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When starting a forum.

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Darthmaul

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A quick note: This guide was written by me, and was posted on forumpromotion.net, so you will find all of the forum and guide links end up there :tongue:

Preamble


Recently there have been numerous complaints of "Why isn't my forum active after 2 days?" or "My forum is a week old and barely active...what do I do?!?!" This, in turn, prompted the usual reply, but when I was typing it, I was thinking: Why am I doing this? I'll just be typing the same exact thing in a week! So, to help out all those new forum owners, and to help myself from repeating the same thing over and over, I have decided to write this guide. Enjoy.

Setting up your forum


When you setup your forum, there are a few things you need to consider. The first being the forum idea itself. When you get an idea for a forum, and you're like "Oh my god! That's a great idea!" write it down! Then comes the development stage of this process, which involves a good bit of things. You need to write down pretty much every detail about the site beforehand, as this will help you in the long run; when your ideas are developed fully and written down, you will simply have to get online and type a few things up
After you have the ideas written down, I recommend doing some market research. I recently did this, and got some great comments which have increased my confidence in the project. That's not the only reason why you would want to do it, though. When you do the market research, you find out what the people want to see on the site, if they are interested, etc. This helps you improve the idea you wrote down to a point where you are ready to start putting things online. After you have reached this stage, you are ready for the next: Domain and Hosting. I can understand some people saying "I am a new forum owner, and this is my first website. I don't have the money to dump into a domain and hosting", but can you honestly tell me you don't have $2 to spend on a .info domain? That's right! Two dollars, and you increase your web presence that much! Even a .info is way better than those nasty sub-domains that free hosts offer you. Now, eventually you'll want to upgrade that domain to a .net or something, but a .info is a great start. Now, hosting is another whole matter. I know that some people might be afraid to go ahead and start paying for hosting on their first site, and I understand that completely. If you want some great free hosts, check out this topic. If you want a good paid host, I can tell you right now that the big ones(Hostgator, Hawk Host, etc.) are some great options. In conclusion, make sure you have an original(this is very important) and fully developed idea. Then do some cheap options on hosting and domains, and you have a great start to your first forum.

Forum Software


Seeing as this is for the first-time forum owner, or simply a new forum owner, I'd like to start off with the free software and then move up to paid. The first software I will go ahead and recommend is Phpbb. For everyone who doesn't know, phpbb is based off of php and is the forum software for a lot of forums, even this one. Phpbb is free, and open source. This makes it really easy to customize by modding, and by styling. There are a lot of great free styles on phpbb.com so have a look around there, and mods are available there as well. If you need help installing mods, post a query here; I can also be of some help if you need some mods installed, so feel free to PM me. Other than phpbb, there are free software like SMF and Zetaboards. Personally I am not a huge fan of them, so feel free to google them; we will not be discussing them in this guide, reason being I am recommending phpbb due to its professional look and feel. Other software that are free just don't seem to match that flow, save for MyBB which I am not a huge fan of either. However, it is worthy of note
. The next thing I am going to outline, software wise, is the paid options. Now, these aren't exactly recommended for first-time owners because of the fact that they aren't exactly cheap, and new owners might not be happy if they spend all that money and their forum dies. Anyways, the three paid options I am outlining are: XenForo , IPB , and VBulletin. These are the "big dogs" of the paid software world, but there are certainly more out there, so feel free to ask google
. Personally, I find Xenforo to be the best option. VBulletin has recently just become too expensive for what they offer, IPB is more expensive that Xenforo, and you have to pay for way more add-ons than Xenforo. Xenforo is new, however it's already doing amazing. The few things missing are a CMS, and a Dignified gallery, among a few other things; however, these are in development and to be released soon. Anyways, Xenforo is just the best option all-around for new forum owners, and old forum owners alike. If you disagree, that's awesome! I don't want to hear it in this topic, as we have a whole topic dedicated to this sort of discussion here. For more info about forum software and their comparison, check out http://www.forum-software.org . When you install your software(whichever you choose) I recommend you close your board to guests and put a note up about the forum being under construction or something like that. This is the time that all that development work comes to fruition. Simply take everything you wrote down and transfer it to your forum! You know what's next? Modifications/Add-ons, and styles!

Styles



So, you have your forum all set up(categories & forums),and probably you have posted a few topics. This is a great start, but I now urge you to style your forum. The most annoying thing to see nowadays is people using the default theme of a software, or just a plain old ugly theme! Even if it's a simple theme, please for the love of all admins out there, put it on your forum! Just search through your respective software's style database till you find what you are looking for, and put it on your forum. Simple as that! Yet, you would not believe how many people can't even make the effort to do so. Now, for those simply looking for more, I urge you to buy a custom theme from a qualified and experienced designer. Here is a great list. Just talk to them and see which one is the best, and you'll end up with a great theme. Personally I recommend ShadyX seeing as he designed my theme and I absolutely love it. Anyways, just know that there's always some kind of great theme out there ready for you to use, and all you have to do is find it!

Modifications/Add-ons


Now that you have your forum set up and you have a style on it, let's throw up some modifications! Modifications, commonly referred to as mods, are a great way to add your own unique touch to a community. Honestly, the modifications you add to your community are up to you, and can really only be decided upon by you. Here is a good list of mods for phpbb3, pretty much all of them you should consider adding. As for other software, all you can do is look through the respective database and see which ones you like and add them. My recommendation on mods: If it is too buggy, remove it immediately. One of the most annoying things to have to experience on a forum is a buggy mod. Also, if it is not visually appealing to you or your members, remove it. The mod will end up hindering you more than helping. Enjoy your forum full of mods!


Members and Content


Alright, so now you have your forum setup and ready to go, but wait! There's two more things you have to take care of: Members and Content. These seem to be the hardest things for forum owners to handle, and it's one of the simplest things to understand. When you have a new forum, it's really not realistic for it to be amazingly active on the first day. So, you have to understand that the first couple of weeks are going to be a bit slow. But wait, what's that you say? I can speed this up? Yes! You can make this process of gaining activity and active members so easy! There a few things that you need to do to make this go as smoothly as you can, and here they are. Number one: Have starting content! You have no idea how many forum owners just open their forum without having even the official forum rules up! This is a definite no-no, as it will just show your future members how non-dedicated you are. Just go through and make 5-10 topics in each section, and you'll have a great amount of starting content. But what's the purpose? The purpose is to give new members easy topics to post in, mainly because most new members won't take the effort to make a new topic(unless it's a promotional topic for themselves). After you have starting content, encourage your staff(assuming you have some...we'll get to that in a minute) to post in the topics. Then, I highly recommend making a double account, heck even a triple account for yourself. Then take however many extra accounts you have, and then start posting it up in your topics. Sure, it's not the most honest method, but you can really get a lot of activity flowing from these double(triple, etc.) accounts. At this point, you should have something like 200-1,000 posts of starting content, assuming you have done everything above. This is a great post count to open up with, as it shows that you are really willing and dedicated to your forum. Other than that, just make sure you post rules! A forum without rules is like an army without a leader...it's pretty much just a huge group of people doing whatever. A little note about rules: Make sure you try and cover as much as you can, and in the future don't be afraid to modify them if you see a new rule that needs adding, but make sure you post the new rule to let everyone know. Now, your forum has a great style, great structure, a great domain, some great mods, and some great starting content? What's missing? Staff members! Another one of my pet peeves is that forums just open without any staff other than themselves. I can understand why you would do that, but honestly, at least make an effort to higher a moderator or something. You can't be online at all times, and you might miss things that other staff members might not. By having 1-3 extra staff members when you open, you just further that idea that you are really dedicated and ready to run a community.

Opening


Alright, so your forum has all the things we have discussed so far...now what do you do? Well, open the forum, of course! But, how exactly does one go about this successfully? Well, first, set yourself up a promotion template, even if it's just your site logo, your statistics, and a bit of a site overview. This makes promotion easier because all you have to do is put in your current stats and then paste the template into all your promotion topics. Next, look for as many promotion forums as you can! If you are reading this, you made a great decision by joining this promotion forum, but there are so many others! Look through this topic and start joining those forums and promoting. Then, have a look through this forum for a glimpse of any unlisted promotion forums. Like I said, post topics like mad! This effectively spreads the word, along with whatever signature links you place in your signature on those forums. Along with that, just start doing post exchanges(this forum) and you'll see some nice activity coming in. Keep promoting and spreading the word, never give up. What you have to realize, and most people don't, is that running a forum is more of a waiting game than anything. You have to wait on the activity to come in, mainly because it won't happen in a flash. I know, I have been through it! Just be patient, and you'll get there. If you make sure you do everything listed above, you should see the activity start a bit quicker than if you were simply opening without much preparation at all.

Parting thoughts: When creating your forum, make sure it's unique, or at least stimulating. Don't copy anyone's thoughts, design, etc. Certainly don't download anything that is ripped(themes, software, etc.),and stick with your forum. Sometimes it can get slow, so just hop on those other accounts you created and stir up some activity and it should ease the waiting.

Now, this guide certainly doesn't cover everything, so feel free to look at these guides:
http://www.promotion-box.com/index.php? ... moting.45/
http://www.promotion-box.com/index.php? ... forum.599/
http://www.promotion-box.com/index.php? ... -forum.92/
Or just look through my website, or this one for more guides.
This guide is ©Darthmaul/Sylar~2011 and if you wish to reuse it or re-destribute it I require the following at the bottom:
©Darthmaul/Sylar~2011
http://www.promotion-box.com
I can have sticky?
 

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