How I'm building traffic and retaining users in a new forum


(jorgtron) #1

I’m in the process of building a new Discourse community for investors in Tesla, and I’ve been pondering the best ways to successfully launch and build traffic for brand new forums. I’m sure many here are in the same position, perhaps you have some tips and tricks to share?

Here are some of the things I’ve tried / am trying:

Aquisition of new users:

  • Spread the word on blogs and news sites. Whenever I link to an external site (blog or news story) I post a link in the comments of the blog or story mentioning that I have posted a link to their story on my site with a link back to the forum. This hopefully makes the author of the blog/story interested in seeing what people are saying about it, but also means visitors to that blog or story will see the link to my site and possibly visit.

  • Find your users. Post relevant content on other sites where your target audience hang out. This has been tricky in practice, as other sites/forums for the same audience view links to competing forums as spam - understandable, of course. Check the terms of service to see what you are allowed to post before you post links on related sites.

  • Leverage partnerships: Reach out to related sites with complementary content. Try to build partnerships whereby the other party gets something valuable out of the partnership. Don’t be selfish, help them out first and if you’ve chosen a good partner, they’Il help you back. I’ve just gotten started on this.

  • Paid advertising on related sites. I haven’t had any luck in finding relevant sites selling advertising that having any traffic and that aren’t competitors. Your success depends on your niche, I suppose :slight_smile:

  • Facebook ads/Google ads: In the process of figuring out the cost/benefit of doing this. I fear it will cost a lot to generate new users using these two advertising channels.

  • Create a landing page. I set up a landing page to collect emails before launch (see it in action at TeslaInsider.com). These get saved in a Google document using Google forms. I then manually invite users using a custom ruby script which sends out the default Discourse invite via email. This has the benefit of the user only having to fill in their email on the landing page, and then clicking the link in the invite email to get a fully functioning account. A drawback is that for some people the invite email ends up in their spam-folder, so they never know they have been invited. This has been very successful, the conversion rate of people leaving their email has been around 16%. Another drawback is that they have to manually choose a password, if they can figure out how to do it and remember to do it. Would be great if they were asked to select a password when they click the link in the invite email. Edit: This landing page will be removed once the forum is no longer for invitees only. The landing page has been very useful for me to check whether or not there is a market for the type of community I wanted to build.

  • Paid ads through StumbleUpon: Tried it, 0% conversion rate. Plain landing pages don’t seem to convert well with StumbleUpon traffic. Might work better to have some viral content that people will want to share when using StumbleUpon.

Retention of new users

  • Create an “Introduce yourself” topic where your members can get to know each other.

  • Create competitions I’ve started a competion where users can predict/guess Tesla’s share price in a month from now. It creates a low barrier for entry (they just have to make a prediction: “$222” is enough) and improves retention because these users will want to stick around to see if they won. On a previous forum I gave the winner a virtual prize (a special badge for that user that they got to keep until another user won a contest - this worked really well)

  • Use the news to your advantage. Create topics with news stories related to what your forum is about in a “News” category. This will hopefully make users come back because they know your site is a good news source. It also means there will be plenty of items in the email digests that go out to inactive users which might turn them into active users.

  • Immerse yourself in the topic you have created a forum about. You don’t necessarily need to come across as an expert, but you need to be able to answer your new user’s questions. Be knowledgeable and friendly.

  • Customize the welcome message that Discourse sends out to fit your target audience.

  • Build tools that give you an advantage. I’ve built my first Discourse plugin (yay!) that shows the user’s stock portfolio value at the bottom of the screen. It also shows Tesla’s stock price in real time, which updates constantly throughout the day. It can be addictive to watch the live stock ticker, and it makes users hang out in the forum longer. While they are there, they might post something interesting, which helps everyone. See if there are any tools you can build that will help your audience solve their problems. It also gives your forum a unique selling point, which you can use in advertising.

What have you tried to build traffic for your forum? Do you have any tips to share?

There are some great ideas here as well:


Where can I ask non-technical questions around here?
(Lee_Ars) #2

Your link leads to a site that wants me to “sign up for an invite.” Seems like your biggest barrier to community is that your community is closed. How are visitors supposed to see what your community has to offer, much less decide if they want to participate, if your forum is invite-only?

A landing page as you’ve implemented it is a terrible idea. What incentive do I have to sign up? It’s a picture of a Model S and an e-mail box, without any indication whether or not feeding your address into the box will result in a torrent of spam and marketing.

You’ve clearly put a lot of thought into how to build your community, but you appear to be missing the most obvious part: if you’re going to post here and other places about how amazing it is, you shouldn’t then require an invitation to even preview things.


(jorgtron) #3

@Lee_ars: I agree with most of you points, and the landing page will be removed soon. It was mainly an experiment to test whether or not users would be interested in such a forum. An minimum viable product, so to speak. The forum will be opened up, but having the landing page there gave me some time to work on the forum and functionality before letting people in all at once, while testing the waters and building interest. It also validated for me that I should keep working on the forum, because so many people signed up. A landing page might not be right for every forum, but it has worked well for me.


(Lee_Ars) #4

The best way to drive users to your site is to have valuable content. If your site consists primarily of user-generated content (like if all you’re offering is a forum), then you have a chicken-and-egg problem that you need to overcome—reddit, for example, bootstrapped itself out of its early days by its creators creating massive amounts of sock puppet accounts and vote-stuffing their own submissions, projecting an air of success and popularity that drew additional non-sock puppet accounts.

In your case, rather than relying on gimmicks and pseudo-shady SEO tactics, it seems like your best course of action is to have unique Tesla-related content that your target demo is going to actually care about seeing. Out of everything in your initial post, “actually have content people want” appears to only get a single bullet point.

Have you contacted Tesla PR and asked for assistance? Have you gotten on their press release distribution list? Are you flying out to attend Supercharger openings and other Tesla press events? Are you obsessively following Elon Musk and the rest of the Tesla PR folks on social media? Are you doing the same for SpaceX and cross-pollinating news and ideas from there? There are dozens of ways to actually generate useful and exciting content that will result in more eyes on pages than all the SEO gimmicking in the world.

People have to have a reason to stay other than an “I guessed the stock price!” contest, and if you’re not in at least weekly contact with Tesla PR, then you’re likely to just be regurgitating content from other sites and chasing after their breaks.


(jorgtron) #5

Of course I agree that having valuable content is the most important thing. The reason it didn’t get as much space in my semi-rambling post was that I feel it is so obvious - but I agree that it didn’t come across that way :slight_smile: I also agree about following Tesla on social media and going to Tesla events, those are good ideas! The chicken and egg problem is definitely something I’ve struggled with as well, I have no desire to follow reddit’s path down that shady rabbit hole.

I run another stock forum for another company, a gaming company. That site (funcominvestor.com - also a discourse forum now) has nearly 2000 members and much of the early growth came because I built tools that allowed the users to see how many games the company was selling per week - unique stats only available on my site. I haven’t yet figured out what the unique thing for TeslaInsider will be, but you’ve given me some great ideas. An inspiration is definitely www.appleinsider.com which is very news focused, constantly breaking Apple stories and driving new traffic to their site and forums.

Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it :slight_smile:


(Ekenheim) #6

Is is possible to get a hold of that plugin you have on funcominvestor.com?
The stock plugin that is…