How To Make Money From An Online Community

It’s no secret that the Internet has given rise to a plethora of online communities. Dubbed ‘forums’, they are online homes for like-minded followers of a particular cause. There are forums dedicated to car marques, business, travel, computer gaming and more.

As more members join these online communities, the amount of traffic to those sites increase. These days a lot of savvy forum owners are monetizing their sites to benefit from this increased web traffic.

Online Forum Useage
Samuel Mann / Flickr

If you’re a forum owner that’s interested to get in on the action, keep reading.

How to monetize your online community

Make sure you’re using good forum software

There are scores of different forum platforms you can use. For example, there’s vBulletin and Invision Power Board. The latter offers an optional content management system. Such an option is perfect for those that want to build a website around their forum.

phpBB is a popular (and free) forum platform that millions of people use for their online communities. If you’ve got good PHP coding skills, you could create a bespoke content management system around it.

For example, it’s possible to incorporate certain elements from phpBB to use on non-forum pages. Examples include logged-in usernames, post counts and more. There’s no clear winner as far as forum software goes. You just need to ensure you use the best for your site, according to your needs and budget.

Get the party started

The one thing that everyone with a new forum has problems with is attracting people to sign up and contribute. What most forum owners might not tell you is that they hire people to register on their sites and start posting.

Some forum owners with a lot of time on their hands might even create several profiles themselves and log in as each one. To the unknowing, this might seem like an unethical way to grow a forum. The truth is most people have done it. And it’s something that’s done elsewhere, like on dating websites, for instance.

Monetize your forum

When you have regular conversations from “real” forum members, you can start to monetize your site. There are plenty of ways you can do this. Google AdSense banners can get displayed on each topic page. Affiliate link schemes from Amazon Associates and VigLink can also get used.

Introducing search engine optimization practices to your forum will also help to increase revenue. One prime example is to ensure your topics use search engine friendly URLs.

If you want to grow your forum income to phenomenal levels, it’s worth speaking to branding experts like Todays Growth Consultant. It’s cheaper to pay companies like them rather than hiring teams of web gurus yourself.

Change with the times

Forums aren’t too different to websites. The look and feel, layout and structure needs to change to meet the demands of changing times. For instance, growing numbers of people look at forums using their smartphones.

Your forum ‘skin’ should have a responsive design so that the viewing experience remains good for users of all devices.