Imagine a bulletin board where you can post a question, or start a conversation or promote a business and the people who see that can answer or join in the conversation or promote their businesses too. That’s a forum, only it is done on a website, and when the thread or the conversation on a specific topic grows, a “community” emerges. This now becomes a place or meeting of people with the same interests and knowledge and they come together to hold a discussion.
Forum hosting can be very challenging. Here are 10 tips to overcome those challenges and be on your way to having a successful forum.
1. Selection of popular and secured forum software is of utmost importance. Secured software can save you from a lot of hard work and losses of existing posts because it will negate the need to transfer from one software to another. Popular software gives your forum opportunities to be seen by more people. The forum software should be simple and easy to navigate even by newbies. Consideration for those who are first timer users or are not familiar with how forums work is a must. There are forum software that are free and others have minimal charges. Two of the software recommended by most forum hosts are vBulletin, phpBB and SMF (Simple Machines Forum).
2. Have topics that are interesting. The reason why people will visit a forum is because of the topics. The topics should cater to the needs of the target audience. They should be focused, well-written and accurate. They should be able to grab the attention and interests of the new visitors but at the same time maintain the interests of the old timers to prevent them from becoming bored and unproductive. Topics should be updated as often as possible. The users are always on the lookout for the latest information.
3. State the goals of the forum. Like in traditional conversation, the forum members are aware why they are discussing a certain topic. Is it to clarify an issue? Is it to give an answer to a query? Or to broaden the scope of understanding of all members about a particular issue? What is the goal of the forum? Once in a while, a visitor or a regular member will go out of context and deviate from the topic in the forum. This can easily be navigated back to the topic by reminding them of the goal of the forum.
4. Establish the culture of the forum. In forum hosting, creation of a welcoming community is important. Newcomers who may be shy should not feel out of place or lost during their first visit. A thread where the new users or visitors could introduce themselves would be helpful. To familiarize visitors with what is the norm in that community, house rules should be stated clearly and the users are expected to comply. The common denominator of online conversations (like forums) and actual, live conversations is the good manners of the people involved.
5. Promotion of the forum. This is where the demand for time and effort on forum hosting is greatest. Sometimes, the success or the failure of the forum is due to the promotion, or the lack thereof, given to it. This is important for the forum to be recognized. You can maximize other social network media in promoting the forum. You could provide links that will connect other people to the forum.
6. Collaboration with other people to promote the forum. Involve as many people as you can. Acquire the help of your close friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues. Introduce them to the forum and ask them to introduce the forum to their circle of friends too. The word of mouth is still the best type of advertisement. Seek the advice and recommendations of other forum hosts, especially those who have previous successes in forum hosting.
7. The forum site must be attractive and user friendly. Have you seen a forum that is full of ads and the overall look is a mess? Design the forum in such a way that visitors could easily come back and forth and not become frustrated with the complexity of the site. Sometimes, less is more. Remove unnecessary instructions or displays that would only cause confusion.
8. Active participation of the owner of the forum is a must. Your enthusiasm and passion for the forum would show in how much time and effort you extend to it. As the owner, you are expected to be very visible. Visit the forum as often as you can. Update. Let your presence be felt and known. Allot specific hours where the members of the forum know that you can be reached. It goes without saying that the people expect you, as the owner of the forum, to be very knowledgeable about the topic.
9. Keep the forum interesting and fun. You can keep the members interested by posting a riddle, a game or a joke. Be creative in finding ways that would make the forum’s atmosphere relaxing and enjoyable.
10. Attend to the needs of the members. If there is an inquiry, attend to that as soon as possible. Regarding any concern or issue, the owner should always be on top of things. The goal of the forum is to always help the members.