Earning From Your Forum

Earning a monthly passive income from your discussion forum is easy. With our highly customizable forum templates, you can easily include advertising, affiliate product links, and donation links that provide a passive income for you each and every month. To get an idea of how a discussion forum uses ads and donations to generate a passive income stream here is an active discussion forum that uses our advertising and donation modules.

Here are some quick tips…

  1. Use ad networks. Sign up for ad networks, such as Google Adsense, and let them place relevant ads on your forum. This is a great way to generate passive income and it is an easy way to get started. Our forums include a built-in advertising module making it easy to place ads in a wide range of placements without negatively impacting the user experience.
  2. Sell ad space directly to companies. Cut out the middleman, and agree on a CPM or CPC fee with advertisers directly. This requires more work, yet you get to hand-pick the ads, ensure they’re right for your audience and keep all the money they generate.
  3. Make your forum a user-supported forum and seek donations. As you build up your forum memberships, you will create relationships with your viewers and many will be happy to donate a small amount each month to support the forum. Our forums include a built-in donation PayPal donation module that is easy to seek donations.
  4. Mention products you affiliate-sell. Once you build trust with your audience, you can drop an affiliate link during a forum discussion if you know of a product that would be perfect for the person asking a question. Clarify that you’re an affiliate and explain why you think the product would be a great fit.
  5. Add a sub-forum that sells. Introduce a sub-forum that’s dedicated to nothing but advertisements. It could be a job board if your forum is for professionals in a given industry, or it can work as an e-store. Members who aren’t interested in advertisements will avoid this part of your forum, so this works best if you know your audience is on the lookout to make a purchase (or find a job).
  6. Add a sub-forum for product reviews. Encourage members to post product reviews and post some yourself. Add affiliate links to these posts when applicable.
  7. Turn links in user-generated content into affiliate links. Whether or not you create a sub-forum for this, members will post links on your forum. Switch those you can into affiliate links yourself or use software to automate the process.
  8. Invite industry leaders to live posting events and affiliate-sell their products. It’s a win-win situation: Members get their questions answered, industry leaders, get exposure to possible new customers — and you get a happier community, a possible new connection, and affiliate commissions.
  9. Sponsored sticky posts. Charge companies to stick a thread that advertises them at the top of your forum. It’ll be the first or second post on the page for a pre-determined period of time, no matter how many threads are started or updated.
  10. Barter advertising. Offer companies free advertising in exchange for them promoting you, too. Don’t limit yourself to the Web. Depending on what ad space on your site is worth, ask for advertising space in brochures or a booth at a conference.

Turn Your Forum into a Membership Site

Any forum is a form of a membership site, yet you can take it one step further and generate revenue through subscriptions.

  1. Limit access to paying members only. If you have expertise in an industry, know industry leaders you could convince to regularly post on the forum or you’ve created extremely valuable content you could include there, consider closing your doors to non-paying forum members. You’ll start earning a reliable, recurring income.
  2. Go freemium. Include free sub-forums for people to try out your site and increase your traffic, and limit access to premium materials to paying members only. If you have a lot to offer, you can even have 3 layers: absolutely free with no premium access, partial access, and unlimited access.
  3. Make it cheap. Pricing decisions aren’t easy to make. Attract more members and lower your churn rate by making membership cheap to purchase. But blow buyers away, and make them feel like they’re cheating you out of a more deserving price by providing unbelievable value.
  4. Make it expensive. Decide on your business goals before deciding on a price. Consider building a brand of exclusivity and prestige (and back it up with unbelievable value). Fewer people will join, yet those that do might have money to spend on additional products. They could also have the money that entices brands with more expensive products and bigger advertising budgets.
  5. Limit the number of participants. If you choose the latter approach, intentionally limit the number of participants, creating a waiting list that acts as an e-mail list and makes them want to access even more — be it to your forum or to another product you offer meanwhile.

Additional Guides and Resources

We know it’s easier to find information on blogs and social media than it is about forums, so we’ve done our research and dug up the best of the Web for you.

  1. 3 Easy and Effective Forum Monetization Tips. MonetizePros: Our own Michael Johnston breaks down 3 great, usually overlooked tips that can help you stop struggling to monetize your forum.
  2. How to Make Money with Membership Websites. Carol Zombo: This 58-page SlideShare presentation is for those who intend to charge a forum entry fee. Among others, get inspired by offline membership programs, gain ideas for types of content to include, and choose from membership models.
  3. Tap User Psychology to Build an Indestructible Community. ProBlogger: In a guest post, Richard Millington of FeverBee, and author of Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better and More Active Online Communities, tells you how to create emotionally-connected, enduring communities that will follow you anywhere. His post might focus on blogs, but his points can be more easily applied in forums.
  4. ForumCon. An annual conference for forum professionals, where companies like Google, CNet and Adobe present. ForumCon also has a useful blog and YouTube channel.
  5. How to Improve the Success of a Membership Program. Entrepreneur: Dave Lavinsky encourages membership program owners to measure the number of subscribers, cancellations and average subscription lengths, among other metrics. Whether you charge for membership or not, measuring how many members remain active on the site and for how long can help you create a better management strategy that will support greater monetization.
  6. How to Monetize Your Online Community. Ning: Ning, a company that helps other companies create their own online communities, hosts Patrick O’Keefe, author of “Managing Online Forums” and “Monetizing Online Forums”. In this 1 hour video presentation, Patrick talks about forum ads, affiliate links, in-text monetization, product-related discussions, audience segmentation, working with brands, membership programs, and more.
  7. Getting Value out of Forums. Firepole Marketing: Sean D’Souza founded 5000bc, a forum for small business owners to come together and thrive. In this podcast, he tells Danny Iny what it takes to keep a community going strong and profitable for more than a decade, even when he takes his annual three-month vacation.

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