At a first glance, it might seem like all the most profitable niches are taken. After all, there’s a lot going on in the online world, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the competition.
But let’s start off with a reminder that competition isn’t a bad thing. It shows there’s a healthy market where there’s plenty of demand. And despite how things might seem, there’s still plenty of opportunity for doing something new. Welcome to the exciting world of niche forums and online communities!
What are niche forums, and why do you need one?
You’ve probably heard the expression jack of all trades, but master of none. It basically means that generalists can do most things reasonably well, but specialists do one thing very well. The same holds true of general communities and niche communities, whether we’re talking about forums, social networks, or even email discussion lists.
A niche forum or community is one that a specific type of person will take one look at and think this is exactly what I’m looking for! Let’s take a health and fitness community for example. Now most of us care about these things, but it doesn’t mean we’re all looking for exactly the same thing. A generalist health and fitness forum has a huge potential audience – and a lot of competition. A niche forum, on the other hand, might target women or men in a certain age group or even a certain area.
Virtually every market can be refined or divided into specific niches and sub-niches. You can define a niche based on factors like price, demographics, quality, values, and interests. It’s all about keeping the focus on the customer and their passions. And, as we all know, we’re much more likely to spend money on things we’re passionate about!
How to research your niche
Now we understand you want to attract new customers, but homing in on a specific niche market shouldn’t come at the cost of overlooking your existing customers. It’s about deepening the relationships you have with them too, and that comes with learning more about their needs. Your niche forum should accommodate those needs, so let’s start with some research tips.
- Find out what others are doing: It’s amazing what sort of insights you can gather just from a quick search on Google. Type the words that best sum up your business, and you’ll often see suggestions which show what other people are looking for. If you see lots of results from competing businesses with no one really dominating the market, then that’s a great sign.
- Explore examples on Google autosuggest – weight loss is a pretty huge niche. Weight loss for women is a little more specific, but still highly competitive. Now, consider weight loss for women over 50, and we have something that caters to a more particular section of the market. If you’re selling products rather than services, you can also do the same on Amazon to find ideas.
- Determine which niches are profitable: Products might come and go, but niches can stick around forever. That’s why it’s important to think about the community first, rather than the product itself. When you think in terms of niche audiences, and you take the time to better understand their needs, you’ll open up a world of opportunity.
- Research what people really want. Not all needs and desires are created equal. There are some things your audience will gladly pay for, but others might be a harder sell. If people can find what you’re offering for free, then they probably won’t want to pay. But if you can demonstrate real value in what you have to offer, it’s a completely different matter.
- Follow the best examples: There’s an online discussion board for just about every topic imaginable, and they range from the very broad to the quirky and obscure. Go to any major forum website or social network that caters to your broader industry, and you’ll find some examples to inspire you.
- Check out subforums. Let’s say your business caters to bodybuilders. Type in bodybuilding forums in Google, and one of the top results you’ll find is forum.bodybuilding.com. Now, look at all the different subforums there, and you’ll see loads of niches which cater to specific groups. That’s how niche forums keep on topic and connect the right people.
- Look at what others in your niche are doing will help you learn about your audience and find your place in the competition. It will give you the knowledge you need to create your own community – one people will visit and instantly answer the question of what’s in it for me?
Launch your community
Once you’ve created an identifiable audience, you’ll want to have a way to engage them. That means building your niche forum where people can engage in conversation with others of like mind. It’s a space with its own unique culture driven by a common purpose.
Let’s see how you can make it happen:
- Get your own platform: There’s a tonne of different platforms where you can open a forum or some other kind of community. But it’s also hard to target a specific niche and create a sense of belonging on platforms like Facebook or Reddit. To ensure you own the experience, and that you’ll have the freedom to give your members what they want, you’ll need your own platform.
- Create a safe environment. Your niche forum should have its own secure space. With your own platform, you can also customise the experience to give it its own identity. In fact, with the right solution, you can go beyond simple forums to provide a full community experience with instant messaging, livestreaming, dedicated member groups, and more.
- Share the best content: Some niche forums are entirely user-moderated and no one really ‘owns’ them. That’s fine, but if you want to engage your target audience or grow your business, you’ll need to get involved too. Not only will your members appreciate the effort – they’ll also see that you’re in touch with their needs and desires. And that means they’ll be more likely to get involved. Share content with your community that really speaks to your members. For example, a professional coach might offer a series of useful and topical tips to help members through current challenges. A personal trainer might offer tips on keeping in shape when they’re stuck at home and unable to get down to the local gym. You can also share the latest news updates, announcements, and reminders of upcoming events.
- Monetise your community: Regular forums aren’t really geared up for monetisation, but choosing a full-blown community platform for hosting your niche forum gives you loads of opportunities to grow your business. There are also plenty of indirect ways an online community can increase your revenue, such as by increasing customer loyalty or improving customer support.
When you have your own community, where your business is constantly visible, people will be much more likely to buy from you. That’s why you should make it easy for people buy your products or access your services through your forum. You might also offer a paid subscription tier with access to premium content such as online seminars or training sessions.
Building a niche forum or any other sort of community is all about being relevant. It’s not about trying to compete against an unstoppable industry giant, but about building relationships and influencing people. That comes with knowing what they want, what their pain points are, and giving them an experience they can’t find anywhere else.
No two businesses are exactly the same. Someone looking for a personal trainer or a professional coach might have a shortlist of options, but that doesn’t mean one is objectively better than another. Rather, it means there’ll be a best choice for their unique needs. Catering to a specific group, based on factors like demographics, location, income, and interests, ensures you’re that best choice for that select set of people. Niche forums help you accommodate those needs by creating a sense of community and belonging.
Here’s a quick recap:
- See what your competition is up to, and find out what makes you different
- Determine whether your niche is profitable, or how you can make it so
- Choose your own community platform for sharing and monetising your content.
Disciple’s easy-to-use niche forum software gives you everything you need to create your own community.