Customizing SMF > Building Your Community and other Forum Advice

How to build a successful forum

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Noddegamra:
What works, and what doesn't

I've had a lot of experience in forums. Over the years I have created and moderated about 10. Yes, it's not a HUGE number, but forums take a lot of time and effort in order to build a successful member base.

I'm offering to help as much as I can. So here is a brief post to get you on the right track.




Paying for Posts
There are quite a few services out there that will offer to do 10 posts for $1 etc. Whilst this may look like a good 10-post-boost to your forum, it can really harm it.

People aren't dumb. When they start seeing about 20 people only making 10 posts then never returning they will notice somethings up. When they feel that members are bots or paid people they will most likely leave. Who the hell wants to get into discussions with "fakes"? Members want to have REAL discussions and get to know each other.

In my experience I have found that this can really hurt a forums reputation.




Adding your Link to Signatures in other Forums
A great one this. You can get people to know about your forum/site for free, simply by joining other forums and having your link in your forum/profile signature. An added bonus to this is that search engines like Google can see these links, and it will help boost you in search engine results.

However! Please be careful about this. I have seen people join up to forums and do a huge advertising spam post about their website in hope to get clicks. THIS DOES NOT WORK!
In actual fact, it ruins the reputation of your forum. It makes you look like a worthless, desperate spammer. Who wants to sign up to a forum run by someone like that? No one!

The best technique is to join other forums with a positive attitude. Have a link to your site in your sig, but try to make 10 or so really great posts each day or week (whenever you have the time to spare). If you get a great reputation on the forum, people will check out your link. If you are a really cool person, it is highly likely that someone will join your forum. People like to join up on sites run by really great people.




Make alternate profiles
One technique used when starting a forum brand new is to make about 10 profiles yourself and get posting. Whilst this can seem like a good boost it can look pretty bad. Each time you post, your personality leaks into it. People can quite easily tell if its the same person or not. It also requires a great amount of effort to have 20 or so conversations with yourself, trying to present different views and make it look good.

Instead, contact your friends. Ask them politely to sign up and help by making a few posts. Offer to get them a beer or something if they do, or just reward them with your kindness. Get them to tell their friends about your site too. Word of mouth is great for getting people to join your forum.

Also, if you are lucky enough. Get your friends to put a link to your forum on their websites (if they have one). you can also link back to them.



Competitions
Competitions can create a real buzz for your forum. There is one thing that is very improtant though which can either make this a great idea, or a very bad idea.

If you are going to have a great prize, you really need to have a great way to promote your event (competition). If people dont know about your forum and competition, then hardly anyone will participate. Put all you can into word of mouth, links etc. you can even try contacting other webmasters to see if they will help advertise the competition on thier sites, linking to yours!

One great competition I have found is to do it based on referrals. The member who gets the most of his friends to join up and get posting will win a prize. PayPal cash, eBay items, or coupons all work great. Be creative and see what you can come up with! :)





That's all for now. I will try to provide some more information later. See this more as PART 1, hehe. I really hope this helps some of you, at times it can be really difficult to think of how to improve your forum and get more members.

You may notice that the current forum I am working on only has just over 80 members. You may be thinking "how can this person be going on about how to be successful if he only has 80 members?". Well, like I said I have worked on more. Things change over time and I can still try to provide the most useful information I can think of. I really hope some of you find this useful and go on to make some great, successful forums.

Good luck everyone! :)


PS. I will try to add PART 2 asap. I'm quite a busy man recently. In the meantime, also try and check out my forum and see if there is anything you can learn from it. If you have any questions or comments, I will be more than happy to look at them, answer them, and guide you :)


LINK: noddegamra forum




(edit)
Part 2 is now here: http://www.simplemachines.org/community/index.php?topic=204741.0

K0H_K1u:
This is great, mods merge part 2 when done and sticky this please!

Dragooon:
Nice ideas. Also try to get members which HAVE interest on your forums genre and try to make your forum a bit customized as being with default features is not always a good idea. Keep trying new things and see which affects most.

Noddegamra:
Thanks for comments :)

+ good idea Dragooon. I will add a section about forum branding/uniqueness in PART 2  :)   

Dragooon:
Also be careful while using some mods which can drag your members attention from posting like Arcade. I am not saying it is bad to have it, what I am saying is people can get distracted on only playing on arcade rather then posting. Try having it with some minimum posts required feature.

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