So after long consideration you’ve decided to start a forum. Good for you, but let’s make sure you’re prepared and that you have the best chance to succeed. Today, things are a bit different. Several years ago you could throw up a forum and put in a bit of work and it would pretty much feed itself. With all of the various social networking sites nowadays you’ll need to put in a bit more effort, but you can still succeed.
First and foremost, you need to have a good idea of what your forum will be about. Maybe it will be used for your business, maybe a hobby you have, maybe just an idea you had. Whatever it is, get your idea set first. I’ve seen it happy many times, where people will setup a forum, not commit to the idea, change the format, change the scope, and it’s doomed to fail.
Ok, so now you know what purpose your forum will serve. Now you need forum software, and hosting if you don’t already have it. There are a ton of different forum packages available, but hopefully you’ll choose UBB. There are also a ton of different hosting providers available, but if you don’t already have one, we can help you there as well with Mindraven Hosting.
So, now you have your idea, you have your forum and you have your hosting. It’s installed and you’re ready to go. Now what? The first temptation many people have is to start creating a ton of different categories and forums. Bad Idea. Obviously your forum isn’t going to be flooded with content in the beginning and you want your community to appear active. If you have a ton of different categories and forums in the beginning, most of them are going to be sparse in content and that’s not going to help encourage visitors to participate. Pick a few key areas that you want and create forums for those. As the activity grows, then you can expand the number of forums from there.
Alright, we’re making progress. You’ve got everything setup, now you need some visitors. This is where you need to get a bit creative. You need to drive traffic to your forums and get people to participate. If you already have a facebook page or twitter account then you can post your new forum there. That will give you a start.
Next, talk with some of your friends and family. Get them to tweet or post on their facebook page about it. Have them register on your forums and start some new topics. You’ll need to heavily participate yourself. Even go as far as register a few other users if you have to. Just get some conversation conversation going. When people come to your site, they need a reason to register. If they see a topic they like, they are more likely to participate.
Now you’ve got a few users on your site, even if it’s just you with a multiple personality disorder, you’re now ready to drive more traffic to it. You need to get some backlinks. Backlinks are other sites that link to yours. The more backlinks you have from quality websites, the easier your forum will be to find in the search engines. So, here’s where you need to be a bit dedicated. Start visiting other forums where it’s kosher to put your own forum in your signature. Don’t go to a forum that serves the exact same purpose as your own and do this, more than likely the owners won’t appreciate it. If you’re running UBB, like I’m assuming you are, make sure you list your site in our spotlight forum. Maybe hit up a few people, friends and family, to do a link exchange. You post a link to their site, and they post a link to yours. Find some blogs that you can participate in and put in your website in your comments. You basically need to spend a bit of time each day promoting your forum. It’s not going to succeed on it’s own.
I will give a word of advice and warning when posting on other forums or blogs to advertise your own. Don’t just register and put a link in your signature/profile. One, it might not be allowed. Two, it’s probably going to be deleted. If you’re posting on a blog or a forum to advertise your site, make sure you post some meaningful conversation in the process. You’ll come to understand why this is important as your forum grows as you’ll begin to loathe those that don’t post anything of value only to try and get a link to their site from your forums.
Hopefully after a bit of perseverance , you now have a decent foundation of topics and visitors that are returning to your forums. If activity hits a lull, you might need to start up a few new topics to get things going again. Don’t stop promoting your forum elsewhere. Eventually you’ll have enough activity where it will sustain itself. Just make sure you pick out a few decent moderators to help you out and keep things running smoothly.