As part of the 90 9 1 principle or theory of forum participation, one of the strategies is to convert the visitor to the site into a member (ie convert them to the 90). Getting the visitor by a variety of promotional means is one thing, converting them is another. What can be put in place to do this:
- Content and activity. The forum has to have the content that people want to be a part of. They need to feel that this is a community that they want to be a part of. You need to nurture the community and treat each thread like a baby so its a great resource on the topic of the thread.
- Premium content. Visitors tend not to join if the forum content is hidden from visitors (some will, but its harder). Most of the forum content needs to be public. That does not mean that some premium content is hidden from visitors to encourage registration to see the premium content. Generally, they need to be impressed with the visible content first.
- Attachments and images. While the content can be visible to visitors, make it so images and other attachments can only be accessible to registered members.
- Advertisements. Place some extra advertisements seen by visitors that go away when a registered member is logged in. I like a Google Adsense advert in the first post that is only seen when not logged in. There is a note under it that says ‘Members do not see these ads‘ – this is also a link to the registration page.
- Welcome headers. Use these to point out the benefits of being a registered member such as access to premium content; the use of the private message system; ability to post messages; receive the regular newsletter; see attachments and images; cookies remember the member, so they can use the ‘new posts‘ option; and any other features may be accessible.
- Registration page. This has to be easy to find and accessible from several places. Have it linked in the top and bottom navigation bars and the welcome header.
- Video Clip. Consider a YouTube video clip on the benefits of membership and how to register. Add it to your YouTube channel.
- Bounce Rate. Develop strategies to lower the bounce rate.
This is all based on the assumption that it is desirable to convert the visitor into a member. See the considerations here: Should a visitor always need to register to post on a forum?
The key is: Make the forum irresistible; make the benefits clear; and make registration easy. The next step is to then convert them from the 90 (the member) to the 10 (the poster).