Seller Inspiration

Case Study: How to Use Forums to Build Your Community

by Paula Rosenberg · May 9, 2017 · Comments

Social media megastars Sam Golbach and Colby Brock wanted to find a meaningful way to impact the lives of their fans. They launched The Life Project as subscription network geared towards teenagers and young adults which is the demographic that makes up a large portion of their fanbase. The focus of The Life Project is to share life skills and talk about tough issues that many students face, such as bullying, anxiety, and toxic relationships. They utilized their existing social media accounts to launch their VHX network. Along with their video content, Sam and Colby took advantage of the out-of-the-box community forums that VHX offers to build a safe space for their fans to engage with one another. 

Strategy: Take advantage of social media to spread the word about your network.

Sam and Colby built a following through their videos on Vine & YouTube and have over a million followers across all of their social platforms. Prior to launching their own channel through VHX, they had a site where their fans could engage with one another. When they decided to start their own subscription, they first promoted it exclusively to their existing fans. While having hundreds of thousands of followers on a platform certainly helps, no matter how big or small your fan base is, you can spread the word about your network with spending little-to-no money as you’re getting started.

Sam and Colby mention The Life Project on their social networks to make super easy for fans to go directly to their site. YouTube makes is simple to guide your audience to your channel through annotations and cards. Linking to a site from an online video destination converts at a rate of 2X higher than posts on other social networks. Aside from spreading the word on social media, you can also connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts to your network so fans can easily spread the love too.  

“Colby and I wanted to do a video based website for years now, and our friends at Jumpcut Studios recommended that we do a subscription type site and that we use VHX and it was super easy to convert from our old platform. If you’re thinking about starting a subscription network with VHX, it honestly can't hurt you in any way, there is no way to lose money, so why not. The main way we promote our VHX network is through our social media platforms. This is where 95% of our fans come from."-Sam Golbach Co-Creator and Co-Founder of The Life Project. 

Sam also mentioned that in the future, he and Colby plan to involve some other social media influencers with their network. If you have a cast and crew, friends and family, or fans with large social followings, getting them involved or asking them to spread the word about your network is a great way to create more buzz. Spending money on paid social can be costly when you’re just starting out. Finding ways to generate organic word of mouth is a great way to start while you are building a marketing budget.

Strategy: Use free trials and promote at the right time of year to grow your subscribers

The Life Project launched this fall with subscribers from Sam and Colby’s original site. In December, they opened up their network to new customers and allowed them to check it out for free by turning on free trials. Sam explained the timing on opening up their network, “We did a  free trial membership around Christmas time due to parents being in a gifting mood. This season of giving greatly increased the amount of signups in the allotted time given to join. Also, everyone had time to be on the site because they were off school or work.”

Free trials help get your customer’s feet in the door. 46% of people who signed up for a free trial in December converted into paying customers, which resulted in their customer base growing by 26%.

Promoting free trials around the holidays was also a smart decision. We’ve found that sales around certain holidays increase dramatically. That’s the perfect time to either launch free trials or set up a promotional discount. Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and Cyber Monday are the top three holidays where we see the biggest increase in sales.  

Strategy: Engage with your subscribers through community forums  

The Life Project turned on the VHX Community Forums right from the get go. Engagement in these forums is incredible. There is an average of 322 new posts a day and despite their busy schedules, Sam and Colby find time to actively participate in their forums daily. “The forums are the main reason why a lot of the members join! The community aspect is the most beneficial part for a lot of our teenage fans who are struggling at the moment. Responding directly to fans not only shows that you care about their well-being by way of our videos, it shows that we are there to give them constant support daily -- which helps them hold confidence in our website,” said Sam.

Sam and Colby also chose to make their forums private. This benefits them in a couple of ways. Due to the nature of the content and the majority of their fans being teenagers, private boards ensure a safe place for subscribers to share their thoughts and feelings. Private boards also add an incentive for new fans to join their network in order to participate in the conversation. Forums may also help reduce churn. The top 15% of forum participants have remained loyal customers since the network first launched.

The Life Project has done a wonderful job crafting authentic forum guidelines and a no bullying policy that all of their subscribers have respected. “We wanted to set a very family-friendly/bully-free community for The Life Project and we knew the only way to be fair to our fans was to set the bar up front with everyone. We based all our guidelines on [our video] ‘How to make a new student feel safe,’” Sam informed us.

Sam and Colby’s sincerity is apparent in their videos. It’s in line with their philosophy of their members’ satisfaction being the guide for decisions they make as a network. Sam said, “I would say, make sure that you test your members often and make sure to play to their needs. Always customer first.”

You can subscribe to Sam & Colby’s network at The Life Project and check out our blog for more case studies from our sellers.