Online discussion boards or forums are frequently found on websites and blogs because they encourage reader participation and increase site traffic. Many online forums are set up as hobby sites centered on a particular subject matter and generate no increased revenue for their owner. However, it is also possible to sell products via an online forum. In fact, given a sufficient number of members, you can even market your online forum as a product in itself and make money strictly through paid memberships.
How to Start an Online Forum
Thanks to various software platforms, it’s not too hard to start a discussion board. If you own a WordPress-based blog or website, you can choose from many plugins (e.g., WP Forum Server) and install the one that best suits your needs.
There are also online forum vendors, including Yuku and Proboards, which offer free hosted forums that are ready-to-go. What’s nice about forum service vendors is that you don’t have to have a website or blog in order to start your own forum. You also get a little bit of free publicity from the vendor site and a spot in their forum directory. Should you eventually wish to link your website to your online forum, that option is also available (for a small yearly fee).
How to Manage a Discussion Board
It goes without saying that an online discussion board will need upkeep and periodic maintenance. Most online discussion boards are managed by one or several moderators who answer threads (i.e., topics), start discussions, handle inflammatory and/or inappropriate posts, etc. Additional software programs may be installed to scan for inappropriate language and/or uploads- especially if some of the members are known to be under 18 years of age.
Generally speaking, discussion boards run and police themselves. Most Web users have been on discussion boards in the past (some as far back as the newsgroup era) and know better than to “feed the trolls” or to personally attack other members. In most cases, members also know better than to post spam or promotional content- though you can never tell for sure. This is why moderators must use due diligence and not let discussion boards descend into complete anarchy.
How to make some money from an online forum
There are many different ways to monetize an online forum, from posting banner ads and in-text links to doing a product sponsorship complete with individual threads devoted to that sponsored product. There are also affiliate and CPA (cost-per-action) programs that pay forum owners per ad click or product sale.
In short, if you have an audience, there are advertisers and advertising networks that will gladly pay you for product placement. Online forum vendors are also not shy about generating extra money from their services, as noted by the recent partnering of Proboards with VigLink.
Banner ads and sponsored links may be fine when an online forum is just getting started; however, the older and more sophisticated sites don’t clutter up their spaces with overt advertising. Instead, these forums partner with companies and individuals whose products they can fully endorse, provide training for, and even expand.
Consider, for example, a discussion board on niche website development that strategically partners with and even offers product discounts through a hosting provider. Promoting the hosting provider makes sense when you consider the focus of this discussion board. Instead of coming off as spammy, such a promotion results in members being grateful for the information.
How to make big money from an online forum
Promoting the products of others is certainly a viable method for generating extra cash through an online forum, but that’s not where the big bucks are. To really harness the monetary potential of an online forum, you have to make your own products. Don’t think you have a product or two in you?
Managing an online forum puts you in daily contact with a number of individuals, each of whom comes with his or her own wealth of knowledge and experience in your chosen topic. Over time, you and these subject matter experts learn from each other and become smarter as a whole. As a result, you probably have a thing or two to teach to newbie members just getting started in your forum. Why not offer paid classes and/or workshops to teach what you’ve learned? Or, if you don’t want to bother with teaching, create and sell ebooks, software programs, digital tools, etc.?
Alternately, consider the nature of the forum itself and what it offers. If you’ve already have amassed a good number of tutorials, classes, videos and podcasts on your site, this information can also be “sold” via paid memberships. Many top-notch forum communities, such as Copyblogger’s Authority, are private (subscription-based). Hey, good information ain’t free.
You can go even bigger than just building products and maybe start a company (or two) from your forum community and the ideas it generates. One great example is SitePoint; its forum resulted in the spin-off of two companies, 99designs and Flippa.
The Power of the Forum
Establishing and nurturing a community of members improves your website traffic and number of repeat visits- but that’s only the beginning. Online forums provide you with valuable market insight into the topics your members are interested in, what products they’re likely to buy, and even if they’d be willing to help you out with some initiative like a high-profile interview or product launch. Having such information makes for some potent monetization possibilities.
Sue Johnston, a mother of three in Cumming, Georgia, figured out how to get paid to lose weight.
She lost almost 78 pounds- and not only that, she earned $150 to boot, using one of the many online services that reward you with cash when you lose weight.
Erin Wright, a mother of five in Center Valley, Arkansas, earned a whopping $800 and lost 69 pounds.
If you’re having trouble losing weight, you’re not alone.
However, what if someone actually paid you to drop those pounds? Psychological studies have shown that subjects are highly likely to lose weight, and to lose more of it, if there is some money to sweeten the deal.
Enter Social Dieting
Exercise and diet are two weight loss words that don’t inspire a lot of people.
According to Colorado State University Extension, around 50 million Americans go on a diet every year, but only 5% actually manage to keep the weight off.
Because ‘new normals’ in weight has led to wider acceptance of obesity, efforts in shedding off unhealthy pounds seem to go on a downward spiral.
But what if you could turn weight loss into a game, and get a chance to win a pot of gold at the finish line? Would you join to lose the pounds? Well, guess what? There are 9 ways you could earn cash on the side from losing weight – one program even pays over $3,000.
Sites like DietBet, Gym-Pact and Healthy Wage are proliferating across the ‘net and all employ some concept of social dieting.
What is social dieting?
It’s where dieting is a group-focused rather than solitary activity.
You lose weight with other people, be they your family members, friends or just random folks online.
Through a combination of community support and some peer pressure, you end up more committed to losing weight in a set period of time.
Oh, and then there’s the money: You bet a certain amount of your own cash, say $100, and if you achieve a defined weight loss goal, you make back your initial investment and then some.
There are no stipulations about how you lose weight.
However, most of these weight loss betting sites do offers forums and other member communities where participants support each other in their weight loss goals.
Here’s what Sue had to say about her weight loss bet on Healthy Wage:
I was skeptical at first, but after thoroughly researching it, there just didn’t seem to be a downside. If I stayed on track, I’d win; it was that simple. The 10% weight loss over six months was both achievable and healthy. And who better to bet on than myself – right?
I had no intention of losing my initial $150 bet, so I jumped in with both feet and never looked back. On August first, I had surpassed my goal of 26.9 lbs. and lost 78 lbs. By August third, I had a $300 deposit in my PayPal account.
Since her Healthy Wage challenge, Sue has continued losing weight and, at this point in time, is down at least 124 lbs compared to when she initially started on her weight loss goal.
Erin Wright participated in two Healthy Wage challenges and said the following,
I started the 10% 6 month challenge and the 1 year BMI challenge on the same day. The 10% challenge was a $100 payout and the BMI challenge was a $300 payout. I think I lost 36 lbs the first 6 months and won $200. At the end of the year I had lost 69 lbs., with my BMI below 25, and won $1,000, for a net win of $800.
Diet Bet is another get paid to lose weight site where participants form betting pools.
The amount of money that can be make back depends on the number of people in the pool; the bigger the pool, the bigger the pot of money that can be won.
However, if the challenge is an easy one and there are several winners in the pool, the money won back is going to be little.
Amy Oztan of Selfish Mom tried DietBet for several weight loss bets. Here’s what she had to say about the program:
For the second and third DietBet I (and about 20 participants) put up $50. If I remember correctly, most of us on the second bet met our goals, so we each got our money back plus about twelve dollars and change. I did not win the third DietBet – I think I had to lose about 7.5 pounds, and I actually lost about five. The $50 was not enough of a risk to really matter on its own.
A better motivator was saving face with my friends. I knew everyone doing those DietBets, and I wanted to be accountable to them. However, I don’t think that *just* the friend angle would have done it either. It was both the money and saving face. Putting your money where your mouth is, I guess.
How do you find a legitimate way to get paid to lose weight?
To determine whether or not a site is legit, you should carefully research its reputation. Most of the time when people have been ripped off, they are going to make some noise about it online. It’s a good idea to type in the company name followed by the word “scam” on Google or another search engine to see what results populate.
If you discover that the site has an overall positive online presence and that it’s been discussed favorably on reputable online magazine sites, blogs, or forums, that’s a good indicator that it’s not a scam.
I would also suggest doing a Whois search on the domain to try and find out who’s behind the site and when it was created. If you can find out who is behind the site, you can research that person through Google in the same manner that you researched the site itself.
What about staying honest?
It would be easy for anyone to say that he or she weighs 300 lbs. now and then “lose” a quick 150 lbs. in the space of 6 months (it just melted right off!).
To maintain honesty, the aforementioned weight loss betting programs do require that you are officially weighed when you start and end your program. O
fficial weights can be recorded in a doctor’s clinic, gym or your own home. DietBet, for example, has members take before and after photos of themselves standing on a scale in front of a full-length mirror.
9 Sites That Pay You to Lose Weight
I’ve rounded up 9 different sites that all offer you the chance to get paid to lose weight.
Join one or join them all. Either way, put forth the effort to live a more healthy lifestyle and you can be rewarded while doing so!
Launched in 2009, HealthyWage began in hosting weight loss challenges in the corporate world and government. Soon after, the program became available to everyone online.
HealthyWage follows a cool concept – you put in at least $20 per month and bet against yourself to lose weight.
Once the challenge ends and you lost your goal weight, you earn over 200% of your invested bets. You can even play around with HealthyWage’s calculator to check how much you could win for 10 to 200 pounds of weight loss within a span of 6 to 18 months.
What’s awesome about HealthyWage?
There are a lot of success stories. It’s been featured in many shows, including Good Morning America, The Washington Post, Woman’s Day, Today Show, and more.
DietBet members also rely on financial incentives for motivation.
Consider it a massive community of “biggest loser” contestants competing online. The coolest thing about DietBet is that members can create their own games and keep it private among family and friends, who can join in on the fun. DietBet will just do the tracking and data stuff for you.
On DietBet, members get to choose which game you wish to join (depending on the pot, length of challenge, number of participants, and more).
Every participant then wages a bet, begin the competition, weigh in regularly, and complete the game.
At the end of the game, DietBet keeps 10% to 25% of the pot raised, then whoever lost 4% of their body weight from initial weigh in to final weigh in gets to split the pot.
Note that if a pot reaches $25,000 and about 200 of all 250 participants lose 4% by the end of the game, everyone who wins only get to take home $90 to $110 each (depending on how much cut DietBet gets out of the pot).
Not much of a gym person? DietBet also has its own “step challenge” to encourage walking, so if you’re interested, head over to its sister site StepBet.
FatBet isn’t the most visually-appealing websites around, but it serves its purpose well.
Anyone can start a FatBet, set weight loss goals, set wager, fill in dates and ask people he/she knows to join the challenge. From there, everyone who participates can track their personal progress. Once the FatBet ends, participants who reach their goals win and those who don’t pay the wager.
The platform of FatBet is very unassuming.
Every FatBet only shows progress charts of participants, details of the FatBet wager, and their very own community board – where bragging and smack talk among family and friends often occurs.
Stickk isn’t just about losing weight – it encourages a healthy lifestyle to quit smoking, exercise regularly, maintain weight, race, or other custom commitments.
Anyone can create their goals, set the stakes, assign a referee, and sign the contract.
If you don’t meet the goal within the time period you set, the money you placed could go to a recipient of your choice. Some people even assign an enemy as their recipient as extra motivation to beat the challenge.
If you meet your goal, there are no other prizes, except for the fact that you won and you’ll keep your money. The smallest wager, or what Stickk calls “the price of failure,” you could set is at $5.
Like Stickk.com, Pact doesn’t just focus on weight loss, but meeting three different kinds of goals for a healthier lifestyle – eating more vegetable (daily photo uploads of your veggie-infused meals), exercising more (sync Fitbit and other various apps for proof), and logging your food (via My Fitness Pal).
You don’t earn a lot of money with Pact. The site claims you can receive 30 cents to $5 a week, depending on the amount of goals set. Users are motivated because of the stakes they might lose whenever they don’t reach their goals.
User’s credit cards are connected to the app too, so there’s no escaping paying wages if you don’t meet your pact.
If you’re not yet on SwagBucks, you’re missing out on every reward you could’ve earned from searching the web, playing games online, watching videos, taking surveys, signing up to programs, shopping from big retailers like Walmart or Amazon, and more.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you should check out SwagBucks fitness videos collection and earn rewards from following one of the workout videos available there.