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.
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.