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.
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
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:
- Chowhound and Tasty Kitchen (food lovers and cooks)
- Corporette (fashion)
- Previously.tv (television and pop culture)
- Dooce (family and home)
- Bike Forums, BigSoccer, and ProSports Daily (sports)
- Subreddits (topic-specific sections of the popular community and link-sharing site Reddit)
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.