Hi, This is going to be a really long post, but hopefully it all makes sense. So, I run a forum for fantasy writers/readers called Worldsmyths (not sure if I'm allowed to put the link into this post or not, so it's in my signature). It's over a year old and we use SMF for the forum software. We have 156 registered accounts, but only a small portion of them actually log in and post/respond to anything. And when I say a small portion, I mean...52 of those accounts of 0 posts, as an example. It's not AS bad as it seems based on that example, but it certainly doesn't help. (Keep in mind that those accounts have registered over the last year and a half or so.) To give another example, it's currently 2:30 in the afternoon in my time zone and six members have logged in (nine total including myself and my two staff members), with people mostly -maybe- responding to topics but still not starting their own. It's also a weekday and in the middle of the afternoon, true, but that's not the case in all time zones. I should say now that this is not the first forum for (fantasy) writers that I've run, but it's the first one that I've been really serious about keeping active and making it successful- I've bought a domain and hosting, and I've really tried getting the name out there on social media to draw people in. I've even advertised the site on role playing forums because they're really the only places I know of where I can freely advertise, even though role players aren't the direct target market (role playing is a form of writing, but it's not the same kind of writing). I've actually been told that I should stop doing that and do paid advertisements, but the thing is that any payments for anything involving this site currently come out of my pocket, and while I don't mind paying for certain things, I can't be going crazy buying a bunch of things for a site that's almost constantly struggling with activity (there have been some spurts where it's been pretty active, but then it gets quiet again). I've run many forums in the past, both for role playing and for writers, so I know how things generally tend to work. So one of the reasons my co-admin (who is on hiatus due to being in the Air Force) and I chose SMF was because we were hoping to use eFiction as the site's story archive...we did that for a while, but there was no bridge between SMF and eFiction, so members would have to register/log in to a new account on the eFiction library site - which the members knew would be the case. I think that was a reason we lost a lot of the members, was because of the log in issue with the eFiction site, which we didn't realize was going to be an issue at the time. A lesson was definitely learned. One of my staff members has a real life partner who knows how to build the kind of site that we're looking to have for the story archive and he looked at eFiction and told me it was terribly coded, and we needed to stop using it as soon as we could, basically. He's building us a new library site for free (which will only have one login, unlike the eFiction site), which will hopefully be done soon. In the meantime, we're using the forum itself (a members only section of it) for posting stories until the library site is ready, though no one's really posting anything- probably because they're waiting on the new library site. The library isn't really what this post is about, though. Also, I should mention here that we looked into the SMF fan fiction mod but most of the things that we'd need to be able to do are paid features, and the site with the pro version of it doesn't even work any more, so even if we WANTED to pay for those features, we couldn't. I have myself and two other staff members, because the site really isn't active enough to need more than that, and it works - we used to have two other staff members but they both stepped down/away from the site for different reasons. For some reason, the members that we've drawn in seem to have this fear of starting their own topics or even responding to other topics. The log in, maybe read a post, and that's it. Or in the case of one member, they log in, post their artwork, MAYBE respond to another post, and that's it. This is despite our best efforts to start our topics to draw them into discussions, including questions of the day. Disclaimer: I know that at least one of the reasons, possibly, for the forum having activity issues is because of the fact that it's focused on the fantasy genre, which makes things limited and makes it a bit harder to draw certain kinds of writers in. I've had multiple people suggest that we open the site up to more than one genre, but I've said no - and my staff members have agreed - for a number of reasons. I've run forums in the past that were open to multiple genres, and when I set out to start Worldsmyths, I decided to have it focus on the fantasy genre. Another reason is that it sets us apart from most writing forums- there really aren't many forums out there specifically for fantasy writers any more. I honestly think it would hurt the site at this point more than help it if we opened it up to other genres. I think one of the other reasons is because of social media. Facebook groups have definitely made things harder for those who still want to use forums, but I didn't want to make it into a Facebook group because 1. a lot of people don't use Facebook due to having to use a real name, so that would mean not being able to draw in the people who prefer not to use a real name online for privacy reasons (which is one of the advantages that forums actually have over social media, because you can use whatever name you want on a forum and keep your privacy). Also, Facebook groups don't allow for organization of threads, and there's also the whole algorithm thing - the more "likes" and comments a post gets, the more it shows up in someone's newsfeed, but it's so easy for someone to make a post and end up with no comments, and I didn't want that, especially given the purpose of the site - discussing the fantasy genre and writing, and sharing writing as well. So like I said, we currently have someone who is building a library site for us (think of it as being like Wattpad with similar features, but not directly like it or anything), but it's been a long process in getting it built. While that's being worked on, my staff members and I have been struggling to keep things going on the forum, due to reasons mentioned above - people log in, but they don't respond to posts. Someone actually recently asked if it was okay to make a post, and I'm not sure what gave them the impression that it wouldn't be okay to make the post that they did. I think it might be because for the most part, it's really the staff members who are starting a lot of the topics, so somehow this leads people to thinking that they can't start their own topics? But we always encourage them to do so, and yet we seem to mostly have people who are shy about it. We've also had people register lately/since the start of the forum who've either MAYBE introduced themselves before disappearing or have just registered but not done anything else. It's super frustrating, and I'm used to that from past forums, but I feel like it wasn't as bad on those forums, although I don't think they lasted as long as Worldsmyths has, either. So here are the things that we've tried doing: -We have a Facebook page (that doesn't have many followers, which means that there's not much for interaction on there), we have a Facebook group (this was made originally so that we could keep in touch with people while the site was being worked on last spring, but we ended up keeping it because it seems to be one of the only ways to keep in contact with the people who are also members of it but don't log in to the site that often), a Twitter account, and an Instagram, and a Pinterest account. We also have a Tumblr but we haven't been good about using it. -On both the Facebook page and in the Facebook group, I make sure to link to any important announcements. The Facebook page and group aren't where we mainly do things- the forum is for that- but I know that it's important to have a Facebook presence in addition to the forum. -On Instagram, we share writing prompts with the URL to the site, though it's been a while since the last time I've done so. -On Pinterest, we create prompts to pin up with the URL to the site, and we also have a lot of different boards with various pins up on it. -On Twitter, I've been making sure to tweet the link and use hashtags when we post a question of the day (we have it so that guests can respond to the questions of the day, though no guests have actually done so yet). We have a fair amount of followers on Twitter and sometimes one or two of them will retweet when there's a discussion topic that I've tweeted that interests them. -I'm also in a number of different Facebook groups that allow outside links and I try to post the link as often as I can without spamming, and comment with it when appropriate. Unfortunately, Facebook algorithms don't always allow people to see it when I post in larger groups, so it gets buried quickly. -I'm a member of a role play directory forum and have the site in their directory (for non-role-play sites) and bump the ad when I'm allowed to (once a month). -I'm a member of another forum for fantasy writers, and back in August I submitted an article to go up on their front page and made sure to include the link to Worldsmyths in the byline. I also have a post with the ad for Worldsmyths up on that site and I've bumped it every now and then, too, to try and draw some of their members in. (Who says you can't be a member of two of the same kinds of forums?) -I've also posted the link on the NaNoWriMo forums. -I have the link to it in my signature wherever possible. -I've posted the link when I can on Reddit in their fantasy writers subredit. -I've told a number of online friends about the site, and have gotten some to join. Some of my online friends are either too busy, are too shy about talking about their writing online, or they don't write fantasy, though, so that makes it harder. -I've asked those online friends to share the link, as well. Some of them have, but I don't think it really drew any (active) members to the site. -We have the questions of the day that we post at least a few times a week (we try to spread it out so that it's not obnoxious), which like I said are open to guest responses. -We have monthly writing challenges, and we make sure to give reminders about them as much as we can without being obnoxious about it. -We send out e-mails about the site with links to specific posts that people should check out. We don't send out the e-mails every month, usually, but we try to do so as often as we can when there's something to send an e-mail about. In the past, we've made several (over a number of months) posts asking for feedback on the site in general, or specific aspects of the site. Usually the same people give the same responses ("I'm busy" being the most common general answer). I'm trying to avoid having to do that again, but I'll do so if I have to. Although at this point I'm not really sure what else I can possibly say. I have an inkling as to at least one of the reasons as to why people aren't as active (I think some of it has to do with not having the library site yet), outside of people now having to deal with classes again since summer is over. I know that our rules and FAQs need to be updated (mostly wording, but also things to reflect things with the new library site when it's ready), but I'm trying to hold out on updating it officially until we at the very least have the beta version of the new library site...which will hopefully be sooner rather than later. We've (as in, my staff members and I. I haven't said anything to my members at all about it) talked about putting up a Paypal in the past to help cover expenses, but because of the activity issues I haven't gone forward with it. I don't feel comfortable asking people to donate with the site being so up and down with its activity. My questions: 1. Is there anything else we can possibly do that we aren't already doing? Keep in mind that I'm trying to avoid having to put tons and tons of money into the site beyond paying for the domain/hosting and the occasional spiffy feature (i.e. I paid like $20 for the activity stream that we have). 2. Is there anything else we can do to encourage people to post, especially with making their own topics? We can only tell people "don't be afraid to start your own topics!" so many times...the rest is up to them. And it shouldn't be all on the staff members to make the posts. If anything, we should be kind of sitting back while people make their own topics and discuss things, while keeping an eye on things from a staff member level but also still interacting with people in their discussions, and that's not really the case. 3. Is there anything else about the site that you think we could work on fixing that we're not already aware of? (i.e. like I said, I already plan on updating the rules/FAQs, but maybe there's something else. There's probably some posts that could be archived, so I need to look into doing that.) I THINK those are the only questions I have for right now. If anything is unclear, let me know and I'll explain further. If you have any questions about anything I've said, let me know. And I would definitely appreciate any suggestions you have for what else we can do for the site. I'm hoping that once we have the library site, things will be better, but until that happens we won't know for sure.