Viral Marketing and Forum Health

If you’ve been around the world of online communities for any amount of time, then it is very likely that you have heard the term viral marketing.

This single element of a community can be the biggest money maker, marketing tool, and growth factor for any type of forum. Viral marketing can surpass any other marketing effort you have ever used or considered using. Best of all, it often won’t cost you anything.

To take advantage of this aspect of your community you need two things: a clear idea of what viral marketing is, and an understanding of how forum health affects your ability to use this tool.

What is Viral Marketing?

Before we can begin to discuss, how your forum’s health affects your ability to take advantage of the viral aspects of community, we must first look at viral marketing itself.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept it can be summed up like this: In an online community surrounding any type of interest group, product, or service, you have members who very likely know others who are interested in the same thing. If you use this member base to promote something, it can be your greatest selling tool.

Imagine that you currently have 1,000 members, and after stating your desire to grow your forums, each of those members referred one new member to your site. Suddenly you have 2,000 members. With your first success you decide to run a contest to promote the idea. This time you have 2000 members to work with, and again each of them again refers one new member. Now you have 4,000 members to work with. If you ran a new contest, with the same results, you would then grow your member base to 8,000.

Obviously this is a very simplistic look, but the concept is quite clear; viral marketing is using your member base as a marketing tool to grow your forums, and ultimately grow your bottom line. As your member base grows you are provided with even more members who will work for you, and this type of marketing can grow exponentially if you put it to work for you!

A Healthy Forum Goes Viral

With an idea of what viral marketing it, you’re likely asking yourself how you can take advantage of such a powerful tool.

Here’s the big secret: All you need is a healthy forum, with an active member base. The viral aspect will often kick in all by itself. You can always run contests, offer discounts for referrals, or come up with other ideas to promote viral marketing within your community, but the most important element is an active, healthy, community.

If you took the time to look at different forums around the web you would find that the most active forums share some common traits.

1. Administrators and moderators are actively involved in the community.

2. Administrators look to the community for input on improving and expanding the site.

3. Threads never go unanswered.

4. Problems are dealt with quickly.

5. Members are encouraged to help others, and to become actively involved.

With those five aspects you end up with members who also share some common traits.

1. First of all they feel valued because their input is important to the site owners/administrators. This leads to a sense of ownership in the site.

2. Next since they are encouraged to participate, they often will which leads to a sense of pride in being involved in your forums.

3. Finally they know that their questions will be answered, and that problems rarely occur, so they have a place to come to share their passions/interest on the topic.

When you have all three of these elements, you end up with a member base who will often work for you. They enjoy your site, and they have a sense of pride and ownership, so why wouldn’t they help you to promote it.

As a forum administrator you should always monitor your forums health, using tools like BoardsMD (http://www.boardsmd.com), and you should stay actively involved. By putting your focus on your forums you are taking your first step in going viral!

Trevas Walker is a freelance writer, with previous experience in community building, who often works with forum-related sites. Currently he is working to help promote BoardsMD – the web’s only forum ranking system.

Alan Schaaf, Imgur Founder, in Wellington for TEDxWellington & more
going viral
Image by US Embassy New Zealand
To view all TEDxWellington photos visit: tedxwellington.com/blog/2014/09/02/tedxwellington-photos-…

Blog post: blog.nz.usembassy.gov/2014/09/03/alan-schaaf-from-imgur-g…

As mentioned in a previous post, U.S. Embassy Wellington was delighted to be a sponsor for #TEDxWelly this year by helping bring Alan Schaaf, the founder and CEO of the website Imgur, to New Zealand to be one of the keynote speakers at the conference.

Alan started Imgur from his college dorm room at Ohio University while he was an undergraduate computer science student after he realized there was not an easy and simple way to upload images on the internet. For the first three years, Alan was the sole developer, and to do this day still develops for Imgur. Five years later, Imgur is one of the most popular sites on the web, attracting more than 130 million unique visitors a month. And in April 2014, 5 years after it was founded, Imgur raised million from Andreessen Horowitz, along with a small contribution from Reddit.

Alan arrived into Wellington with his partner, Brianna, and was met by TEDxWellington conference organizer, DK, myself and colleague Jamiela. Coming off a long haul flight they were surprisingly fresh, and Brianna (who also works at Imgur), donning the Imgur hoodie, was planning on doing some work after our initial meeting. Alan had himself organized a ‘meetup’ with some of Imgur’s community (or ‘Imgurians’) that evening at Wellington’s Southern Cross bar. Over 50 people turned up to meet Alan. Impressive! The ‘Imgurian’ community seems to be strong in Wellington.

After a well deserved rest, we met up the next day for a couple of interviews – a video interview for the Dominion Post, the other a radio interview at NewsTalkZB – where Alan talked about what Imgur is, how it came about, and what his TEDxWellington keynote was going to focus on. Then it was off to the official TEDxWellington launch, hosted by the Wellington Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown.
Sunday, the main event on Alan’s Wellington schedule – TEDxWellington. The theme of the conference was ‘Connecting, Hearts & Minds’ and it was broken up into 3 sessions. Alan was the first international speaker at a TEDx event in Wellington and he spoke during the ‘Connecting’ session about how important online communities are – ‘the power of online communities: breaking outside of your friend’s list’. Using the example of his hugely successful image-sharing site Imgur, Alan explained how widespread access to the Internet has given us access to very specific communities, removing the geographic limitations that occur with physical, offline communities. Alan’s talk was well received, with many messages on Twitter and from the audience during the breakout sessions.

Other inspiring and heartfelt talks and musical sessions at TEDxWelly included Adam Ben-Dror talking on ‘Diggers, Dump Trucks, Bulldozers and Beta Fish’; Arcee, ‘The Keys to Truth’, with her unique and talented style of rap; Cassandra Treadwell’s heartfelt talk ‘Come Down From our White Horses and Dance with the Zebras – Revolutionizing Charity’; Dave Moskovitz explaining ‘The Four Superpowers of the Internet’; Dylan Coburn’s art demonstration and what inspires him in ‘Illustrating Creativity’; Recent design graduates Fraser Callaway and Oliver Ward, demonstrating their ‘So Much More Than Just a Desk’; Gabe Davidson of Wellington’s Chocolate Factory on ‘The Craft Chocolate Revolution. From Bean to Bar’ (thanks for the chocolate samples!); the inspiring Guy Ryan on his ‘Vision for New Zealand’; Scientist Laura Green on ‘Connecting Curiosity – Tales of Science Serendipity’; a performance by talented musical duo, Ryfe; and Sophie Jerram on ‘Creating Generous Cities’.

The next day, after an Embassy digital studio interview, Alan had a lunch meeting with Joanna McLeod and Tan Huynh of the Grow Wellington Business Attraction team. Then it was off to the Enspiral collaborative working space that’s ‘about helping people and companies who have a strong social mission succeed at whatever projects they choose to undertake’. Alan shared his experiences and challenges of starting and scaling up Imgur with representatives of start-ups within the Enspiral space. Thanks to Silvia Zuur and Joshua Vial for organizing the Enspiral meetup.

That evening, in partnership with Project Blank Canvas, Creative HQ (a Wellington start-up Hub) and The BizDojo (a Wellington collaborative working space), Alan was invited to talk to a crowd of over 90 people at a Wellington Start-up Garage event. Nick Churchouse of Creative HQ interviewed Alan and got the conversation going, which followed with many questions from the audience. Alan was again well received with many comments during and after the event on Twitter.
The last day in Alan’s Wellington program started with a visit to meet Nick and Alan at CreativeHQ, a Wellington start-up hub dedicated to increasing the number of high growth businesses that fuel New Zealand’s economy through our incubation and acceleration programmes as well as our grassroots entrepreneur initiatives.

Then it was off to The BizDojo, where Alan and BizDojo’s co-founder, Nick Shewring discussed the opportunities in Project Blank Canvas, with Alan getting some ideas for his new Imgur office space in San Francisco. They even plan to meetup next month in San Francisco.

In the afternoon, Alan was invited to view the new office space of TradeMe – an online auction site in New Zealand. With over 400 staff, slides between floors, real-time analytic on wall monitors, and even a caravan inside on the 4th floor, Alan was impressed. Alan gave a short talk to about 60 of the TradeMe staff. Thanks, Jeff Hunkin for the tour!

Alan finished the day as guest of honor by Nick Clark of Flight Coffee, to a special evening of “back to school for coffee cocktails and delicious cuisine”, part of the Wellington Dinner on a plate.
Thanks again Alan and Brianna for visiting New Zealand. You made some lifelong friends in a short period of time!

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