Forums are SO Web 1.0, right? Well… yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! You’re probably aware of the old tactic of sticking a link to your site in your forum signature, but how often do you head over to the forums to get ideas for your blog?
First of all, you’re going to need to find a forum that’s relevant to your niche. Hopefully this is something you’ve already done. And let’s hope even more that you’re an active member of the community. If you don’t know of a forum already, just search for your niche keyword and the word “forum.” Once you’ve found a forum, you’re ready to roll.
Tactics for finding ideas
Look for beginners’ questions – In a lot of niche forums, there are sub-forums specifically for beginners and newbies. This is where you’ll be able to find a lot of questions asked, so just find a post where someone asked a question and answer that question on your blog.
Play off of any thread title – As an avid rock climber, I frequent a rock climbing forum. Looking at it now shows that the most recent thread someone commented on is titled “GRRRR MEDIA GETS IT WRONG AGAIN!” Just by using that title, I could come up with a post on a rock climbing blog about how the media often misinterprets or misrepresents climbers. You can do the same kind of thing for your niche.
Ask about what people want to read – This is a pretty straightforward way of getting input on what you should write about: just ask! Say something like, “Hey, I blog over at myawesomeblog.com and I was wondering if there’s anything you guys would like to see me write about.” Simple, straight to the point, and effective.
Ask if anyone has questions – Again, this might be particularly relevant in a beginners’ sub-forum. Ask the n00bs if they’ve got any questions. This tactic would also work in a review sub-forum. See if anyone has been eyeing a particular book, service, or piece of equipment, and then review it for them.
Look at reviews – While we’re on the topic of reviews, check out reviews that other people have written. You can either link to the view if it’s a really good one, or you can review the same thing yourself.
Ask some more! – You can ask about anything, really. It just depends on the kind of content you’re looking for. Ask people what their favorite site or blog in your niche is. Ask them what they wish they had known when starting out. Ask for quick tips and tricks.
Find people to guest post for you – This isn’t really an idea for coming up with ideas of things to write about per se, but it is a way for you to add more content to your blog. If there are people that post especially well-written or well-thought-out posts, ask them if they’d be interested in being a guest writer on your blog.
Create best-of-the-forum post – An “All Time Best of Whatever Forum” post could be extremely useful for your readers and can be great linkbait. Alternatively, you can do a weekly roundup of a forum’s most useful, interesting, or entertaining posts. If there are multiple forums in your niche, you can cover just one, a couple, or all of them.
Keep your eyes peeled – Just by participating in the forum, you’re bound to come up with ideas. Besides what I’ve already mentioned above, you’ll read someone’s post that you can elaborate on. You’ll read something that will remind you of something else and
Keep in mind…
If all you ever do is ask about what you should blog about, people will think you’re spamming up the forum. Be sure to provide quality content inside the forum itself in addition to what’s on your blog. Also remember that there are still a lot of people out there who are firmly entrenched in forums and don’t venture out into blogs very much. The more you participate in the forum, the more familiar they’ll be with you and your blog. Hopefully you can wean them away from the forum every once in a while to read and comment on your blog.
Good luck! If you’ve got any other tips for using forums to come up with ideas, or if one of these tactics has worked well for you, be sure leave a comment below.
Tristan Higbee just launched Blogging Bookshelf, where he blogs about the most valuable things he’s learned from books about blogging and Internet marketing. Subscribe to the Blogging Bookshelf newsletter and get a free copy of the ebook 101 Ways to Battle Blogger’s Block.
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