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What I Learned by Increasing My Forum Membership by 400 in 24 hours

Yesterday I challenged myself to grow my Digital Photography forum membership numbers by 500 new members in 24 hours.

I only got just over 400 in the end – but learned a few things a long the way about growing forums – some of which can be applied to blogging.

The Challenge

I like to set myself challenges and little competitions. Yesterdays was:

to grow DPS forums membership by 500 members – without spending any money on prizes or advertising.

This was a fairly ambitious task considering that at the start of the challenge the forums had 21,000 members and so an additional 500 is around a 2.5% increase in 24 hours (it has taken me years to get to 21k).

Here’s the two main things that I did:

1. Emailed unconfirmed members – this was a no brainer really. When someone signs up for the forum they need to confirm their membership by responding to an email that they get sent.

1400 people had not made this confirmation over the last 2 years – either they’d changed their mind about joining, had not seen the email (perhaps it was filtered as spam) or had been too busy to confirm.

So I sent out a simple reminder email to this group. So far around 200 of them have confirmed their membership – many have already become quite active.

2. Emailed my most active members – Vbulletin (the forum software that I use) lets you email members based upon a number of criteria. One of these is to be able to target members who have been active within a certain time frame.

I decided to send an email to the most recently active members (from the last month). There were around 3000 of them sent.

The email was simply to thank them for their involvement and to invite them to share DPS with a friend (or friends) either via email, IM, social media, on their Flickr account or on their blog.

I was a little unsure about this 2nd option – but was quite amazed by the hundreds of emails that came back to me since it was sent. Every single one of them was positive and in almost all of them were promises to tell a friend in one of the ways that I suggested in the email.

Not only that – there were suggestions and stories on how they’d already recommended DPS to others.

Member numbers are up over 420 in the last 24 hours – based upon normal days of subscribers I’d estimate that 200 of these new members came as a result of recommendations of others.

What have I learned and how this applies to Blogging

1. The Power of Reminders – For starters – sometimes people need reminders when they join something. I’ve written previously about how emailing unverified email subscribers to a blog can increase your subscriptions. That is a technique that I use semi-regularly on my blogs and it always helps to bump up subscriber numbers.

The key with reminders like this is to do it in a non intrusive, polite and helpful way.

2. The Power of tapping into loyal readers – Most advice that I hear around how to find new readers for a blog seems to be about going onto other sites (particularly social media ones) and getting people to come to those sites to your blog.

While this works – I think there’s a more powerful resource for finding new readers at most bloggers fingertips – their current loyal readers.

Those who have already subscribed to your blog, who read your stuff every day, who leave comments, who get your newsletter…. these people are already sold on your site. As a result they make great evangelists for you. Give them a nudge and the tools and some suggestions on how to ‘sell your blog’ to their existing networks and you can potentially unleash something quite significant.

Not only are your current readers powerful – the emails I got from readers today indicate that they want to be involved and are grateful for being asked. It is a strange thing – while I felt weird about asking them to share about DPS with friends – asking them to do it seems to have increased their ownership of the site and given them even more of a sense of belonging. This is an example of the power of giving readers jobs to do and how it can impact their sense of community on a blog.

update: as I’m about to publish this post the 500 new members mark has been reached, in fact it’s on 800 new members in 48 hours.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Gerasimos says:

    One reason that i would never be a member of this forum of yours would be this post. A goal? To do what? Attract members?

    I mean it makes sense to attract members to your forum but to treat them like simple numbers? Just copy paste this post of yours on a new post at this forum and let’s see what happens.

    No offense man, but as you said it took you years to reach 21k. At least give them the appropriate respect and a reason to exist in this forum.

  2. Todd Andrews says:

    You sir, are a machine.

  3. Sunil Pathak says:

    Hi Darren

    thanx for those ideas mate

    do u have something for new Admins who dont have much active members?

    i have a community board (IPB) and i really need to do something to increase my member counts

  4. Congrats on reaching your goal of 500! I love little experiments like this that are able to show powerful results. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Is there a reason that every single post you make is a superfluous, narcissistic and shallow piece of self promotion?

  6. Amir Helzer says:

    Hi Darren,

    A well known software vendor, writing about marketing also suggested mailing physical stuff like coffee mugs and T-shirts to very loyal users.

    While this costs more and is more difficult to organize, the lasting effect of having your name printed on something up for display is much longer.

    I get about 20% increase to my mailing list every year when I send giveaways to my loyal customers for the holidays.

    Amir

  7. Hi Amir
    People tend really to forget and it is great to help them by reminding them about their initial intention.
    We are living in such a overflow of information that many things just slip through our minds. Therefore, a kind reminder won’t bother anybody.
    Thank you for sharing with us this great and simple idea on how to grow our list without any effort.
    Yani
    http://www.successfulwebwomen.com
    http://www.successfulwebwomen.com/blog

  8. I also have to agree that you are a machine! You just figure out different ways every day to increase your membership and subscribers everywhere.

    I just wish I could pick you up and take you to my house and make my newest blog explode! Now even though that sounds kind of perverted I was not actually heading that direction.

  9. Chris Shouse says:

    Wow that is impressive and those are wonderful suggestions. Thank you for sharing that. I can use those ideas to grow my blog even though it is local.

  10. good ideas with an existing base of readers…when will the post be published about 500 new members for a new blog?

  11. Sid Savara says:

    I remember reading somewhere it costs 10 times as much to acquire a new customer as to sell to an old one. I like how you went to your base who already had signed up but were unverified, and then used the rest of your base for their warm leads. Effective.

  12. impNERD says:

    I just went ahead and emailed unconfirmed subscribers (why haven’t I done this before?).

    I’ll also have to do something with the loyal readers sometime. Sounds like a great idea.

  13. SEO genius says:

    Great post thats an excellent achievement.

  14. Doktor House says:

    Uhhh. 400 members per day is incredible for my. I have to word harder.

  15. I have conflicting views about this, as it seems to me you are asking people to do something for nothing. In other words, you will benefit by getting more business but other than the actual use of your forum and DPS site, where’s the quid pro quo. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Not sure how I feel about this method.

  16. Amrit Hallan says:

    I don’t think Darren’s post is narcissistic; he experimented and then he shared his experience. I think to truly utilize this suggestion we need to see beyond the numbers. We all want to increase traffic to our websites and blogs, we all want to increase our RSS subscribers and newsletter members, and how do we know how much we are succeeding? By looking at the numbers. Setting a target and then trying to achieve it is the best way of doing things.

    Though I would agree that not everybody can apply Darren’s advice because he already has the numbers in his favor. I mean how many people have thousands of subscribers to send e-mail reminders to? What I find useful in this post is the suggestion that sometimes people need to be reminded. It often happens that a client sends me a query, I send a reply, and things stop there. Then after a few days I send a follow-up e-mail, you can call it a reminder, and 70% of the time the client is glad that I wrote and I get the project.

  17. I’m going to write to my unconfirmed subscribers right now. The thing is people appreciate reminders and the ability to share.

    Of course, this is not something you do everyweek.

  18. goodfather says:

    Awesome, thanks for this post! I maintain a newsletter, and I never thought to email my unconfirmed subscribers. :D

  19. Such goodies you give, I love it! I am about to try this out on the members of my social network – http://sistapreneurs.ning.com.

  20. CoolProducts says:

    You took some simple and easy steps to increase your membership quite a bit for your level. Good job.

  21. Mickey says:

    Great tips! I had over 17,000 people that still hadn’t confirmed their e-mail, so that should help quite a lot.

    I’m still working on how best to tackle #2, but I’ll hit it shortly.

    Thanks!

  22. Wakish says:

    narcissistic or not, self-whatever or not, this guy (Darren) is doing the right thing, i.e to promote his site’s traffic, and ‘earn’ from it. That’s it. He does give some insightful infos, but to what extent and how much you understand, is all upto each reader to judge.

    - Wakish –
    (http://wakish.info)

  23. Vanessa says:

    Without experimenting where are you headed? Some percentage of the expertise you have is from experimenting. It becomes knowledge and information to share with others who need it.

    A good example that “reminding” people works, is the site 43 Things. Their whole mission is based on reminding people of goals they’ve set for themselves. I know it works because I answered their reminder after being inactive for a long time.

    As of April 2007 they had 100,000 registered users. Not bad for 2 years of work.

  24. Vanessa says:

    Sorry, made a typo in my comment. By 2007 the website 43 Things had 1000,000 registered users. Thanks for the information in the post and the comments are always like icing on the cake.

  25. Dan Mihaliak says:

    Thanks for the ideas if I could bring my membership numbers up by 400 that would be a 200% jump.

  26. Interesting, but how much of that 400 / 800 number jump in readership will actually be sustainable in terms of traffic ? I think that is the true acid test. Get ‘em here: done. Remind here to get here: done. Keep ‘em here: another story.

    You’ve obviously mastered all three of those aspects, but I think the latter issue (exploring why they didn’t bother validating their registration / memberships) may be of greater long term value.

    Robin

  27. Angel Cuala says:

    There are always three angles in an equilateral triangle, but all of them are equal. I think the reasons why Darren decided to make this post are:

    1.0 Tell his readers his achievement on his forum to inspire others.
    2.0 Give useful tips as he usually does and…
    3.0 Promote his forum (I do not see anything wrong with that)

    After all, joining any kind of forum is a win-win situation, isn’t it?

    Good work, Darren.

  28. Great tips and info
    Wellness & Blessings to you
    Your Wellness Informant

  29. J.D. Meier says:

    I like your lesson – leverage your network.

  30. Ryan McLean says:

    This is really cool. I think you would have gotten an even better response if you offered people an extra incentive to join the forum. Like a competition or something. Then you definately could have landed that 500 new members in just 24 hours.
    The problem is you can’t do this every day. How often can you do this?

  31. Alex says:

    I did something similar and setup a small goal for myself to create a newsletter signup at my saving money website for Australians at;

    http://www.savingsguide.com.au

    and within1 week, I had 150 subscribers who I will start to email regularly with updates and latest posts and competitions.

    Not bad!

  32. Hey Darren,

    I really liked this post, it made me think of a few things.

    Is there any chance you could post the email that you sent out to your unverified subscribers?

    Thanks,
    Joel Strellner

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