How to run a successful forum: Getting Members and Posts
BY: Shawn J. Gossman (www.TheAdminZone.com)
Welcome to another one of my How to run a successful forum articles. In this article, I will be identifying ways for community administrators to get more members and posts on their community. These various ways are methods that I have experienced over my 10 years of messing around with forum administration. You may post this article on your own website as long as you keep my name and TAZ link attached. This article is copyright 2009 by myself, Shawn Joseph Gossman.
Getting More Members
Lets say you have an empty forum with you and maybe one other staff member. Now you need to build a membership database so that you forum can start to grow. There are many different ways of doing this. You can do a "fake" way with fake accounts and post/membership exchanges or you can try to do a natural way and get more real members to join up. Either way will help you in the long run.
Fake members would be users that you and your staff create. Most people just create fake users and leave them be without any posts. Other create fake users and give them a few posts so that it looks like the user is somewhat or has been active at some point. I think making fake members is an okay method but you need to give them posts or they will look just that, fake. Once you start to get an active membership database going, you can retire from using your fake members. Remember if a regular member befriend a fake member, you may be obligated to keep posting with that fake member to keep that regular member interested in your community, that could be a downfall especially if later down the road, the real member finds out it is a fake member. That is the main downfall with any fake members, real member finding out they are fake and may not being able to trust the community anymore. Keep this in mind if you plan to use the fake member method.
Another way to get more users and content/posts at that is having posting and membership exchanges. A post exchange is where an owner of a different forum joins your forum and posts X amount of new topics and/or posts on your community and in return, you join their community and post as much posts as they gave to yours. Post exchange numbers vary but are usually quick and that member usually never returns to your forum unless you request another exchange with them. A membership exchange is the same except it is ongoing or basically you remain and active member on their forum and they remain an active member on your forum. This forum of exchange is the best I have found but can present issues with not having enough time to keep up with the exchange at times. Other exchanges include exchanging links which could help you get more members as well and exchanging registrations which means you join a forum and that forum's owner joins yours, no posts just a registration exchange. This method is not my favorite but any way counts I suppose.
Getting Natural Members
Getting natural members is a very good way to get real members without having to exchange posts and create fake members. But this method can be a great task for many forum owners because you have to convince people to join your forum and be active. The best way to go about doing this is by joining forum promotion forums and forum resource forums like TheAdminZone.com and getting your site out to other members. You may also want to join forums that are related to your forum and add your forum's link to your signature. Take note to read other forum's rules as some may not allow forum links to be in signatures. That brings me to a main rule in getting more members, DO NOT SPAM PEOPLE! You should also build up your back links and try to get good ranking in search engines so that your community is first when searched. The quicker people can see your community in search, the quicker they can join it before they join another one that is far behind your search engine ranking.
Keeping a Forum Active
Keep you forum active by keeping fresh content on it. Make it a habbit for you and your staff to post 10 topics a week and 20 replies a week on your forum. This will keep it full of ongoing conversations and fresh discussions so that members have something to jump in to. You may also want to consider giving your first few members some form of "thank you" status. I give my first 8 members on my weather forum free Premium Membership for life calling them founding members. It seems to keep them coming back because they feel somewhat important, which they should because they helped build up the community.
This is it for this article. I hope you enjoyed it. Please show your support for this article by replying with your comments and adding more tips for others. The next article in this series will be about security of your forum, staff and members. Have a great day!