Monthly Archives: May 2004

Forums – why you might want one and how to get one

Several people have asked me about setting up a forum on their website recently, so I thought it might be helpful to cover this topic for the benefit of all my subscribers.

But before I explain how to set up a forum, let me cover some of the reasons as to why you might want a forum in the first place…

For those that don’t know, a forum is simply a web page which allows visitors to interact with each other by leaving messages and responding to messages made by other users. 

Ok, so why might you want to put a forum on your website?

1.  A forum helps to build a sense of community.  People, by their very nature, like to be a part of something and if your website makes them feel like this, then they will come back time and time again and of course, the more times someone comes back, the more chance there is that they might buy something from you 🙂

2.  It can save you time.  I get emails everyday asking for advice on many different aspects of running a business and I simply don’t have time to answer them all.  If I am a bit pushed for time, I often direct the sender of the email to my forum since I know that their question has either been answered before or because I know that another member may be able to help them.

3.  A good forum can get your customers/subscribers to love you!  Ok, maybe that is a slight exaggeration BUT if your customers are able to ask questions, get help, build relationships with other people with similar interests and even advertise their own businesses on your forum, it won’t do you any harm especially if you offer all of this for free.

4.  Free search engine traffic.   Search engines love regularly updated websites with relevant content.  If you have an active forum with a specific topic of discussion, then you may well find that your forum postings are soon appearing in the free search engine results on Google and other popular engines. 

5.  An excellent source of new ideas.  Forums are a superb resource when you are trying to think of new ideas for products to sell or create or new services to provide.  They also give members the opportunity to brainstorm their own ideas with other, like-minded individuals.  I have personally obtained numerous ideas for newsletters and other articles from posts made within my forum.

6.  Forums can earn you (and your fellow members) money!  Forums are like any other web page in that you can advertise products that may be relevant to your visitors, such as your own products or services or those that you are affiliated with.  In addition, if you wish, you can allow your members to advertise their products and services either by way of a ‘signature file’ at the bottom of each post they make or within a specific forum board provided for the purpose of advertising. 

7.  Finally, owning or participating in a forum is FUN 🙂  Discussing and debating the topics that are close to your heart with other people that share the same interest is fun and it is amazing how you can pick up on an individual’s personality simply by the messages that they write.  In the impersonal world of the Internet, forums are an excellent way to get some ‘real’ human contact.

So how do you install a forum on your site?

There are countless scripts available that you can simply install on your web hosting server and that will set up and run a forum for you.  All have step by step instructions and the scripts are often available free of charge (you can usually upgrade to a more advanced version if you pay a license fee).  I will detail a few useful links in a moment.

However, if you are not comfortable installing scripts or would just prefer to take the easy option, then you should consider buying an ‘all-in-one’ hosting and forum package.  I recently moved my own forum to such a package and I have no hesitation in recommending this option.

I use a forum software script called Invision Power Board and I have my forum hosted with Invision.  They dealt with the installation and set up and also deal with any technical issues or problems that may arise at any time. 

Invision offer a range of hosting packages and prices start from just $10 per month all in.  Further details about the Invision range of products from: http://www.invisionboard.com.  If you prefer to host your Invision Board on your existing hosting, they do offer a free download of the forum script so you can set your forum up for nothing.

As I say, there are numerous forum scripts available but here are a few of the more popular ones that you may like to consider:

phpBB – completely free to use
WebBBS – one-time registration fee
vBulletin – no free trial but a very popular forum script

Think outside the box

I know that the vast majority of you are reading this newsletter because you are interested in earning an income online.  Because of this interest and because of the amount of time that many of us spend on the Internet and playing with computers, it stands to reason that, over time, we will build up a greater knowledge of computing than the ‘average’ home user.

It occurred to me some time ago that this knowledge could be put to good use by offering to repair/troubleshoot other people’s computer problems or provide basic training on how to use their computers and the Internet.  However, because of the fact that I am kept very busy with my own existing business, I have never had the time to put my theory into practice.

That is, until this week…

I shared my idea with a friend that was looking for a bit of extra income.  This is a friend that has a reasonable knowledge of computers gained from his own experience over the past couple of years.  He has certainly never worked in any form of IT.

I convinced my friend to put a few adverts around our local area (in shop windows etc) offering exactly the service that I have described above.  I have to say that advertising in shop windows is not exactly what I would call an aggressive advertising strategy BUT within a couple of days, he had picked up no less than five jobs!

Each of these ‘jobs’ were fairly straightforward (virus removal/re-installation of Windows etc) and he was able to charge an hourly rate of £30/$55 which isn’t bad going.

Of course, now he sees the potential, my friend is going to step up the advertising campaign.

Sometimes it pays to think outside of the box – it is very easy to focus on achieving that one goal of owning an Internet business BUT there are often other excellent ways of utilizing the knowledge/skills that you are gaining that you might be overlooking completely.  Remember to think ‘offline’ as well as ‘online’…