Sunday, July 12, 2009

Starting and Managing a Successful Online Forum

Online forums are a great way to interact with experienced people in various fields from all over the world. Not only do you learn many things and promote your websites but you also make friends. Every day many forums are created, most of these forums just fail to even start properly. Starting and managing a forum is way more difficult than running a blog.

Before anything you must pick the right niche for the forum, and make sure you have a lot of knowledge in that field. Then you have to pick a forum software, there are many paid and free softwares available, I recommend vBulletin as it is THE best and most popular. Then you have to pick a good design, custom made if possible and lastly some add-ons.

Now to the main stuff:

You need to get members to join. You can hold a contest, which is the best way. You can also invite your friends who can help you.

Then as an admin you yourself have to be very active and post threads which inspire and make people post. You have to post threads that not only cannot be found anywhere else but also really help people. People mainly join forums to learn new things, if you only have posts like ‘How old are you?’ it really is not going to work.

As the forum grows you have to appoint moderators, try and pick people you know. You can face many problems if you pick a bad team. You must pick friendly people who also know how to use the forum software you are using; also your moderators must contribute regularly.

Keeping the momentum going- At some point of time you will reach a stage where activity slows down. Here you just have to do something. Either you can hold contests or hire paid posters.

Now you must remember that forums are not something that you can make in a day, or a month. Successful forums take a lot of time to make. You have to keep putting in effort till the forum settles down. Promotion- Remember the more posts that take place, the more individuals will join. This is a “snowball” effect of forums, thus marketing must be done consistently and properly.

Ways of promoting your forum:

-Signature links in other forums of your niche.
-Mailing friends.
-Pay Per Click advertising.

Just like any other Internet venture, you need to take care of the hosting and maintenance of your forum. If your forum regularly has “downtime”, you will definitely lose members quickly, and a forum that has many coding mistakes will quickly frustrate all your visitors. You have to settle with a reliable host. If your forum is growing a lot, you may have to take a VPS.

You may be spending a lot on your forum. You just cannot keep spending a lot and not getting anything back in return. You have to monetize your site. But you have to keep in mind two things:
-Do not over monetize and stuff it with advertisements, as you will tick members off.
-Do not monetize it too early when you have very few members.

The best methods of advertising are private advertisements, but if your forum is new it is very tough to find advertisers. After using many alternatives, I think the best solution is Google AdSense. The rates per click is decent and you can earn even with a new forum. However, after some time people will turn blind towards these ads.

I have covered all the basics in this post and I hoped you liked it and learnt something from it.

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