During my time as a reviewer on Forum Promotion, I began to see a pattern in the things that made me deduct points. Many forums, particularly new forums, were making the same mistakes. Many of these mistakes that the new forums were making were particularly bothersome to me, so I’m sure that many others are turned off when they see them, too.
Obviously, all new forums are going to have some limitations (e.g. lack of members, few topics, low post count), but many of the problems I saw in my reviews can be easily corrected. When your forum is new, it’s crucial that you have every advantage you possibly can. I have narrowed the list of common problems to five items that are both extremely common and easily corrected.
1. Many new forums are empty. Look at your index. Do you have any forums that have zero posts, or zero topics? I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen multiple empty forums on a new board. Nothing quite makes a forum look dead like having many empty forums. If you have empty forums on your index, do yourself a favor and make some topics in those empty forums. In the beginning, it’s all about making your forum look more active than it is. If you can make your forum look more active, then potential members are exponentially more likely to join. Filling all of your forums with topics is a great place to start.
2. Many new forums do not have some kind of customized logo or banner. I would rather see your forum’s name written with the pencil in MS Paint than a “phpBB: Creating Communities” logo. I’m not kidding. Any kind of customized logo or banner, no matter how awful it looks, is better than using the theme’s default. If graphics aren’t your area, then you can request a logo or banner on Forum Promotion. There are many kind people on this forum who would be more than happy to make you a logo or banner for a nominal fee.
3. On many new forums, the staff members do not welcome new users to the forum. If your forum has sixty-five administrators and nine hundred moderators, then there should be 965 “Welcome to the forum!” messages on every single introduction topic. Some new forums don’t even have forums for introductions. This is a really bad idea! In the beginning, you need to take every measure possible to welcome each new user to the forum. Users are exponentially more likely to stay if they feel welcome on your forum. Make sure that all of your staff members actively welcome new users to the forum.
4. New administrators think that descriptions are unimportant in comparison to everything else. It is true that descriptions aren’t the most important part of the forum, but they can help, and you need every possible advantage you can get in the beginning. I have seen so many forums that don’t even have forum descriptions. Take the time to write a sentence or two describing every forum on your index. If your descriptions are blank or very short, then new users are going to think that you didn’t put any effort into your forum. Also, make sure that you have as few grammatical errors as possible! Major grammatical errors look terrible to prospective members.
5. Do not staff the whole forum. Many new administrators think that having a huge staff will make their forums more active because people are more likely to post if they have a staff position. This may be true for some people, but it’s not always true. If your staff members are the only members, then they’re going to get bored quickly since there won’t really be anything for them to do. Then, you’ve got a brand new problem when you’ve got inactive staff members. I have never started a forum with more than four staff members, and I usually have fewer than that. If you don’t have many members, then you don’t need many staff members. Another problem is that if members show up and everyone is a staff member, they’ll either feel left out or feel overwhelmed by the fact that they’re constantly “surrounded” by staff members.
As I said, these problems are very common, particularly in new forums, so don’t feel bad if you have one or more of them on your forum. However, it would be very beneficial for you to correct as many of them as you can. In the beginning, you want as many things to be perfect as possible. If you need help, then there are many services on Forum Promotion that can help you.
Packages can help you make your forum look less empty. If you need topics and posts in a particular forum, then you can request that the package team members post in those forums. There’s no guarantee that they’ll always be able to do this, but they can certainly try.
Reviews can help you to get an idea of what guests see when they first visit your forum.
Exchanges, like packages, can help you to make your forum look less empty.
This article was first posted on our blog on 02/02/2011. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.