers, it is something that becomes a part of your life. It doesn’t have to take up hours a day, but generally speaking, you’ll probably want to visit on most days.”
Because of this, a forum is not something you should add lightly to your site. It is a major addition that has the potential to be both a big draw and a compete nightmare.
What if the Forum Doesn’t Take Off?
Sometimes, even with the best efforts and most positive signs, a forum on a site may not take off. If that happens, there may be a few things you can do to help jump start it. According to Patrick, they include the following:
- Increase your own participation, post items there for discussion and respond to whatever is posted when appropriate.
- Tightly integrate your forum with your blog, make it feel that it is one site, not two separate ones.
- Use discussions from your forum as starting points for blog entries, see Darren Rowse’s Digital Photography School for an example.
However, if these things fail to generate any serious interest in the forum, there is a chance it wasn’t meant to be and it could be time to pull the plug. Having an empty and abandoned forum is dangerous for many reasons, the biggest being that they become targets for spammers, especially when they are on the same domain as a popular site.
If the end, if you’re considering a forum for your site, you have a lot to think about. A forum can bring a new dimension to your community element but it brings with it a lot of work and it is not right for every blog.
If you think it’s right for you, definitely consider giving it a go. It’s a great way to make your site “sticky”, increase pageviews and build a more loyal readership.
There are risks that come with running a forum but, if you’re smart about how you go about it and your site is a good candidate, the risks almost certainly outweigh the rewards.
Do You Need to Respond to ALL Comments?
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One mistake holds back many bloggers who fail to scale. These folks obsess over responding to every single comment, every email, every message. Why? Pride. Obsession. Attachment to people. Fear of missing out on an opportunity. Fear of missing out on friendships.
Unfortunately, if you spend 14 hours daily responding to every single social request and chat and email and blog comment and message – even if it feels fun – you lose opportunities to scale through blog posts, guest posts, podcasts and doing interviews.
Please; if responding to virtually everything feels fun, do it. But 99% of bloggers BS themselves on this because they respond to EVERYONE from an energy of fear, pain, lack, resistance, force and hustle. Bad idea guys. Force negates. But, power attracts. Meaning if you are willing to use power, and love, and fun, to inject into your work, you quickly see: the cornerstone of massive scaling and persistent growth and freeing blogging success is writing, publishing and placing blog posts and guest posts.
Today, how do I have most fun growing my business, reaching more people, helping more people, and leveraging my blogging presence? Do I achieve these feats by spending 3 hours responding individually to every retweet, Like, blog comment, and so on, and so on? Nope. I spend those 3 hours effectively and efficiently by writing and publishing 3-6 blog posts and guest posts. Blog posts and guest posts scale. Blog posts and guest posts help me reach hundreds to thousands of targeted folks through each blog post and guest post.
Blog posts and guest posts never seem to be written by people who complain about having no time to blog post, and, guest post. Meanwhile, a hefty chunk of these humans spend 1, 2 or 3 hours responding to every Like on Facebook, from a strained, forced energy, fearing they miss out on traffic and bonds, not having fun doing it. But the wise move would be spending 10 minutes responding to comments on Facebook and maybe a few Likes, then, devoting 2-3 hours to writing and publishing blog posts and guest posts.
Think Scale Not Small Time
WAY too many bloggers play small, giving most of their attention and energy to building 1 to 1 bonds. Making friends is important but meeting new friends is even more important.
One lesson I learned from millionaire bloggers: scaling through blog posts and guest posts is the quickest way to reach more people, make more money and increase your blog traffic. Building 1 to 1 bonds by engaging commentors plays a role in succeeding online, but the top bloggers on earth are not running around, spending endless hours responding to Likes on Facebook.
Titans also build one to one bonds through engagement, but if you are not getting 1000 page views a day, something is wrong in the scaling department. Namely, you are playing it small, not thinking about scaling. Scale. Guest post. Post to your blog. Make this the focus of your day. Then, feel free to engage folks 1 to 1 in a limited time frame.
You need to let go responding to every single person all day long to genuinely scale, to reach an increasing number of folks and to do what matters most to your business.
People will buy your stuff without you engaging them. Guaranteed. Folks will find your blog, love your content and buy your course or eBooks. This is a simple, organic process that you muck up every time you believe you need to respond to and engage every single person who reaches out via all online channels.
Should You Aim for Blog Post Quality or Quantity?
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The human mind is silly. It thinks one or the other. It thinks you cannot have it all. You can have blog post quality and quantity but you need to make a clear decision on what you define to be a quality blog post.
Quality posts do not mean 2000 to 4000 word, pillar style masterpieces. A quality blog post answers the question you asked via title or delivers on the promise you made on the title.
I do understand how Google ranks 2000 word or longer, SEO-optimized posts requiring hours of work for even skilled bloggers to write, package and publish. But Google also ranks 600 words posts. 600 word posts are quality posts. Guess what? For the 30,000 bloggers out there asking the title question, I just wrote a quality blog post because they get a clear, concise, dead on answer.
Avoid Scarcity Thinking
Any time you FEAR posts are not quality because word length is 600 words, you think scarcity, or, not enough, or, not quality. But fear is not true. Fear is illusion. I can write 10, 600 word, quality posts today to make a massive impact and to help people IF I think abundance. But if I only believe I write quality, helpful posts in the 2000 word range, I stopped thinking abundance and began thinking scarcity. I chose fear over love and abundance. Naturally, all bloggers who think scarcity either struggle, fail and quit or work like beasts just to make end’s meet. Not good.
Go for quantity and quality. Some posts may span 800 or 1000 words but you can answer most questions and solve most problems in 600 words if you have immense clarity. Seth Godin answers most questions in 100 to 300 words. You have so much more to work with. So…work with it!
Think abundance. Blog abundance.
I have referenced Gary Vee many times recently and his 2000 video interviews on YouTube. Before he landed world famous speaking gig he had a pure abundance mindset, doing videos left and right, offering quality insights on a high quantity of channels. Blogging fools would try desperately to land an interview on a TV show, pitching, fearing, worrying, striving, and wasting months of time, thinking scarcity. Gary thought abundance, seized every opportunity through interview requests from some entrepreneurs who registered zero views per video, gained massive exposure organically, and, the dude became famous through his abundance mindset.
He thought quality and quantity. He did not hold back.
I am beginning to gain massive exposure through the 5-10 guest posts and blog posts published under my name daily. I do not turn down a microphone. I also know the easiest way to become well known is to focus heavily on quantity and quality, to share the wealth.
Many bloggers would obsess over a quality post being 2000 words, SEO-optimized and all that jazz, spending 4 hours to write said post on blogging tips. Meanwhile, I just wrote and published 8 quality, 600 word posts during those hours. I am being seen helping people in 8 spots. While you are on the sidelines. Even if that SEO’ed out, 2000 word post gains massive traffic over the long term, via Google, I am gaining even more massive traffic, being in 8-10 places daily via my posts and guest posts.
Think exponential increase. Imagine my 10 guest posts building up over 365 days. That is 3,650 guest posts, 3,650 spots where I am spotted online. That is a lotta spots!
See why it pays to think quality and quantity?
How to Leave Your Blogging Struggles Behind
Exit your comfort zone on a daily basis.
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Leave blogging struggles behind.
I love blogging. Blogging feels fun, freeing and quite easy to me. But sometimes, on this journey, my feelings change a bit. Sometimes, blogging feels uncomfortable and I nudge into resistance. Fear rears its head. Mental blocks arise. Sometimes I fear running out of time or perhaps I fear wasting my time. In these moments, I have 2 choices: remain in my fear-filled comfort zone or leave my comfort zone.
I left most of my blogging struggles behind because I choose to leave my comfort zone on a regular basis. Traffic, profits, and all manner of sweet blogging success greet bloggers who feel their fears, leave their comfort zones and do the blogging task, anyway.
What Is Blogging Struggle?
Blogging struggle is doing things or not doing things based on fear. Fear drives you. You blog from a fear-based, scared energy. You avoid traffic and profit and success boosting activities because you fear the opportunities. Example; you struggle horribly to make money and drive blog traffic. I advise to begin generous, relaxed, enjoyable guest posting, to help you increase traffic and profits and success. The split second you THINK about guest posting, you feel a range of emotions, from excitement, to happiness, then, from terror, to anxiety, to a general fear of wasting your time.
If 2 people visit your blog daily and you see zero blogging profits now, and you say “no” to guest posting because of some fears, you will likely struggle horribly, because you avoided guest posting to stay in your comfort zone of fear.
Traffic and profits sit on the other side of fear, outside of your comfort zone. No way around that one. We all pay a fear tuition doing freeing, success-promoting, uncomfortable things. I remember when Zac invited me to guest post on Blogging Tips. Fear invaded my mind. Would he reject my posts? How about if he hated my posts? What if I wasted my time? Would I be able to follow all the rules? Would he criticize me? Of course Zac is the nicest, kindest, friendliest iconic blogger on earth. He REALLY is, guys. He is an exceptional human being. But fear is irrational, distorting the truths of love, harmony and abundance.
I had to feel all those scary, intense fears, and keep blogging anyway, to write and publish my first few guest posts here. 800 plus guest posts later, I am still going strong. Why? I left my comfort zone those first few times and instantly began leaving blogging struggles behind.
Exit your comfort zone every single day. Do something that scares you. Do something that tests your limits. Publish a 4 paragraph long comment on a top blog, even if you fear:
- nobody is listening
- nobody is reading comments
- nobody will click through to your blog
- you are wasting your time
- the comment won’t get published
This happened to me recently. I spent 15 minutes writing a 9 paragraph comment on Pro Blogger. But Disqus suffered some connection problems and prevented me from publishing the comment. I feared I wasted 15 minutes. But after feeling and releasing the emotion, I let it go, moved on, and devoted 10 minutes to writing and publishing the comment later in the day, when Disqus was working.
Struggles happen if you choose to blog mainly from fear.
Success happens when you nudge into these fears, toward your blogging fun, taking inspired but uncomfortable action on a daily basis.
Go for it!
Exit your comfort zone.
Leave your blogging struggles behind…for good.
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