Forum Con - Adrian Harris - vBulletin
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Forum Con - Adrian Harris - vBulletin

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Adrian Harris of vBulletin will provide an overview of current and future vBulletin web and mobile development, including: how a vBulletin forum can compete in the realm of social media giants, how ...

Adrian Harris of vBulletin will provide an overview of current and future vBulletin web and mobile development, including: how a vBulletin forum can compete in the realm of social media giants, how best to get the most from your vBulletin, how to scale your vBulletin both technically and professionally and what is in store for vBulletin in the future.

Adrian began working in online communities and forums six years ago with a focus on online relationship nurturing. He currently works in business development for vBulletin, the most popular forum and community software on the web, overseeing the marketing, communications, customer service and assisting in future strategic direction and product planning.

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  • I am going to expand a little on some of the methods to get additional traffic to your website… after “choosing the wrong topic”SEO. Work the basics. There is less value in adding SEO programs, and even less getting an SEO consultant. Go to Google Adwords – identify the most commonly searched phrases in the topic that you cover – and ensure that you have appropriate forum sections for them that are labeled correctly with the right forum title and description that is rich in those keyword phrases. Reach out to websites in your realm, and see if they will link to your community.Social Media. You are in it… Use it! Link your forum in as many content and social media realms where you can – in good taste. Respond to Yahoo Answer questions that are relevant to your forum, and every 5th response, post the response on your forum and suggest that they look there for the answer. Post on other similar websites, and providing it is appropriate – link back to yours. Utilize Twitter to find people discussing items that pertain to the topic of your website – encourage them to visit.Pull users to your site through…Utilizing the force. Well, close – making your site the source. Doesn’t matter whether you have a community about 1965 International Cub garden tractors, or a community about how best to darn woolen socks. Your site needs to provide everything to that community that they might want to know – find appropriate youtube videos, embed them, find appropriate articles on other sites, write a high level summary of them and link to them. Reinforce to all visitors to your community that if they want to find out about anything related to the topic, here is where they should look first.Content – create and get the best content. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but ensure that the content is both relevant, accurate and well written. Include images and video wherever possible. If you have the best content, doesn’t matter what changes Google will do its algorithms, what changes Facebook makes to their ability to share content amongst their friend network – you will still get coverage.User Experience – ensure that whatever interface users have with the site and/or its staff, their interaction is the best it possibly can be. Be conscious of all public messaging, don’t have a contact us section that goes to a black hole, send your site e-mails from an address that will get a human response. There isn’t any rules that apply in Community Management – it is an art form, not a science, but always be conscious how any message will be interpreted. Think about the design of the site – keep it simple, but unique in its own way. Find the right individuals to act on your website as moderators and work towards growing them as your user champions and providing the right messaging and interaction. There is no such thing as over communication.
  • Once your community has hit its proverbial “tipping point”, and gains momentum, users and traffic, you need to ensure that your website is manageable to grow further.Here is a tip – if you are spending 80hrs a week on it, what happens when your site doubles in size?On the technology side, look at reducing the technology overhead. Hands up in the room if you have a website and you utilize managed webhost.Now, hands up if you roll your sleeves up and do your hosting yourself?Thankyou.A question – how many people in the room that utilize vBulletin would be interested in a integrated hosting solution in the software.Now – onto how you can reduce your costs. Hosting (for most websites) is typically the most expensive aspect of the business.Search.php is the most intensive Database Query for any forum software – investigate sphinx or lucene as options once your site gets more than a million posts.Forumdisplay.php is the second most intensive query – look at reducing how intensive it is by limiting the default display date range.If you have the skillset, start looking at implementing InnoDB, or PerconaXtraDB to limit queries.On the front-end, heavily investigate utilizing cache, utilizing Apache and Varnish together or Litespeed.There are some great articles on vbulletin.com that cover these items for all types of forum software.On the Business side – get the right individuals in as moderators, and admins, empower them and give them responsibility, reward them appropriately too!Direct advertising is going to provide the highest level of return, but is going to be the hardest to obtain and maintain. Justin who presented before me has a great product, in PostRelease, VigLink who are hosting the event also has a great product, and vBulletin offers some good solutions built in.In addition, one of the other monetization opportunities you can look at – is to sell your website, vBulletin’s parent company, Internet Brands, as well as a number of other companies like Vertical Scope look to buy forum based websites.
  • The University of Massachusetts recently released a study, during 2009 and 2010, which In. 500 Companies have had success with marketing various social mediums.#1?Forums.Averaging a higher success rate than online video,Facebook, Twitter, Blogging amongst others.Surprising, isn’t it? Well – no. Where do you go when they want to find out about products, or when you want to discuss a product that they may have purchased? Not Facebook, nor Twitter – you go to a forum, right?
  • Which brings me to the next piece that University of Massachusetts did. How many Inc. 500 companies utilize different mediums.Near the bottom you see forums. Why? Well – to put it bluntly, they aren’t sexy.They aren’t Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube, or any other simple brand name that a marketer can fire off when asked what their social media strategy is.However, as stories of their success become more evident, we will see a greater level of interest from businesses in Forums.How does this benefit forums? Well – essentially it will be a higher level of investment, and subsequently a much greater opportunity for all forum owners to monetize their sites, and a higher level of investment in product and community development.You will also see a much higher level of importance in Social Media as a marketing tool at the company level.
  • All this data is great – but what does it mean for the future of forums.Well – it means that they aren’t going to go anywhere for the foreseeable future, but what should one do about Twitter, Facebook etc.?Look at them not as competitors, but as marketing opportunities. Check your websites analytics for referral traffic from Facebook. Even if you don’t have a fan page, or the infamous “like” button – I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you found Facebook’s referral traffic to be somewhat similar in size to search traffic from a search engine the size of Bing… and growing.Make sure you have a fan page, and publicize it where you can. Use the like button – if Facebook does what has been rumored that they will do, and creates a search engine utilizing “likes” as a measure of relevancy, this will be of major importanceTwitter also has a lot of opportunity, identify people that are discussing topics that may be covered in your forum, engage them, follow them, invite them to visit.Make sure you display what I would call “Tweetiqet” (that is trademark pending by the way…). Follow people, don’t have an RSS feed that just pumps links out into the Twittersphere, be personable, engaging, don’t unnecessarily spam your feed with links. Respond to people asking questions “at” you.
  • Facebook.How many people here have a Facebook “Like” button on their site?Facebook during 2010 was responsibly for 25% of the Internet’s usage.Or, alternatively you can look at it as a 25% reduction in our productivity at work.What does this mean? Well – it means that, like Mobile, one needs to look at integrating heavily with Facebook. If one can be pervasive enough through the Facebook medium alone, one can build a substantial business from it – look at zynga, creators of Farmville, Mafia wars etc.
  • Thanks for listening – now, any questions?

Forum Con - Adrian Harris - vBulletin Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Communities start today
  • 2. 2
    Contents
    vBulletin – what is it?
    vBulletin – how to get the most from it?
    How to scale your forum business
    vBulletin vs. Facebook & “Social Media”
    Forums, what is the future?
  • 3. What is it?
    vBulletin
    3
  • 4. vBulletin – what is it?
  • 5. How to get the most out of it?
    vBulletin
    5
  • 6. 6
    How to get the most from vBulletin?
    Outline your strategic objectives
    Nature of your site – choose carefully
    Operationally – minimal viable product
    Market – Push and Pull
  • 7. 7
    Push
    SEO
    Social Media
    Pull
    Make your site “the source”
    Content
    User Experience
  • 8. How to scale your Site
    vBulletin
    8
  • 9. 9
    Technology
    Managed Hosting
    Self Hosting
    Business
    Find the right people
    Look at monetization opportunities
  • 10. Facebook et. Al.?
    vBulletin
    10
  • 11. 11
  • 12. 12
  • 13. 13
    Utilizing these tools
    Facebook
    Facebook Connect for login
    Fan Page – utilize the Fan Box on your site to publicize it, update it daily with engaging questions, link back to your site where possible.
    Utilize “Like” button
    Twitter
    Seek out and find people discussing your topics
    Show “Tweetiqet”
  • 14. The future of forums
    vBulletin
    14
  • 15. 15
    Mobile
  • 16. 16
  • 17. 17
    Thankyou