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The A-Z of Forum Construction and Management
rockinaway
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 211

by rockinaway rockinaway is offline 01 Sep 2009

A 'basic' guide to the A-Z of forum construction and management:

Advertising/Marketing
One of the most important parts of your forum. If your marketing goes wrong then your forum goes dead. You must think of as many ways as possible to market and promote your forum. First look at your niche and target places related to your niche (following rules!). If you focus on a business, business cards could do the trick.

If you are a trusted member on other forums, add a polite link in your signature - again following the forum rules. One of things you want avoid is spamming. This annoys everyone and it will make your forum gain a poor reputation. Do link exchanges with other forums and websites related to your forum's topic.

There are a variety of ways to promote your forum e.g. contests. You must explore the array of ways and choose the ones which you think you can follow. You may even choose to go down the paid route.

Banning
Don't be scared to ban or warn members. You are the administrator and have full authority. Your forum will last longer and be more successful if there aren't any problem-causing members. If you see some who is looking to be a problem on your forum – act! You can start by sending them a private message informing them about their position. Progress to warnings and sanctions and finally a ban if necessary.

Contests
This has always proved to be a good way of improving the traffic and activity on your forum. You could provide prizes for people referring members to a forum. This way they are happy to work to help your forum. The prizes don't have to be 'out of the world', anything to satisfy your niche and members.

Domain
Always pick a domain name which is easy to remember. This could involve you shortening the name of your forum to fit it to a good domain name. There is always the problem of finding an available domain, but if your domain is too long or is too complicated to remember, then it is likely that people would easily forget the address or won't bother visiting. Therefore, picking a good domain name is also crucial in the success of your forum.

Earning
Every administrator has a background want for revenue from their forum. It is a want which must be fulfilled, but to what cost? If you wanted to make some money, then place a few adverts on your forum. If you place too many adverts on a page, the users will get extremely annoyed with the constant trouble of them and so they will prefer to leave your website. This may reduce the earnings from your forum, but you should start with a few small adverts and slowly grow as your forum grows - allowing them to adjust to the extra adverts and changes.

You could also accompany your adverts with some incentive for the users. This could be in the form of ad revenue sharing or even an option to disable adverts which registering.

Feedback
Your members are what keep your forum going - if you don't please them, then your forum won't be around long. Be sure to have some type of feedback area on your forum, allowing your members to voice their opinions on the forum. If the feedback is positive - excellent, you know you are going wrong. If the feedback is negative, then look at what they are unhappy about. Is it something you could adjust, or if you can't, tell them you can't do what they desire. Explain the situation to them and they will understand. If you leave them hanging with a question, then they are likely to see you as doing nothing for the members. It also makes your members feel like they are truly involved in the making of your forum.

Guests
These people will be making your members. You want them to feel as welcome as possible when they visit your forum. What are they wanting to join for? What do you provide? Give them a little welcome message with the highlights of your forum. Telling them why to join and then providing them with a nice link to the register page. Don't make anything jump in front of their faces - it won't do you any favours.

Hospitality
This again links to guests as well as members. You want your forum to have the best atmosphere possible, welcoming guests and making the current members feel happy to be there and involved in the works of your forum. Make sure you get rid of any problem members and posts - make your forum have the best reputation and image possible. Tell your moderators to be polite and welcoming to guests and other members.

Individual
Why have you made your forum? What makes it so different? This is one of the things you will have to think about before you go about making a forum. For example if you have a music forum. There are many music forums that exist already, but what will make yours so different? Why will people want to visit and join it? You should look to target a different niche or present features and resources which no one else provides. There is no point in providing a copy of a forum for people to join - I am sure they will choose the bigger forums before you.

Concentrate on making your forum unique with functionality and style so that you can make your own ground and stand out in front of other forums. Choose a new feature that the users will like and a style unique to other forums.

Judging Structure
This mainly relates to the structuring of your forum sections. You don't want too many as you don't want your forum to look like a ghost town. If you have too many, the posts (even if there are a lot) will be spread of a large amount of forums and so there will look like there are very few in each section.

Aim for around maximum 7 forums to start off with. As your posts increase, break down to further section. Starting with 7, it will allow your forum to look like it is filled with content. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is adding too many sections - avoid it!

Knowledge
There is no point in building a forum when you don't know anything about the subject of it. Make sure you know your topic well and that you can respond to people's questions and provide interesting and useful information.

You will always get people who know more than you, giving you the chance to increase your knowledge of your topic. But you should always have a good understanding of your topic. If you don't know anything about your topic, what will you post about?

Loyalty

You are the owner of the forum, so you MUST be dedicated to it. You must be active, post and respond to your members. These are expectations from your members - if you don't do it, they won't. If you go on holiday, or can't be active, tell them instead of leaving them wondering.

As well as this, you will over time gain some loyal members. You may want to reward these for their continued relations and voluntary loyalty to the forum. This could be by letting them access special sections. As well as making them happier, you get other members interested in getting to a similar stage as these loyal ones.

Moderators/Staff
Law and order must be maintained at your forum. It is vital you choose suitable and trustworthy staff members. Don't choose someone who won't be active or will abuse their rights. You should implement some kind of interview or application form to filter out the best suited for the job.

Picking the wrong staff members can lead your forum into trouble. Like you, they must be dedicated in their work and keep the forum active. Wrong staff members would not follow this and would be there for the power of the position - don't mess around with them, remove them!

News/Updates
A dormant forum is never good. Your members like to be informed about what is going on at the forum. Aim to submit a newsletter around once a month, telling your members of the latest news and happenings at your forum.

Also keep updating your forum with improvements which have been requested by your members. This is important to keep your members interested. Again make them aware of the changes and updates you have made.

Owner
You are the owner. As mentioned you are relied upon to do a lot of work on the forum and get it running. You have the authority and, hopefully, the knowledge of the topic of your forum. Be sure to utilise all you know to make your forum grow and improve your reputation. If you don't know about something - ask! We are always learning.

Posts/Content
A key aspect to your forum, quite obviously. Your content is what should be getting you members. Your content has to be interesting, up-to-date and want a response. A good way of creating interesting content that guests would like to reply to, are often debate topics. However, don't let these get out of hand.

You want as much content as possible - so post as much as you can everyday and improve the content amount on your forum. When a member replies, see if you can say something to continue the conversation e.g. asking a question. They will want to reply and so will continue to post. A good tool to use is the poll topic which will keep a good conversation going.

You're the administrator, so remember to keep posting and get others posting - content if king!

Quality
Yes, I missed something out. You may post all you like, but it is useless if there is no substance or quality to it. Like they say - 'It is quality not quantity'. You must follow this - you can't post hundreds of posts of just off-topic and useless posts. You guests and members want some content to read which will interest people for your topic, so give them this! Encourage other members to do the same.

Rules
You need some ground rules for your members to follow. Usher them to check the rules and make sure they follow them from then on. If they do something wrong, don't hesitate to put them right as you already made the rules quite clear. You need something to base your actions from as well.

A polite and friendly community is much preferred. Make your forum secure as well. You don't want exploits in your forum leading to hacking attempts and loss of information causing both you and your members problems.

Software
You need to select the correct software to use for your forum, so you need to explore the options.

Use the following article for further information: Picking the Right Forum Software

Remember to look at everything you need, make sure they provide what you need.

Target Audience
Remember who your target audience is whenever you do anything related to your forum. When marketing, promote your forum at places your target audience will be. When you make changes, make sure they are happy with it. You should always aims to please and provide for your target audience - it is the whole point you have created your forum, to target a particular user. There is no point in creating a forum regarding sport and then promoting and selling music gear - think about it.

Usability
Make your forum easy to get around. You may be thinking this is all down to your forum software - yes much of it is. However, you can download modifications and make small changes to improve the experience for your users. Add a small navigation bar to the left hand side of your forum, for easy navigation. Have a search box handy; make any important instructions clear and keep on responding to their queries and suggestions for the forum - much of it will be regarding the usability and their experience. Don't over-complicate things!

Varying Your Niche From Others (Yes it was hard to find a word!)
Like Individual, you need a niche which isn't being targeted. Maybe become quite specific with a certain topic e.g. instead of sport, choose a specific sport. If you choose a niche that is already being targeted by other forums, then make sure you look at how you will make you forum different. And most importantly, choose a niche which YOU are interested in - after all you will be leading many discussions. Further information: Picking a Successful Niche

Web Host
It is important to choose a reliable and trustworthy host. You don't want your website to be going down and inaccessible most of the time. Yes downtime can occur, but you want to make the damage minimal to your forum. You must also check all the features of the host and see if they will suit you so that you can last there for a good amount of time - another thing that annoys members if the moving of servers and changes of location happening every month. Give no opportunity for this to happen.

You can find more information by reading this article by motokochan: Hosting 101

X-ray/Performance
Ok, another hard word to find but it is related. The out-casing of your forum isn't everything. It doesn't matter how pretty and smashing your forum looks - it must runs nicely. If your pages take minutes to load, try seeing what is going wrong. Are there too many database queries occurring? Are there too many pictures loading? Are the pictures too large? Members don't like waiting minutes for a single page to load. If you are not confident on what to edit to enhance the performance of your pages and don't want to look into your files, then just ask here or get support from the support boards of your forum software.

Your Style
Make your forum's style/theme individual as well. You may choose to download a basic theme from a website, but try to customise it so that it is personal for your forum. Custom images, a logo etc will give your forum some identity and people will relate to it somehow. If you have the same theme as another forum, there is really no different between you. If you don't know how to edit a theme, ask someone for help or look at tutorials.

Zero
Don't leave anything empty in your forum! If you have a category, get as many posts as possible into it (obviously on topic). If you add a downloads section, add downloads to it. When a guest visits, you don't want them to feel like they are visiting a ghost town with nothing to download, read or check. The more content you add the better.

If you have any queries, ask at the forum


Originally posted @ AdminFuel

Last edited by rockinaway : 01 Sep 2009 at 15:18.
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  #2  
Old 02 Sep 2009, 20:14
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This is a nice article, and it has an interesting way of presenting the information.
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Old 02 Sep 2009, 22:21
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Awesome write up.
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  #4  
Old 03 Sep 2009, 08:20
rockinaway rockinaway is offline
 
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Thanks for the feedback
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  #5  
Old 15 Sep 2009, 15:16
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Thank you for writing this down and sharing it, it's a good reference to point to people. I might not specifically / personally agree with some points, or perhaps do things differently myself, but .. this is the generic way, and a good 'read it, maybe it gives you ideas' article. Thanks for posting.
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Old 12 Nov 2009, 01:32
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great article
thanks
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Old 04 Apr 2010, 17:34
COL NIL SATIS COL NIL SATIS is offline
 
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Brilliant article...thanks for sharing
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Old 06 May 2010, 08:29
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very very useful tips ... thanks!
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Old 06 May 2010, 15:17
rockinaway rockinaway is offline
 
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Thanks
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Old 11 Aug 2011, 18:16
SamirDarji SamirDarji is offline
 
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Just ran into this document. Really great!
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Old 01 Nov 2012, 21:34
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Very useful article
In extremely important for novice owners forums
Thanks
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