When you first start your first forum, the thought of becoming a webmaster can be a daunting task. Fortunately for you, most rookie webmasters make the same mistakes that can be fairly easily avoided when starting out. This article is a guide on how to avoid those classic mistakes that rookie webmasters always seem to make when starting a new forum, which are three things I normally seem to see with new forum admins, that can be avoided: too many boards, inactivity and too many staff members. All of which I’ll cover in this article.
Too Many Boards
First, the number of boards you make should be directly related to your current activity. When you first start out, you’ll only need a few boards to start a forum with. Generally, you’ll want at least one category specifically devoted to your forums’ general purpose. Which means if your forum is based on promotion, you should have at least one category specifically devoted to promoting a forum. You shouldn’t have more than two categories specifically devoted to promotion when you first start out, the reason for this is activity. If you have three or even four categories for promotion, your forum will look inactive to a first time viewer, due to the fact that it is very hard to keep up with that many sections on a brand new forum. Even with that in mind, you need to have all of your boards posted in within the first forty eight hours, and that’s a very hard goal to accomplish when only one or two people are posting on your forum with that many categories. The best way to avoid this is to start out small, with a limited amount of boards, then move up when the activity is good enough to have those extra boards.
Inactivity is by far the toughest of all of these mistakes to overcome. To be blatantly honest, this is the toughest for me to overcome. Activity is why someone joins a forum. People do not join a forum to look at themes and such, people join forums to talk to other people. Now, another fact is that a brand new forum has absolutely no activity. When you put the forum together, it will have zero post. The easiest way to increase the activity from zero is to post yourself. Unfortunately, though, we all hit the dreaded burn out. Which means that we literally get tired of our own forum. As unrealistic as this may sound to you as a new admin, it happens to everyone, unfortunately. The best way to handle it and ensure you keep activity up, is to have a good supporting cast: which should be your fellow staff members. They’re the ones who keep the activity going, even when you’re down and feeling blue.
Too Much Staff
Having the right amount of staff is something that’s a very tricky combination to get right. On one hand, you do not want spam all over your forum, and you’ll need someone to help you after you burn out. However, if your staff members are not interested, your members will begin to wonder why they should continue to support your community. In theory, you can have as many staff members as possible so long as they remain active on the forum.
What that activity level is, is something every webmaster needs to decide for themselves. My general rule is that all staff members should average about three posts per day, and at least thirty five posts per week. These posts should be in a public forum (not in the staff room) and should have some quality in the conversations made from the posts. Posting “Hey everyone” in a chat thread is not quality conversation. All of the thirty five posts should be in your forums’ main sections, and should be quality posts. If you can’t convince your staff members to do this, then they’re considered inactive. So, the general rule is to hire someone when you start the forum, and a moderator when you launch, so that you can start out with something. Having a bunch of staff can be a very positive thing if they’re all active, but if they’re not, it’ll make your forum look incredibly inactive!
This article is meant to be a guide on how to avoid some of the easy mistakes that I see newbie webmasters continuously make. If you lower the amount of boards, keep your forum active without burning out and only hire as many staff members as you need, you’ll significantly help your chances of creating a successful forum. Most of these are pretty easy in order to avoid mistakes, while others are harder. If you stay motivated with the end goal in mind, you’ll stand a lot better chance of being successful.