August 24th, 2006
A few past days I was researching websites and online communities hungry for the algorithm how to make a forum successful on the Internet.
As a result, I have made a sort of program – list of steps that are likely to increase my chances to succeed with my forum ventures.
I will publish the entire list. As I use phpBB for forum software some steps are applicable to this software, but I am sure that they can be transferred to any other forum software.
The most important step is CONCEPT. How are you planning to be different from your competitors, what content or services to offer, how to make your users your forum addicts. All additional steps are supplemental if you have a great concept (wish I had at the moment) – they will be a kinf of natural continuation of your key ideas.
0. How to build a forum from scratch:
plan it – main topic,
the concept (users, compretitors, your goals, give us a reason to come and participate),
build the project (code, design, mods, content, backups!),
properly run it
- select a skin;
- use mod_rewrite;
- page “title” meta tag = post title;
- assign forum boards (start small);
- run through the entire admin panel & make the adjustments (posts allowed to registered users, etc);
- add AdSense & CPM & integrate;
- feed recent posts to the website pages;
- don’t display or remove the memberlist.php;
- check the forum user end (registration, settings, talk, PM, sig, etc);
- monthly back-ups;
- enable Visual Confirmation from Configuration in Admin Panel;
- disallow HTML, smilies & graphic sig files;
- edit overall_footer to delete the version #;
- set of rules
Hacks – depending on your forum topic; in my case I need: attachmnets, user started threads, similar threads, community newsletter, user reputation, refer a friend, chat room. Need a list of available hacks? Check it here
Must-be sections (start with a few, increase with time if required)
Administration & updates, news and announcements
Hidden administrative area
Setting Up and Launching a Bulletin Board Community
Choosing and Managing Your Team
Managing Community Issues
Servers – Hosting – Software Choices
Increasing Traffic – Attracting Members
Revenue Sources – Advertising Methods
Forum Organization and Layout
Professional forum reviewers check (TAZ algo) – have a look at your forum as a stranger:
Feel: Sense of Community; Postcount and Quality; Participation Overview; Quantity and Activity of Staff; Contests, Games, and Diversions
Summary of Recommended Changes
2. Promotion & Monetization:
- use adsense heatmap for forums;
- ad rotating script;
- run weekly or monthly contests for prizes (1st to make 100 posts, refer most new members, more samples are posted below);
- revenue sharing with hack;
- hire forum posters (ex. postonmyforum.com);
- add your community to forum directories. Nice list is here
- immediate response (mods 24/ 7);
- reward your superusers (make them mods, member of the month, etc);
- link development; follow news;
- exchange posts with other admins (direct contacts, say 5 threads & 15 replies);
- mention your forum in the signature on other forums;
- post questions, not news feeds;
- plan to post, say, 5 new threads daily (each of office staff)
Contests are considered to be one of the most efficient ways to promote your forums. Samples of contest ideas: offer 2 months free advertising on your site for the first 10 registered users, the first 3 registered members with the highest post account once your community reaches 100 members will get 6 months text link advertisement, the first 25 registered members to reach a post count of 30 will receive 1 month free banner advertisement on all forum pages. Spend 300 bucks to have 600 site-branded beer bottle openers made. Run a contest called “Mega Posts” and the first 5 people to reach 500 posts wins a t-shirt. Referral contest work well (check vBulletin hack). If any of your site has “premium” or “pay” content, an idea would be for the leading referrer overall to maintain free membership, and for each month, the member with the most active and legit referrals for a month could get a determined amount of time of free membership to the premium areas. Give away DVD’s of reality shows infrequently. The members like them. Give them an Amazon gift certificate for the amount of the DVD, so they can buy whatever they want. Ask your sponsors if they were interested in giving away anything.
3. Forum Management:
Forum content: news, articles, interviews, images, surveys, games, quizzes, downloads, tutotrials, polls, debates, reviews
Moderators forum: to bond a mini-community
Community awards, member of the month, active news and announcement section, staff structure, t-shirts
Constant e-mail communication: your post featured, offer accepted, newsletter, etc
Feature top members, forum posters, photographers, reviewers.
Reply to all suggestion and feedback.
Participation: no one-post threads
Why people contribute their content? Money (contests, prizes, giveaways), recognition (graphics, top poster list, points system), advancement (ranking system, staff), self-worth
Have a forum? Make it a community: target your audience and understand it; pick your staff carefully (must be members, knowledgeable about the topic, mature); be unique (topic, design, features); give users a way to idenity (added to CP and avatars host photos, their blogs, subdomain, feel home on your site); get users addicted; reward good members (with graphics); get out of the forum (meet in real life); special e-mail invitations, a forum newlsletter.
Member stereotypes: clueless newbie; 1337 chat speaker; post happy spammer; snakster (=always unhappy); role player (a few id’s, bad intentions); etelist regular; line skirter
How to build good staff: keep in mind the forum goal; have a list of expectations; be familiar with your members; trial period; staff must work well together
Forum moderation training kits:
Summary: This is a program that hopefully will give me a clue how to run successful web forums. As I have mentioned in some previous posts at this time I consider forums and social websites as two most significant alternate ways (to traditional search engines) to get traffic to your websites.
It is hard for me to imagine that there are many websites that rely on natural traffic only and do not get into trouble now and then when there are some Google changes. I primarily talk about new websites. I am quite new to this game – just over one year. All my projects have poor rankings in the search engines. The one that is doing fine and gets a relatively good amount of traffic from Google operates in some low competitive niche with low earnings.
So I have a clear target to make my projects profitable while they can hardly compete for search engine rankings with the websites that were started 5-7 years back. I see the solution in this way – as I can’t get enough traffic from search engines I should get it from other sources (yes, I consider a project successful and profitable if it gets enough visitors. For me, traffic = revenue).
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