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Finding Your People: Forums and Niche Networks

If you’re having trouble finding your audience, blogging can feel like being alone in a crowded room. Forums and niche communities are great ways to break the virtual ice.

"Foro Romano" by Burt Kaufman (CC BY-SA 2.0).

We spend a lot of time discussing ways to use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to grow your blog’s audience. Forums are another effective tool for increasing your readership: these niche social networks are a focused way for bloggers who publish on specific topics to connect, boost their blogs, and find new post inspiration.

Finding your people

Sadly, the needle is not always so easy to find -- but forums and niche communities can go a long way toward shrinking your virtual haystack. "Needle in a Haystack," James Lumb .

Sadly, the needle is not always so easy to find — but forums and niche communities can go a long way toward shrinking your online haystack.
Needle in a Haystack,” James Lumb.

Finding people on the internet is the easy part. Finding the people you want to connect with — the people who care about the same things, or share your values — is another matter entirely. Many new bloggers feel alone despite joining a community millions strong, because simply participating doesn’t mean you’re connecting.

There are many ways to ameliorate the isolation, like joining blogging challenges, taking part in our Blogging U. courses, and using social networks (along with the tried-and-true method of reading and commenting on others’ blogs). But if you’re still feeling overwhelmed or haven’t managed to find your people yet, you might want to give forums a try.

Like, the WordPress.com forums?

No, not the WordPress.com support forums (although you should use those, too, if you need technical help) — we’re talking about forums on particular topics or communities with a particular focus, like:

More so than a tool like Twitter or even a site like The Daily Post, being part of these focused communities ups your odds of interacting with other folks who share your interests. That means they’re great places for you to learn, get inspired, and make friends. And since you’ll include your blog’s URL and links to your other social networks in your profiles, you also create a pathway for your target audience to find your site. Bonus!

Using niche networks effectively

Forums and community sites can be a boon for your traffic — but that should be a side effect of your participation, not the impetus for all your activity.

The basic guidelines for participating on forums are the same as commenting on blogs or using other social networks (really, as life in general): be genuine. You’re there to engage, so engage — share your opinions and and add value to the conversations already happening.

Offer up resources you love, or ask and answer questions. Support other members, and offer encouragement and feedback. Showing that you’re a thoughtful community member with an interesting point of view will do more to drive people to your blog than a hundred “Please visit my site!” comments.

The basic “don’t” is also the same: don’t just promote. Facebook feeds with nothing but links to your posts and blog comments that simply ask people to visit your site are worse than ineffective, they undermine your ability to create real connections. The same holds true on forums. Use forums as a place to connect with others with an eye to encouraging folks to visit your blog, not as a place to bludgeon other members with links to your latest and greatest.

A few final tips:

  • Review the community’s guidelines before entering the fray. Many forums have policies against self-promotion, which is considered spammy — and in many cases, you will be banned from participating if you continually violate the rules.
  • Make sure your profile links to your blog. Most forum participants who end up visiting you will do so because they liked something you had to say and took a look at your profile.
  • Consider an avatar that is the same as or related to the one you use on your blog, to create consistency and start branding yourself.
  • Let the forum inform your blog, too. You’ll be exposed to new people and new ideas — let them inspire you.

The communities mentioned above are but a tiny sampling of the communities out there — a moment’s Googling will turn up a forum for every interest you can think of, and some you can’t. If you’re having trouble filtering the overwhelming mass of the internet to find your folks, give forums a try.

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  1. Great tips and a good reminder to go find cool forums about beads and polymer clay. They’re a great way to build community and get to know cool people. It’s all about getting to know cool people, the rest will follow organically.

  2. Excellent, because of that people living in social environment. So the social contact in terms of technology, are now open to anyone. Exchange ideas, share simply experiences save our world and our living together with our way – blogging! Just a simply way. Thanks Michelle!

  3. I would love to join a fashion blogger community. There are some for the Bay area, Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, etc., but none for Alaska. I would appreciate when s.o. who reads this could point me in the right direction. Thanks

  4. This is an awesome idea, I didn’t even know these existed but they are pretty specific in nature and for bloggers like myself who just wittingly blog about random things we do not really fit in anywhere

    1. I’ve found the same as you in that they tend to be quite specific so I don’t know where I fit in with day-to-day crap from the 1990s. Perhaps I’ve not looked hard enough…

    2. Lots of us blog about a variety of topics — which is really what “random crap” means. So while there may not be a “random crap” community, there are communities for all the subjects that fall under “random crap,” if that makes sense. You could pick one or two, and try them out.

      (Also, there might actually be a “random crap” forum – who knows?)

    3. Don’t worry about not being able to immediately find a forum meeting your tastes. I’d recommend you check out http://www.reddit.com. There are literally millions of users and a subreddit for anything you could possibly imagine. Once you’re a registered user, you can subscribe to the subreddits that interest you, so you’ll end up with a tailored feed of all the random things you like.

      Give it a go. It’s fun!

  5. Thank you for this. I felt like I was hitting a wall, and since I have no idea what I’m really doing, I didn’t know what action to take. Great suggestions! I’m definitely trying these!

    1. We’ll be offering Blogging 101 again in September, but all the assignments are accessible under “Blogging U.” in the main menu, if you’d like to check ‘em out.

      1. Ok, thank you , I appreciate this. I could check out in forums also ,…..(: I ask a question I have a sight on a domain and I want the followers to be migrated to that one . How can this be done? Lori E

  6. Thanks for the tips! I’m fairly new to the blogging world and it is so overwhelming. I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.

  7. Thanks for this great post — makes me realize there’s still a lot more work for me to do to get people to my site rather than just merely requesting my friends to come visit my blog. Am guilty of that. Now, I shall start looking for some teachers’ forms to join and do more interaction with other bloggers.

    Great learning tips and challenges each day – more power!

  8. Really helpful for kick-starting blogging while learning, participating (with those who share your interest, and are not driven by you), inspiring yourself and, knock knock, expanding your network too:)

    Excellent Michelle.

  9. Really good points. I started writing on WordPress initially as an extension of my involvement on a health/fitness site/forum. It’s really the people I met and conversed with there who cheered me on and are most vocal in the discussions. As you said, you have to be an active participant–not a spammer–building a rapport in these communities takes a time commitment, too, it’s not a casual post and leave kind of deal. But for me, it has been wholly worth it!

    1. Google! There are also lots of forum-like discussions groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, or you can also ask bloggers you like whether there are sites they use.

  10. I believe I do get a modest amount of traffic to my blog from the handful of forums that I belong. These are forums where I’ve participated for the last…6-7 years. Before I blogged at all.

    For bloggers who blog across 3-4 favourite topics, it’s better to focus on participating in 1-2 forums on a topic first. This all takes time. So lower your expectations on blog traffic building.

    A forum that has rules and a distant moderator who will throw out truly bad/spammy participants is good.

    Instead, if you really have a passion for your topic, you will participate in a forum -regardless of whether or not you have a blog.

    1. Hi Jean, I have been following a blog and commenting on it occasionally for a couple of years now – long before I started my blog. Would that be considered a forum, and would I be considered a member, or does forum membership involve a secret handshake?

      1. I wouldn’t consider a lot of blogs as true Internet discussion forums. The main reason is that a well organized Internet forum has:

        * sub-topic areas where people can post and discuss matters
        *forum subscribers are allowed on some forums (depending on forum software platform) to post some photos to share, have your own private chat with other forum participants, etc. Forum subscriber participants can post their own fun polls, etc.

        Not to say that a blog could sorta mimic a forum but it would be less flexible.

        Most forums for membership simply require some basic info: pseudonym and sometimes which country you are located, etc.

  11. YES! Please tell me more! Where are these forums? I’ve been looking to communicate with my people and not to be popular! Where? Where? Where?

  12. I hadn’t really thought about Forums before, mostly opting for social media. I might have to do some research now… I’m been a bad blogger lately and failing to write as often as I used to. If I could get this to take off I would love to cut-back on my day job and focus on writing.

  13. Hi Michelle, I tried the “forums” here as you suggested. And even joined in some conversations that I felt, I had some knowledge about and received quite a bit of arrogance and hate speech. Especially from other members giving support answers. I found that there was a member who made it her duty to follow my responses, in order to try to step on me to make herself feel taller. LOL, that so juvenile. It won’t stop me from participating. However it is disappointing to find such behavior among our WordPress family.

    1. I’m really sorry you had that experience, and it *is* disappointing. To clarify, this post isn’t really about using the support forums, but other forums online that are focused on the topics you write about.

  14. Thanks, I have been wondering how to get more readers. These tips have given me more knowledge, since I’m so new at this blogging thing

  15. Thanks for the tips. I am very new to the blogging world as my first post was last night. I will be checking out some of the forums you’ve listed because I don’t have social media platforms such as Facebook & Twitter and I was worried blogging may be somewhat of a challenge for me because of that. Now, im not as worried ;) Thanks again!

  16. This is a really good idea! I’m a new blogger and whilst I didn’t start blogging to specifically reach an audience, it is always nice to know that people are interested in what you have to say. Forums sound like such a solid idea – definitely something which I shall be looking into