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Viral Marketing and Forum Health

If you’ve been around the world of online communities for any amount of time, then it is very likely that you have heard the term viral marketing.

This single element of a community can be the biggest money maker, marketing tool, and growth factor for any type of forum. Viral marketing can surpass any other marketing effort you have ever used or considered using. Best of all, it often won’t cost you anything.

To take advantage of this aspect of your community you need two things: a clear idea of what viral marketing is, and an understanding of how forum health affects your ability to use this tool.

What is Viral Marketing?

Before we can begin to discuss, how your forum’s health affects your ability to take advantage of the viral aspects of community, we must first look at viral marketing itself.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept it can be summed up like this: In an online community surrounding any type of interest group, product, or service, you have members who very likely know others who are interested in the same thing. If you use this member base to promote something, it can be your greatest selling tool.

Imagine that you currently have 1,000 members, and after stating your desire to grow your forums, each of those members referred one new member to your site. Suddenly you have 2,000 members. With your first success you decide to run a contest to promote the idea. This time you have 2000 members to work with, and again each of them again refers one new member. Now you have 4,000 members to work with. If you ran a new contest, with the same results, you would then grow your member base to 8,000.

Obviously this is a very simplistic look, but the concept is quite clear; viral marketing is using your member base as a marketing tool to grow your forums, and ultimately grow your bottom line. As your member base grows you are provided with even more members who will work for you, and this type of marketing can grow exponentially if you put it to work for you!

A Healthy Forum Goes Viral

With an idea of what viral marketing it, you’re likely asking yourself how you can take advantage of such a powerful tool.

Here’s the big secret: All you need is a healthy forum, with an active member base. The viral aspect will often kick in all by itself. You can always run contests, offer discounts for referrals, or come up with other ideas to promote viral marketing within your community, but the most important element is an active, healthy, community.

If you took the time to look at different forums around the web you would find that the most active forums share some common traits.

1. Administrators and moderators are actively involved in the community.

2. Administrators look to the community for input on improving and expanding the site.

3. Threads never go unanswered.

4. Problems are dealt with quickly.

5. Members are encouraged to help others, and to become actively involved.

With those five aspects you end up with members who also share some common traits.

1. First of all they feel valued because their input is important to the site owners/administrators. This leads to a sense of ownership in the site.

2. Next since they are encouraged to participate, they often will which leads to a sense of pride in being involved in your forums.

3. Finally they know that their questions will be answered, and that problems rarely occur, so they have a place to come to share their passions/interest on the topic.

When you have all three of these elements, you end up with a member base who will often work for you. They enjoy your site, and they have a sense of pride and ownership, so why wouldn’t they help you to promote it.

As a forum administrator you should always monitor your forums health, using tools like BoardsMD (http://www.boardsmd.com), and you should stay actively involved. By putting your focus on your forums you are taking your first step in going viral!

Trevas Walker is a freelance writer, with previous experience in community building, who often works with forum-related sites. Currently he is working to help promote BoardsMD – the web’s only forum ranking system.

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