This article was first posted on our blog on 08/02/2011. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.
Every forum owner dreams of his/her community having thousands of members and hundreds of thousands of posts. The reality is that the chance of this actually happening is slim. There are so many well established communities for every subject that you can possibly imagine. These communities have member counts well into the thousands, how are we small forum owners supposed to compete with this? The truth is that we really can’t, it often takes years of hard work, advertising, and commitment to achieve even a medium sized active user base.
I have a potential solution for this problem, however, results are never guaranteed. I used to co-own a gaming community with a friend of mine, and I tried my idea out and had quite a bit of success. The community started out with about fifteen members, I went to various forum directories; (InvisionFree, Proboards, FreeForums, etc.) looking for newly formed, small active gaming communities. I would then register on the boards and send a PM to the board administrator offering them the opportunity to merge their small community into ours. We had a professional theme, domain, and an active user base. In doing this I gained almost 150 active members.
So my advice to small forum owners is to go around, looking for other small ACTIVE communities with the same subject as your own. Get in touch with the administrator and try to work out a plan to combine your forums. In my opinion, it is the easiest way to get a community up and running.
There are a few things you need to watch out for. Firstly you want to make sure the person you are dealing with is mature and is able to work in a team. You don’t want to share admin rights with someone who is interested in only his/her own ideas. This would essentially cause you to lose your forum. Secondly, do not offer administrator priviliges to every forum owner with whom you ask to merge. If your community has forty members, and his/hers has six, is it really worth having another admin for six members? Offer them a moderator position or something similar to appease them.
When you ask someone to merge his/her community into yours, make sure that you have something to offer that person that will make it worth his/her while. A registered domain can be appealing, as can a professional site design. Nobody wants to give up what he/she has started only to get nothing in return.