Similar to membership sites in modeling, you can run a forum as a stand-alone business model in its own right – or add one to your membership site.

For example, if you run a membership site that teaches people how to create videos (or perform any technological function or learn any specialized skill, adding a forum can not only help create a sense of community, but actually save you a lot of support headaches. (The members tend to help themselves, with “senior” members often voluntarily providing real assistance to your newer members.)

The key with both forums and membership sites lies in creating a strong, recognizable entity that people get used to easily accessing. This means “branding” your forum or membership site with familiar colors, logo and a memorable name.

Using a ranking system to show member status can also be a popular way to “reward” your longest-running members, such as the “Hero” member status accorded in the screenshot, above. Allowing members to post a profile photo also helps foster a sense of community – the most important forum commodity you’re after – by putting faces to names.

Best of all, a forum added to a membership site can keep the membership site active and smoking when new content has dwindled to a minimum; or all course content is done.

Membership sites and forums do tend to have a life span, however: You can fix this yourself by running a course for a fixed time period: But even on those “indefinite” types, where your members are accessing resources you provide and sharing knowledge with each other, two years has been given as an “average” life span. A really great site or forum will run indefinitely with minimal maintenance, but this demonstrates why it’s a good idea to have a multi-license for your delivery system and have other membership sites planned for the future – especially ones you can “graduate” existing members to.

There are many delivery systems for forums, including the ability to add them through most membership site software, but if you want a good, free, open-source delivery system, try Simplemachines.

And – unlike most free systems out there on the net – its support is excellent. You can easily install it on your server providing your web host supports PHP and MySQL.

Excerpted from:

Starting A Business 1-2-3
The premier step-by-step interactive training system
for starting your business with confidence and clarity

Module 1: Research and Development