How to make a successful forum
- Offer something different - There are tens of millions of forums on the Internet so your forum needs to be different. Don't make it too general as no one will want to join a forum about everything, but make it too niche either or you'll limit your potential audience. Be sure to specialise in one topic, some of the best examples of these include: techguy.org - it's not a computer games forum, it's not a technology forum, it's specific enough; thedibb.co.uk is another - it's a forum about Disney theme park vacation planning, not about Disney and not about one theme park. Give your users cool features - like blogs or have a podcast for them to download. Make it different by making it interactive!
- Don't plaster it with ads - However tempting it may be to think Google Adsense ads will make you money on forums, it won't. It will only cover the cost if you are a very big forum with low server costs. Get sponsors instead and make sure you have only 1 or 2 ads per page. If you have a podcast, get sponsors to sponsor that instead and use that cost to offset the forums. Another route is to sell merchandise.
- Tell your friends about it - Don't be scared to do this. Tell colleagues, friends, everyone. Don't spam though - nothing looks worse than a spam post. An activate community is the heart of a forum.
- Make sure to check it regularly - Unless you have a valid reason not to, check your forum every single day, respond to every question as best you can and help out your members. A community that helps it each other will bring in more members, they'll also be more willing to post. After a few months, get a moderator to help with the forum - you should base this on how useful members would be in the role and not on whether members are your friends or not. If you see spam, update your forum security as spam messages are the first thing that make a user leave. The most annoying thing barring spam is an admin that doesn't care - so check the forum regularly!
- Have rules - No one wants to join a forum where people swear, post indecent images or flame each other. Have rules and enforce them. Infract members if necessary. It's better to lose a few trolls than all your potential new members. Here's a rule to follow yourself - don't spam your users with e-mail messages.
Hopefully these tips will help you you out. If you have any of your own to share, comment below.