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How To Build A Successful Forum

How To Build A Successful Forum.

If you have ever tried adding a forum to your site you will know how difficult it is to build a successful forum. Getting people to post on your forum and attracting new members is probably the hardest thing a webmaster can do unless he already has a site that is pulling thousands of visitors a day.

What i will attempt to do in this post is give you some tips and advice about building a popular forum and how to get people to join and post in it. While following these tips will not ensure you end up with a popular forum it will help you along the way and make it that little bit easier for you.

Build your forum around a topic you know about.

The most important factor in building a successful forum is how much you know about the topic. In the first few weeks, Even months, Most of the questions asked will have to be answered by you. So if you don't have any answers people are unlikely to come back. you don't necessary have to be an expert on your forums topic, but you certainly have to know more than your visitors do.

Make your forum appear active.

It will do no harm at all to make yourself 40 accounts and sit down for a weekend having conversations with yourself, Posting threads and asking questions and answering them will make you forum appear active. The last thing people want to do is join an inactive boring empty forum, So if they think that there are people posting and chatting about a subject they are interested in they will be a lot more likely to participate.

Don't flood you forum with topics.

When your forum first starts create as few sections as you can. A common mistake people make is to create far too many sections which will remain empty for a long time. It is far better to have 4 sections that are active than 15 that look empty. Then if after a while you feel you can start slowly adding more sections you can them move relevant threads into the new forums and they will instantly appear acvtive.

Offer incentives.

By offering incentives you can entice people into joining or posting more. These incentives don't have to be monetary, Though money will work best, They can be anything from a change in rank, A change in the members name color or moderator status to the first 3 people to get to 250 quality posts, Or if it's a webmaster forum you can share ad revenue like WMT does, or you could offer a text links advert on the forum for anyone who reaches a certain amount of posts.

Affiliate program.

To increase your member base you could try having an affiliate program. If every members profile you could give them a link and when people join after following that link they are given a point, Then display their referral points under their post count when they post. I know it sounds silly, But people like collecting imaginary points that are not worth anything. And it will mean some of your members will be actively trying to get people to join your forum.

Get in with other forums.

If you know people who run a similar forum ask them if you can have a text link on their forum. Or even better, Participate in other related forums and put a link to your forum in your signature. If you become an active trusted member on another forum people will be likely to at least visit and have a look around your forum, And if it looks interesting and active they will join and contribute.

Have rules, But don't be a Nazi.

Rules are an important part of running a good forum. people need to know what is allowed and what isn't allowed. Your rules should be regarding what types of posts can be made, What language is acceptable and what is allowed in signatures. While these rules do need to be enforced you shouldn't rule with an iron fist, Nobody like elitism and nothing will make people leave quicker. If you see someone breaking a signature rule for example don't send them an agressive PM threatening to ban them, Simply bring it up as a by the way point when you reply to them in a thread. e.g "yeah, I see that movie too, it was great.. by the way bill, you are only supposed to have 3 links in your sig".

Adding mods hacks and features.

Most forum software have a number of hacks that can implemented onto your forum, Chances are if you can think of a feature someone has coded a hack for it. So have a look around and install a few of these. They can be anything from a custom theme to a quick reply box that appears in threads.
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Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Saturday, 12 August, 2006

Good tips Matt. I guess you know I'm an active forum memeber, but you might not know that I would like to add one to my site at some point in the future.

I had thought of the idea about creating a lot of members that would all be me at first and have some long dialogs (or monlogs I guess) to give the forum the appearance of being active upon launch.

I've wondered though when and how to phase out all those fictional members. Maybe for every 2 or 3 real members you attract you can let one fictional member leave or just go on an extended vacation.

I like the idea of keeping the topics to a minimum at first. It's very easy to see other forums and want to have all the topics they do, but nothing is worse than an empty forum and those topics can be added later as your membership grows and there's a need to additional topics.

One thing I would suggest that you did mention is to become an active forum member yourself. It can help a lot in undrstanding better how forums operate and like you said if you are a respected memeber of forums posting a link to yours in your signature should at least get people to check you out.  

Posted by Blogger Internet Marketing Specialist @ Saturday, 24 May, 2008

I totally agree with your points here.
These are serious great tips!

Thank you for sharing :)  

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