Tag Archives: Snobothehobo

Why Promotion Forums Are Completely Worthless … To You!

Do you have enough fingers to count all the times you’ve seen people chanting the same mantra over and over again–“Promotion forums don’t work”? I know that I don’t! The users chanting this mantra, though, are the ones who are using promotion forums incorrectly. Even the most effective services in the world can be worthless to you if you don’t use them correctly!

First of all, using promotion forums exclusively to advertise your site is not a good idea. Promotion forums, like anything else, are merely a resource. Promotion forums are meant to complement your other efforts. Promotion forums, however, can also be a proxy that connects you to other resources. Promotion forums double both as a resource and a gateway to other resources. Promotion forums can lead you to other tools you can use to promote your web site such as other promotion forums, forums that have a similar genre, directories, topsites, search engines, etc. Searching the discussion sections on a promotion forum can give you a lot of tricks to use to promote your site.

One of the greatest myths that exist is that you can’t get long-term active members from promotion forums. I know first-hand that this is untrue because I have gotten long-term active members from promotion forums before. While members who will be willing to post for a very long time rarely show up on your site out of the blue, promotion forums are great places to meet other people who are interested in forums. If you sustain a good amount of activity on a promotion forum, you can sometimes make friends with some of the regulars. This may cause them to want to check out your site! Making friends is a great way to get active members! Friends make great active members for your forum; they are generally less disruptive because they respect you and your rules. If you are active on a promotion forum for an extended period of time, provide helpful responses, etc., then you will almost certainly gain at least one or two active members on your site!

Promotion forums can also be used to gain tips on what works as far as promotion goes. While promotion forums are mostly made up of newer administrators, there are some administrators on promotion forums who have attained a reasonable level of success. Many of these administrators post tips on promotion forums in order to help the “little guys.” The search feature on promotion forums will be an invaluable resource to any new, aspiring administrator.

Furthermore, it is important to be sure that your forum is marketable. Many of the people who chant the mantra–“Promotion forums don’t work!”–are the same people who run forums that have been done billions of times before. If there are way too many large, established forums with the same niche as your forum, then it may be time to come up with a new idea that is more marketable.

As you can see, promotion forums can be useful in some ways provided that you’re willing to get your hands dirty. Too many people simply post up a basic promotion thread and expect their sites to grow exponentially within the week. It doesn’t work like that; you have to be willing to get out there, talk to people, follow advice, and improve your forum for the better. It’s not easy; nobody ever said that it is. However, the progress you see will be directly proportionate to the amount of effort you invest.


 

This article was first posted on our blog on 31/05/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.

Common Problems with New Forums

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.

The Fine Line Between Criticizing and Being a Jerk

Obviously, criticism is something that is part of everybody’s life. Without criticism, nothing would improve. However, I see a trend on FP (and the internet in general) where people tend to cross the line with their “constructive criticism.” Of course, nobody blames the people who cross the line with their “constructive criticism”, if the person receiving the criticism is offended because they have the magic words on their side: “I was just trying to help.” Assuming that you were legitimately trying to help rather than be a complete jerk, it seems that you don’t know how to criticize properly if you came off as trying to be a complete jerk. This blog post will serve as a tutorial on how to give and receive criticism properly.

Giving Criticism

BEING A JERK: “Your forum’s theme is so ugly, that it hurts to look at it.”
BEING CONSTRUCTIVE: “I think that your theme’s colors are too bright. You also could use a more unique banner. Furthermore, I believe that the text is hard to read.”

There are a few general rules for giving criticism.

  1. You cannot call your criticism constructive if it doesn’t contain anything constructive! Everyone who is a member of even one forum has seen this many times. “Constructive criticism” is becoming a shield behind which people hide when they say something intentionally hurtful. You can call your comment “constructive criticism” all you want, but it’s not constructive criticism unless you actually suggest ways to improve.
  2. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you’re disagreeing with a large number of people, then you’d better have some pretty convincing facts to back up your argument. For example, if you suggest that an active general discussion forum would be better as a sports forum, you’d better have some evidence. You need to have plenty of people saying that they would post or post more if it were a sports forum instead. If you suggest that a theme on a forum is terrible and should be changed when every active member of that forum thinks it’s excellent, you’d better be able to point to people outside of the forum saying that it’s terrible as well (of course, you’d have to make sure that suggestion follows the first rule as well). If you don’t have extraordinary evidence to back up your extraordinary claims, then you’re probably going to be ignored.
  3. If the staff of the forum decides not to act on your suggestion, let it drop. If something bugs you about a forum and the staff refuses to change it, don’t go around the forum posting, “THIS FORUM SUCKS BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T TAKE MY SUGGESTION. EVERYTHING I SAY IS RIGHT, AND EVERYTHING YOU SAY IS WRONG!” Here’s a wild suggestion: if you don’t like the forum, leave. There’s no reason to go around the forum being an arrogant jerk just because the staff decided that your suggestion doesn’t work for their forum.

Receiving Criticism

Like giving criticism, there are also a few rules for receiving criticism.

  1. One extremely outspoken person should not override your entire community. If a person is saying your forum sucks, then your natural response will be wanting to fix whatever complaints they have. However, you should not do something just because one person or a few people want it done. You need to make sure that the rest of your community approves of the change. There are always going to be idiots who sign up on your forum and leave “constructive criticism” in your suggestion forum to try to make you feel bad. When you see that, you’re going to want to change things, but the rest of your community might not approve of it. If the rest of your community doesn’t like the suggestion, you can either find a compromise or ignore the people who are saying the negative things (they’re probably just trolls anyway).
  2. Allow suggestion threads to stay open even after you (as the administrator or another staff member) have expressed your opinion on the subject matter so that the rest of the community can offer their perspectives. Saying, “This will never happen” and locking the suggestion thread will make you look like you don’t listen to the community. Obviously, if the user is making several threads about the same thing after the subject has been thoroughly discussed, then it’s okay to just remove the thread if the user continues to make it. However, you should always get the opinion of the community before locking a suggestion thread.
  3. Don’t lose your temper even if people are negative. Publicly losing your temper and posting irrational comments is never a good idea, even if people are blatantly saying negative things without offering constructive advice. Always remain as professional as you possibly can. It’s hard at times, but it’s something that administrators must do.

Criticism is a balancing act. If you, as a member of a forum, are saying negative things (“This forum sucks”) without giving any ideas whatsoever to improve, then don’t expect to be taken seriously. On the other hand, if you’re an administrator who does not listen to your users, then don’t expect to keep your users for very long. Criticism is something that must be used responsibly in order to avoid hurting feelings. If you don’t have any ideas on how to improve something, then don’t say anything about it.

Also, I know that everyone is tempted to comment, “This post sucks” on this blog post just to spite me. Now, if you do it, you won’t be funny anymore.  I spoiled it.


This article was first posted on our blog on 19/02/2011. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.

Using Reviews the Smart Way

Reviews are very common on Forum Promotion and elsewhere in the world. The types of reviews that we might receive on a daily basis vary widely, and with every review, there is a proper way and an improper way to use it. I find that the reviews on Forum Promotion are consistently misused by the people who request them. Being an ex-reviewer, I have a lot of experience with giving reviews and being dismayed when people receive them the wrong way. I am going to go through some myths related to reviews on Forum Promotion and dispel them.


Myth #1: People who have never run successful forums* cannot review because any advice they offer will be invalid.

This is the biggest myth that I see. Ignoring the fact that some of our reviewers have run or helped run many successful forums in the past and the fact that there is no universally accepted definition for “success,” a reviewer does not need to be a successful forum owner to review forums. Every person on our review staff has been a forum user for a long time and has seen thousands of forums, both successful and unsuccessful. Looking at what makes these forums successful and unsuccessful makes these people aware of what characteristics make a good forum. Reviewers don’t have to look at the admin control panel of these forums just to see what makes them successful. Also, with every review, you see your forum through a slightly different lens. The reviewer may see something that you and your users never noticed because you use your forum so much, and this particular thing may very well be deterring members from joining.

Myth #2: Scores are a very important part of reviews.

This is absolutely false. Because reviewers have differing perspectives, a forum that scores ninety in one reviewer’s opinion may score seventy in another reviewer’s opinion. Due to this, the scores earned in Forum Promotion reviews are not good indicators of how your forum stacks up against other forums reviewed. Even if the review was done by the same person, you can’t necessarily compare the two reviews based on score. For example, I tended to be much harder on forums that I thought were good because I felt that if I gave them too high a score, it might make them feel that they don’t have much room left for improvement; I wanted to see these forums do even better than they already did. For example, Hcfwesker’s Brawl Domain (an excellent forum by anyone’s definition) only earned an eighty-nine in my review. That doesn’t mean that Hcfwesker’s forum is worse than other forums that got higher scores by any means; it simply means that I emphasized his weak points a little more to try to coax him into doing even better than he already was.

Myth #3: If one reviewer gave your forum a high score and another reviewer gave your forum a low score, it means that the latter is biased or wrong.

As I mentioned above, each reviewer has a different perspective and different idea of what he/she thinks a good forum is. I know that I gave low scores to certain forums that had already been reviewed on Forum Promotion before and received very high scores. I almost undoubtedly got marked down in the “Rate Your Review” topic because of this, but I certainly wasn’t trying to be unfair or biased against the forum in question. I simply have a different perspective (and perhaps I’m a bit harder, admittedly). You must also take into account that different reviewers have different strengths. For example, I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about grammar (I’m not being conceited; it’s just an interest of mine). Because of this, I can spot grammar mistakes more easily than other reviewers. Some other reviewers have been knowledgeable about graphics, so they may be a bit harder on forums’ styles. Reviewers who are very organized may be slightly harder on the layouts of forums (I admit that I was a bit hard on this section of the review as well). Just because two reviewers have differing perspectives of your forum does not mean that one is wrong or biased.

Myth #4: If a reviewer gives your forum a low score, it means he/she hates your forum or thinks your forum is bad.

During my time as a reviewer, I gave low scores to a lot of forums that I thought were great. For example, I gave Anathema’s blog a relatively low score (mid-seventies if I recall) when I reviewed it. Although I marked her down a lot in some areas, I thought that her blog was actually very interesting, and I believe I mentioned that in the review. Reviewers may also not care about certain areas of the review despite the fact that they still deduct points. For example, I do not care much about the styles of forums, but I still review them and deduct points because many people do care about styles.

Myth #5: Reviews mandate that you take all of their advice. We think that our reviews are more important than what your users think.

This is absolutely false. I have always said that active users are the most important reviewers that forums have. Also, I recognize that many people disagreed with what I said in reviews; I never expected everyone to take all of the advice that I gave. However, be advised that if you request a review and simply disregard the whole thing, the reviewer who wrote it for you may not want to review your forum the next time because it’s a waste of his/her time.

* – Although we review forums, websites, and blogs; I’m using “forums” because it seems more efficient for the purposes of writing this. We also review forums much more than we review websites and blogs.


 

I hope that reading through my explanations will make you more likely to properly use your review the next time you request one.

Fatal Mistakes That Staff Members Can Make

Many problems that forums both new and old can face is mismanagement. Mismanagement is something that can destroy even an extremely successful forum in a matter of days. The decisions that staff members make can easily alienate an entire base of members. This article will outline some of the things staff members can do to easily alienate their entire base of members.

Sweeping Changes
Imagine that you have a forum that has been up for a few years as a gaming forum, and you’ve got a pretty large base of members. One day, you wake up and decide that you’re going to change your forum to a place for remote control car enthusiasts. You post an announcement stating your intentions in the announcement forum, and to your surprise, very few people are as enthusiastic about this idea as you are! In fact, many of them say that they will leave if this happens! You think that people are just being dramatic, and you go through with the change. The next day, your forum is a ghost town.

This scenario shows that making huge changes without taking what the members want into account is a very bad idea. If your forum has been one way for a long time, members get used to having it the way it is. If you want to make a drastic change (i.e. converting to a light theme when your forum has had a dark theme for years), you should probably consult the community first. Get their opinions. Make sure that most members are okay with the change. If you make sweeping changes without even thinking about the opinions of the members, then the results can be disastrous.

Unknown Staff Members
Many people use the hiring service on FP to hire staff members for already established forums. Usually, these new staff members for the established forums will register as a new member to become staff.

This, in my opinion, is a really bad idea. You should never hire people you don’t know to help staff your already established forum. A lot of your active members who weren’t even considered for the job might feel cheated. In fact, I would say that you should only hire people as new staff members if they have been in your community for a long time or if you have known the person for some time. Make sure the person is honest, respectful, and committed to the job. Remember that when you make someone a staff member, you are giving them a lot of power over your forum. This power could be used to delete all the topics on the forum (even though you probably have backups), ban members just for fun, edit members’ posts left and right and make them say insulting things, or even delete your forum. These things can easily take your forum from thousands of active members to zero in a heartbeat.

Choosing staff members is a huge responsibility, and you should treat it as such.

Inactivity
Especially on newer forums, the staff members have the responsibility to create new content to keep users around. Unless your forum is very large, there usually aren’t enough members to continue generating content for each other. That being said, if the staff members become inactive all at once, it can easily kill a forum. It’s also not all that attractive to see inactive staff members, and inactivity among the staff could easily stall your forum’s growth as well.

If you (the administrator) are going to be absent or extremely inactive for a period of time, make sure that you leave plenty of people who are willing to create content and moderate the forum in your absence.

Aggression
Often, if it becomes too stressful to run a forum, administrators and moderators will become extremely aggressive. They will start excessively handing out warnings, bans, etc. They will overmoderate and make the members feel oppressed. If you give out warnings or bans for every little thing, your members won’t be able to have fun on your forum; they’ll be too worried about getting in trouble. At that point, they will probably find somewhere else to go where they can actually enjoy themselves.

If running the forum becomes too stressful for you as an administrator, then you probably need to staff up to decrease the load on yourself. If you decrease the amount of moderating, coding, etc. that you have to do, then you won’t be as stressed; you’ll be able to enjoy yourself and the community again. If one of your staff members is being too aggressive due to stress, then you need to have a talk with that staff member. See what you can do to lighten his/her load. If this staff member continues being too aggressive, then it’s probably time to let him/her go. Some people can’t handle being staff of a forum that isn’t small and intimate.

Cheating
You decide that you want to make your forum look more active than it is, so you copy some topics in your trash forum. Nobody will see it, and it will make members more likely to join and post, right? Well, that’s not exactly true. Members will join expecting a lot more posts than they find, and they will probably just leave when they realize that your forum isn’t as active as it appeared. It is also not hard for members to add up the amount of posts in each forum and realize that a few hundred thousand posts are missing. Once that happens, it’s all over. You’ll be humiliated, and many of your members will probably be very upset that you deceived them. People aren’t stupid, and they don’t appreciate it when others act as though they are.

Status Quo
If you think that your forum is doing very well and decide that you don’t need to create anything new, then you have a problem. While some members will be content with the same old things on your forum, some will want new features and things to do on your forum. It can easily get stale when the same old thing is happening for so long. Be sure to always update your forum. A forum is never “finished.” Your forum needs to always be under construction with improvements and updates being made constantly.

Put the Members First
Now that I’ve gone through some fatal mistakes that staff members can make, I’d like to remind all administrators that the members need to be your first priority. If you keep getting the opinions of your members and following their advice, then you generally can’t go wrong. Make sure that your members feel like your staff members serve them; they should never feel like the staff members don’t care about members and their opinions.