Eight Thoughts to Decide Your Forum Niche

So you have decided that launching a forum is what you want to do, you just can’t decide on the niche.  I want to share eight thought provoking ideas that will help you decide your forum niche.  Many of these are from my own personal trials, failures, and successes.

  1. Is someone already doing it?  As I have mentioned in previous posts, take the time to search and discover if there are already  forums dedicated to your idea.  If they are established and active, while your cause is noble… it is very rare that people will jump ship to your new forum.  The only exception would be for a small subset of members who for whatever reason disagree or have issues with the way the existing forum is ran and like you, feel as if there could be a better one.  Ninety-eight percent of the time it doesn’t happen.  Consider a different niche idea.
  2. Like a Blog – Make it your PASSION.  What are you passionate about?  What could you talk about and have no one listen for hours, days, or maybe even months?  If no one registered after several months would you still be willing to continue?  A forum is a lot of work.  In the beginning it will take a lot of dedication and passion to get things started.  From setting up your forum to starting new threads, you’ll devote many hours to your site.  And when you land your first registered member, you’ll want to instantly make a new friend.  So, make your forum about something that is a personal passion so that you will have continued interest and not get bored even if results are slow to start.
  3. Define your Goals.  Are you looking to host a forum for the neighborhood?  Create a statewide forum for regional wine? Maybe you love your new Fiat so much that you want to host the National Fiat Forum and grow thousands of members.  Do you want to monetize it or not?  Is your intent to replace full-time job income?  Is it simply for a group of local hobbyist?  At the end of the day decide on how big or small you want your forum.  Set the expectations up front.  Some of the best forums started as a fun hobby and grew into commercial giants. You need to decide where you would like to see your forum in a few years.
  4. Financial Investment.  Are you willing to make the financial investment?  Understand that launching your forum will take a decent financial investment upfront.  You’ll need to purchase your domain name, pay for web hosting, and if you want solid professional level forum software you will need to purchase the software.  As your forum grows you may need to upgrade your web hosting to handle the additional traffic.  Lastly, if you plan to market your forum you will need an established budget for marketing purposes.
  5. Research the Potential Audience.  If your goal is to build a forum with a few hundred thousand members and make $250,000 a year, you must make sure that the size of the potential member base can support your goals.  At the same time if you go in knowing your audience is small and that achieving 500 members would be huge, at least you are aware and have set those expectations. Make sure the niche audience aligns with your goals and expectations.
  6. Niche Demographic.  If you have a desire to monetize your forum, what is the demographic of your potential members?  Would the niche attract top level sponsors?  If it is a local niche could the related local businesses potentially afford to advertise with you?  At what rates?  I have a favorite forum that attracts high-end luxury sponsors who can afford to spend considerable dollars sponsoring this forum.
  7. Would your Forum Solve Problems?  Some of the best forums solve problems for people.  Why is this interesting?  Subscriptions.  If you are an expert in your niche and can provide answers to people seeking to discuss and solve problems, chances are members would be willing to subscribe to your forum access for a fee.
  8. Think Creatively.  A common theme you will hear from me is that getting a forum off the ground is difficult.  Therefore it is important to think creatively to discover your niche.  There are hundreds of Social Media, Webmaster, Automotive, and simply forums for just about any idea that you can come up with.  This does not mean you can not come up with the next best idea… you are just going to have to think creatively!  Think in terms of solving problems around topics that change often.  This will maintain traffic and create the need for ongoing discussion.

This list should get you thinking in the right direction.  Keep in mind there are no right or wrong ideas or niches.  Remember trial and error leads to success.  One last tip… pay attention to Trademark law.  If your niche is around a certain product, make sure you do not violate any Trademark laws around using a brand name.  I experienced this with a Porsche forum that I created years ago.  Porsche is very strict and does not allow any of their Trademarked brands to be used in url’s or branding outside of their control.  In my case I used Club Stuttgart – every Porsche enthusiast relates the home of Porsche with Stuttgart, so it made sense.

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