A Store on Main Street:
Simple, yet often overlooked tips on starting your community
You have your hosting, your board setup, but it’s looking sort of lonely. So what exactly is the next step? Well, for the sake of this article, imagine your forum as a store. Yes, that’s right, a small store. You can’t do much with a completely empty store (beside use it for skate boarding practice). This article will show you how to turn that empty, dark, forsaken store into a thriving mega-corporation – or at least get you started on your way to fame and fortune.
Stock the Shelves: Add content
Just as in a store, no one is going to come in if there’s nothing in. Add plenty of relevant content to your community. If there’s something in your store that people want to look at, they’ll be more tempted to come in and pay you a visit. A forum is the same way. Users will come and see your helpful content, and will want to register at your community and stop by again. They may even start contributing to your community if their impressed enough.
A fresh coat of paint: A good theme is a good thing
When people see your forum, the first thing they’re going to notice (usually) is your theme. Although the default styles that come with your bulletin board package probably isn’t too bad, you’ll be better off getting a new theme. But just like a store, it’s good if it’s unique, but it’s not good if it’s blinding. A computer forum that’s bright pink would not be a good choice. However, a neat-looking green theme for a lawn and garden would be a good thing.
New York City or Botswana: You need traffic
You’d rather have your store in a place where it gets a lot of traffic, much like a forum. You wouldn’t put a store in the middle of the Sahara. There’s no one there, it’s hot and icky, and I was never fond of coyotes in the first place. But in New York, a store would most likely make a ton of money. But this time, you don’t need to move your forum to get a prime location. Get links, get traffic, attract potential members. A steady stream of potential visitors to your forum is a good place to start.
10,000 aisles is insanity: Why do it with forums?
Start off slowly. Don’t add 100 forums to your forum covering every subject from aerobics to zucchini. Start off slow, adding forums related to your content. As you need more forums, add more forums. But less is better. As your community grows, the number of individual forums can grow. Plus, browsing through 10,000 isles would put most of us close to insanity – it’d be kind of like shopping Wal-Mart.
Squashing the Mall Rats: Adding Staff Members
From time to time, you’ll have disgruntled members attempt to overthrow you, or simply ride their skateboards around in your store. You’ll eventually need staff members to help you ensure that your forum is a safe, happy place to be. Your staff can offer you ideas on how to improve your forum, and are often highly contributing members themselves.
This isn’t cable television: Drop some advertisements
On many forums, I’ve seen this done countless times. Massive amounts of ads plastered everywhere. From AdSense to AdVantage (or something), it does get annoying. Visitors aren’t looking to invest in cheap prescription medication, they want to visit a community related to their interests. It’s extremely detracting to see 10,000 advertisements popping up all over the site. It’s like having advertisements plastered across the front of your store front. People get the wrong idea, or just think you’re drunk. A few well-placed advertisements to help pay the bills is acceptable, but you don’t want your forums to be a giant billboard, because your members will treat it as such.
The Customer is Always Right: A happy member is a good member
As cliché as it is, it’s true. The visitors to your forum don’t have to sign up and devote their time to your website. They don’t have to register and sign up and contribute. You need to give them a reason too. And once they sign up, don’t screw with them or treat them badly. They’re the reason why you have the forum, and it can’t hurt to treat them well and be friendly with them, and have your staff do the same. You don’t have to be friends with each and every one of them, but before worrying about getting more members, you need to make sure to keep the members you already have.
Inspiration and Motivation: Have Fun!
You’re the one running the forum. If you’re not interested in your topic and your forum, how can you expect others to be? Running a forum can be an extremely rewarding experience, although it may prove difficult to start. Find a topic you care about, start your forum, and put your heart into the community. If you can do this, and you put a bit of work into your community, the members, the traffic, and the success will take care of itself.