AskPat 75 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: Hey, what's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to Episode 75 of AskPat. Very happy you're here so I can help by answering your online business questions five days a week.
Now, we have a question from Josh from the UK about forums, a really great question, actually, but before we get to Josh's question and voicemail, let's talk about today's sponsor, which is FreshBooks. FreshBooks is an amazing company that allows you to easily organize your finances on the cloud, on any device, and allows you to quickly get a snapshot of what's going on in your business, create great-looking invoices for your clients, and it's something I wish I had gotten started with sooner, because in the beginning, I was using Excel and it was just a mess, and so I finally got onboard, started organizing … If you go to GetFreshBooks.com and put in “AskPat” in the “How'd you hear about us?” section, you get a 30-day free trial, so check that out. Again, GetFreshBooks.com, “AskPat” in the referral section.
Now, let's get right into today's question from Josh. Josh, take it away.
Josh: Hi, Pat. It's Josh from the United Kingdom here. I have a blog in the outdoors niche, and I get a lot of questions emailed to me from my visitors. This has led me to consider adding a forum to my site, and I know it'd be great for content ideas and it will help build a community on the site, but I'm curious to get your thoughts on this, because I haven't seen any forums on any of your niche sites that you've shared with us on the blog, or on the podcast. Am I opening myself up to a load of trouble, or do you think it would be something that would be valuable for my site? I love what you're doing here on the podcast. I love what you're doing over on the Smart Passive Income blog. I listen to the podcast every morning on my run. It gets me through that, so thanks very much for that. I look forward to hearing your answer. Thank you.
Pat Flynn: Josh, thank you so much for your question, and also thank you for taking me on the runs with you. I try to get as much running as I can, so now I get to do it in the UK with you, so thank you for that, Josh. Now, in terms of forums, yes, you're right, you haven't seen any forums on the Smart Passive Income blog, or on any of my other sites, for that matter. None of my niche sites. And the reason for that is because they do take a lot of time and care in order for them to work really well, not only for just you as a site owner, but also for your audience, and I think it's real important to understand what goes along with creating a forum. Now, I will say that I have experienced creating a couple of forums that are doing okay. And it has been a great learning experience, and they're in areas of websites that I do have which are behind a login area. So, they're not public forums, but they're people who will either go to NicheSiteDuel.com, and that's a free resource for everything I talk about in terms of niche sites. And that does include a forum. That one is using the vanilla software to create that forum, and I have another one in my product Breakthrough Blogging, which is closed, and it's been closed for over a year, but it's still in there. It's going to reopen later this year, but that is using a forum software called phpBB, “BB” standing for bulletin board.
Anyway, my experience in both of those forums is that it does take a lot of work to make sure that they're completely active, and that's what you want in a forum. You want a forum that's completely active. So, my advice to you is, Josh, if you have an audience already, and maybe you've asked a few people in your audience to see if they would be interested in participating in a forum, or it just feels like that you're at that stage and that level in your business, that I would absolutely say that it can be a benefit to you as a site owner to create owner. And a benefit to your audience, and for these specific reasons: One, and you had already mentioned this one, you get content ideas. When people share their questions and they talk about different things in the forums, that gives you ideas for what you could blog about, or create podcast episodes about, or even products about in your business, and that's really valuable. In addition to that, all that content is easily searchable, and it's also driven by the community, and that's a whole other aspect of the forum that I love, is the idea that it's community based. And I remember when I joined Internet Business Mastery, which is run by Jeremy and Jason over at InternetBusinessMastery.com, they had … I joined their academy, and their academy—actually, the forum was what was most valuable to me. Yes, they had good content and they had videos and all that stuff, the how-to training, but it was the forum, and the people I met and became friends with in the forums that was completely valuable, and literally changed my life. Just the people in there, and communicating with those people. And that's why I kept paying month after month, because … And again, that was a closed forum.
Now, there are public forums that I know do really well, like Steve Kamb's forum over at NerdFitness.com. There's over a hundred thousand people on there, and I know partly the reason for that is because that is public; there's so many members there because they talk about it, people share those articles, people link to them. And what's really cool is all those articles, and all that content that's being shared in the forums and created in the forums, that can also be found in Google if it's public, like it is in Steve's case. And so that actually helps for driving more traffic, and more engagement, and more eyes to your brand, which is really helpful. What I also love is that the idea that the forum's a place that becomes a resource. So, people can, like I said, search through the existing content or, put in their own questions really quick and get answers from other people in the community. And when you have people in your own community helping each other out, that helps your own brand as a whole. And I think that helps with email, that helps with you just taking time out of your hands and putting it in the community, and putting the responsibility with some of your own community members. It also gives you a chance to highlight some of the more active community members, the people who are active in the forums, and thank them, and give them special privileges, help them become moderators, which will help you in managing that forum.
Now, like I said earlier, it's going to be a difficult task because it is something that has to be looked at all of the time. It's not a passive thing whatsoever, unless you have other people helping you manage that forum. I remember when Darren Rowse from ProBlogger.net, he came out with his forum which you can find at ProBlogger.com. He had a number of different people working for him that were community managers, you know, members of his own team and also people that he's found in his audience that were more active, that were helping to create discussions, and keep it active. That's, again, one of the hardest things about having a forum, is keeping it active, because imagine from a user's perspective, if you go into a forum and there isn't any activity, if you could see that the last post was from months ago, you're not going to want to stick around. You're definitely not going to want to be there. But, if it is engaging, and if it is something that's active, you see that the last post was just from a couple hours ago even, that's a place where you want to go, because you'll know you'll get that immediate feedback.
And so, Josh, the best thing I can tell you is that I haven't done it yet because I just don't have the resources to make it the way I know it should be. That's the honest truth, and although I am building those resources now, I'm starting to hire a team, and that's going to … A forum will become an element, on Smart Passive Income eventually. So many people have been asking me for it. And, I know it's something that can be beneficial. I've seen it on other sites, and I know it can be beneficial for the audience of SmartPassiveIncome.com. And, it's just … I don't want to do it and … Not fail, because I think it's important to go through those failures to understand what you're doing wrong, but I know that I can't yet, with the time that I have and devote to everything else like AskPat, and the podcast, and all my niche sites. I just would feel like I'm not giving it as much as I could. And when I launch that forum, whenever it might happen, potentially later this year, it is something my team and I are discussing, it's going to be something that I know I can manage at that point. And there will be systems in place, people in place that will help me do that.
One other thing I'd like to mention, because I talked … I talked to Steve Kamb about his forum, and I was doing research, and trying to understand how he got it to grow so big, and why it was so successful, and one of the things that he told me that he did was when he created his forum, you know he started out small, but it was small with the very community. Which got people in there really fast, and got them to start talking and be building it even bigger, but then at some point he started to … I guess you could say award some of the more active members, and have them become moderators. Give them responsibility. And he said that that just was amazing for keeping the forums going, because even though he's not paying any of them—he's not paying any of them, I don't believe, that's what he said—they are completely feeling like that's a part of something they should do. You know, they're really taking that … That job title, I guess you could say, as moderator for these forums, and taking it to heart, really going strong with it.
So, that's something I would recommend you would do, Josh, is if you know that you have people in your community already that seem to stand out, approach them and tell them what you're thinking of, and give them the option of becoming a moderator. I think that would make them feel really special, and then when you launch your forum, if you choose to do so, it's going to be that much better, and more active, and it's going to be more cared for. Not just from you but other people in your community who have, and feel that responsibility.
So, Josh, I hope that answers your question and shares a bit of insider information about where I'm at with forums. Now, if you have a question out there, those of you listening, head on over to AskPat; you can just ask a question right there on that page, Josh, an AskPat t-shirt is going to be headed your way in the UK. I'd love to see a picture of you wearing it some day. That'd be awesome.
I also want to thank today's sponsor, which is FreshBooks. You gotta get FreshBooks. If you're not organized in your finances in your business, you are setting yourself up for trouble, because come tax season it's just so easy understand what's going on in your business if you have something like FreshBooks. And so, I highly recommend getting it. You can get a 30-day free trial by going to GetFreshBooks.com and putting in “AskPat” in the referral section.
And, as always, I want to end with a quote today. And this quote … Actually, I don't know who said this quote, and I was trying to research to see who said it, but it's a short quote, so, I don't know, I think it's just something that's been said and changed, and re-said over time, so I'm just going to say it right now. And that is, “Every accomplishment starts with a decision to try.” So, Josh, maybe this is a quote for you, because, really, you'll never really know, but obviously, you want to set yourself up for success. So, keep those tips and strategies in mind from myself and from other people who have successful forums. And I would also recommend … You know, whatever forums you're a part of, or try to get involved with some forums that you know are active and just try to get a feel for what it's like to be in those forums and what it's like, and that'll help the experience for your own audience when you build your own. So, thank you, Josh. Thank you everybody. Take care, and I'll see you in the next episode of AskPat.
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