This article was first posted on our blog on 02/04/2009. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.
Well, by reading the title, you can pretty much assume what this article is about: Me teaching you how to promote a forum. (The blind leading the blind, right?) I can tell you that every forum owner wants more members and posts, but barely any of them are trying! If you are interested in starting a forum, you have to look at where you want to be, find another forum owner that has met this goal, and ask yourself, “Can I do what this person has done to make their forum ‘great’?” If your answer is “no”, you should definitely reconsider opening your own forum.
Building the Castle
So, you decided that you wanted to start your forum, eh? Well, to start off, don’t ever make the forum in two-and-a-half minutes, go and advertise it, and then say you’ll do all the “minor stuff” later. I’m very sorrry to say that it just doesn’t work like that, because, the minor stuff matters more than a lot of new forum administrators think it does. Here are some things you may want to look over before getting your forum out to the public;
A Good Logo/Banner – Nobody likes to click on a link to a forum and see a banner made in MS Paint with Times New Roman as the font. >_> If you get to the point where you think you should open MS Paint to make your logo, you might as well not make one at all. There are many forums where you can request a good logo for your forum, and it normally just takes 2-3 days to get a result in.
A Decent Style – Nobody wants to visit a forum and see a style they have seen a million times in other places. First, never use the default style, as it makes you look really lazy if you can’t even change the style. Second, choose a unique style. My suggestion is to go to some less-known styling sites and choose a nice style that barely anyone uses! And if you still can’t find a good-looking unique style, it’d probably be worth the money to get a custom one made.
Awesome Grammar – Whether you like it or not, some people get really mad when they see a simple grammar mistake. If a member spots one, they will instantly dash to the Feedback forum and write an 8,000-word essay on why that mistake shouldn’t be there. (I hate it when they point out the problem in the middle of their post, so you have to read through the 4,000 unnecessary words to find out what the problem was.) So, why not get a spell check (*pokes Firefox*), or maybe even take the time to copy what you write into Microsoft Word? If that isn’t available, why not pull out some of your kids’ ol’ “School House Rock” videos and watch those?
The Layout of Greatness – Build a nice attractive layout where guests and new members can easily find what they are looking for, and navigate around the forum. Also, when starting off, remember to keep the amount of discussion forums to a minimum, probably ten forums at most. This makes navigation easier, and it makes your post count look bigger since a lot of topics belong in one area. If you start to see some type of topic become popular, you should then create another board for it.
Uniqueness – You don’t know how many times I have visited two forums that look exactly alike, and their forums are exactly alike. I’d suggest not looking at your competition until after you have made the layout of your forum, and you have applied your ideas. After you’ve done this, you can look at your competition, see what they have, and try to improve upon your own forum to make it better. Also, be creative, and create some unique titles and descriptions that users haven’t seen before. If another forum already has it, guests will most likely choose to join the one that has more posts and isn’t just starting off.
After you have looked over these and made sure everything is in tip-top shape, you should invite some of your friends in to post a little bit on your forum, and give it a little boost before it opens up. You can also choose one or two of these users to be your starting Moderators, which will also keep them active to show you have some activity.
Open The Gates…Loudly
There are a lot of ways to start advertising, and when you start, I’d suggest getting your forum known everywhere, by registering to a bunch of forums, adding the link in your signature, and making a bunch of posts. This is probably the best way to start promoting a forum, as it shows you are willing to be apart of the community, which makes people more comfortable with joining your site.
Some of the other ways that you can promote your site when you are first starting:
Advertising Forums – This is probably one of the most-known ways to advertise. Go to a resource forum, order a couple of services, and it is really a great way to get a boost for your forum. Also, advertising forums are probably some of the best places to become active and get members through your sig. Becoming a staff member at one of these places can get you a lot of attention.
Make Friends – A lot of people that are going to join your forum are the people that already know you, just because they are more comfortable with it. You should bring your site up in normal conversation, without directly telling them to join. Maybe share one of the experiences you have had while building the site, and what has been fun about it. You never know, they may become interested.
Post Exchanges – When I say Post Exchanges, a lot of people think of a 5 for 5 post deal, which is what most Post Exchanges are. But what I am suggesting is long-term post-exchanges. This is a way to get you a guaranteed post increase, even if it is just 20 posts each week for each other. Something like this could lead to 1000 posts a year if you exchange a decent amount, and if you don’t like it, you can always stop it any time you want.
Any of the ideas above could help you start out your forum, and I highly suggest that you use all of them to start off.
Don’t Let Them Escape!
Once you’ve gotten a couple of members, you will then realize it is very difficult to get a lot of them to stay. A good way to keep new members active is to send them a PM asking a little bit about them, and maybe referring to a couple of the posts they have made. Ask for their IM address, E-Mail Address, and try to start a discussion about something. If you keep the discussion going, they will come back to continue to respond.
Another great way to keep members active is to start a non-promotional contest (which means referral contests or posting contests should not be made at this time), something like a “Most Creative Contest” or “Wallpaper Contest”, it really all depends on what the topic of your forum is. If they have an area for it, always remember to go and post about this contest on a couple of ad/promotion forums. Members will always read and reply to these to get their post count up, and they can actually get you more attention than a general advertisement topic would.
Keeping Things Awesome
Once you are getting a decent amount of posts per day, it’s time to continue to keep your forum going by doing everything you can to increase your member count, using some of the following suggestions:
Continue Advertising – Continue to put your link in as many places as possible. The more places you put your links, the easier it is for a search engine to find you, and your link is still being displayed for someone to click it!
Get Your Forum Reviewed – Get a Review to tell you how your forum is doing every once in a while. This can be a great way to get some good advice on your forum, and what you are doing wrong. When you do decide to reveiw, you should get a review from three to four different places rather than one, that way you are getting lots of feedback from different users, who have different views on your forum. If two or more of the reviewers all point out a problem, it definitely needs to be fixed.
Submit to Topsites – Submit your site to a topsite, and encourage your members to vote for it every day. If you can get enough votes to put you on the top, you can get a lot of incoming traffic.
Hire Some Staff – You shouldn’t hire staff members too often, but once you get some need for it, you should open an announcement stating that you will be selecting some new staff members, and will be accepting applications. Have the application process last for about two weeks and you’d be amazed at how much the user’s activity will increase.
Affiliates – You should affiliate with as many sites as possible that fit the same style as you, and if you get the chance, why not affiliate with some larger forums? Becoming an affiliate with someone is completely free, and it only takes a little bit of time to set up an affiliate with someone.
Well, that is pretty much all I have to write for this article. If you think this article should be improved, please send me a PM on the forums and I may edit in your idea, along with leaving you credit in the article! Thanks for reading!
~ Carsonk, Ex-Packages Team Leader