Let’s talk about internet forums

Internet forums or in short forums were and still are a very popular platform for people to gather in one place and talk about topics they are interested in. How hard it’s to start a forum? What are common mistakes? How to get people to your forum? What software should I use for a forum? These are few questions that I would like to cover in this article. Let’s talk about internet forums!

My forum experience

I have had around 10 forums in my life. Most of them were playing around and truthfully I was too young at that time with wrong intentions – money. It was back in 2007. when I created my most successful forum. I still remember ~2000 registered users, ~10 000 posts and ~150 – 200 unique users every day. Did I make money out of it? Yes and no. I took expensive hosting at that time, back in the days in my small country Latvia I had to pay around 70$ every month and that was out of my pocket reach so I canceled the plan and found a bit cheaper hosting for ~20$.

I had an interest in tutorials and that was what I was mostly making in there. I had 100+ unique tutorials with and without videos that people started to copy in other local forums. Then more and more forums started to work on this category as my forum had the most activity in there than others – boom yea! After growing the forum for a bit more than 6 months I received an offer for ~200$ to sell it and I did. This was one of my many mistakes I did as I was young. If I would keep the forum at that point now it would be a biggest local forum – I’m sure! So, at the end did I win? In micro look maybe few $ in macro no.

Before that, I had a couple of free forums with free domains and to reach a point to sell forum there were many tries and many fails. I did, however, find out that friendliest software was IPB – at least for me. Afterwards, I had other tries on forums but without success. Mainly because of trying to copy the same forum I had and not so much time on my hands. Did I learn something from all of this? Yes. And I hope to share it with you.

Internet forum software

What software should I use?

There are many forums available to choose from. You can use free and paid forums at the end if they have a big community around and support – it will cover your main tasks. If I would have to choose now what forum software to use I would take IPB. It’s paid but takes care of a lot of things and you don’t need to be really tech savvy. However, it has some heavy price on licence and mods. If you want to go for free use phpbb. Other popular paid forums are: BurningBoard, vBulletin, and XenForo. I haven’t used BurningBord from administration side but it looks good.

Is it hard to start internet forum?

Yes and no. Let’s be real you need some basic knowledge about websites. Putting it all on a server and doing it all yourself to lower costs. IPB offers to take care of that but it’s too expensive. You can always find someone who can do it to save time, but basic knowledge is a must before starting. In these days, everything has been made as simple as possible to save time. In few minutes, you can have a running forum and ready to get new users.

The harder part is making visitors register, keeping actual users, providing content and making it all look good.

I would suggest getting few people together because let’s be real – you can’t do it alone. On starters, you don’t need more than 2 administrators assuming that the second one is the main technical guy. And one moderator that could keep track of all things or specific category and help you with the first content. A moderator is not a must have in early stage but the longer time he’s there – better.

Internet forum mistakes

Common mistakes

Forum not being updated or using nulled forums. Nulled forums are paid forums but “hacked” so you can use them without paying. They are not legal and you’re not always sure in what quality or security nulled version is.

Security is a must! This was a mistake in one of my forums. I didn’t disable specific file formats available to upload and people could upload scripts that would take people passwords or crash the forum. I learned my mistake. Also, make sure that basic security is done to hosting and software.

Backups make them one a week or more often. Always make a backup before making any changes in files or add-ons. I have crashed many forums like this and had to return to really old time back or few days. Users never like to lose their content and they could leave.

Staff – wrong people in your team can make users leave. Remember that users in your forum are like a client so there are rules for your clients and team on what they can or can’t do. I have worked with many “wannabe” administrators that all they want is the status in your forum and nothing else.

Private content – if you disable guest to see any content – they most likely will not register in your forum. People want to see a quality of community and topics before they register.

Too many categories – if you have a lot of categories but no content it will make you look bad. Provide the decent amount of content before creating millions of categories. Also, remember that more categories you have, harder it could get for a user to be in your forum. Simple and clear is the gold here.

Making other forums – this is the biggest mistake people do! I have done it, you have done it and odds are that some of your friends have done it. I have to be harsh – sorry but you’re an idiot if you believe that you can grow many forums in the early stage. I will give you a quick cold shower – YOU CAN’T! Internet forums take a lot of time to grow and build. I know you see some growth in a forum and you want something more and it’s ok but use your already built platform. Create small category of new content you want to work on. When you have a decent amount of conversations happening there, other parts of forums also should be bigger now and maybe.. keywords here is maybe you can create one more forum.

None of us have so much free time on our hands to manage many forums from 0. You could read this and tell that I’m full of bullshit but let me give you some views of it.

While making new forum your eyes are off from the first forum you have built. You’re not delivering content, as usual, you’re not replying as usual to conversations and it hurts those new users that you have. New forums and people have this feeling of rush and if someone posts and doesn’t receive replies – they get sad and move to another place. Cause let’s be real, we all want attention when creating something new and if forums don’t bring that – I’m out of there!

The forum is like a baby, when you get a new baby, the first one is older but still needs attention.

My suggestion would be to grow your first forum to a decent amount of users and to point where you can go out for few days and there still will be new topics and many conversations. Only then you could start to think about the new forum but in general, I do believe that you can live with one forum for many years if you’re good with categories in your forum and you don’t have a strict name on a topic. But remember people in your forum doesn’t have only one interest and they would like to talk about something else so why not use them?

Also with bigger forum it’s way easier to launch new one cause you can send out a newsletter to registered members about new forum and that will help you a lot to grow faster, however, remember that not all people like to register in million websites.

Invite people

How to get people to your forum?

Getting new visitors and converting them to registered members is not an easy task. More content will bring you more people from search engines but it takes a time to get shown in google.

You could use the money to advertise but let’s be real not everyone is ready to do that and even I would think twice before advertising forum in google Adwords. I would, however, get some Facebook likes for the page. It really depends on the category you have for the forum. If you’re one out of million “General Forums” then I would not spend even 2 cents on ads.

So how should you get people? If you read all article till here then you should be around 3 or 4 people in a team – get together and all think about friends you know who could be interested in registering. They can be real life friends or internet friends – it doesn’t matter. Don’t spam! That’s the biggest common mistakes young people do. Odds are that you will not get any good members to your forum and will ruin a reputation. The best way to get traffic to your forum or any website actually is – being active in other forums. How does it help you? It doesn’t if you haven’t put your forum link in signature. Signature is the best ads position you could have. With regular posting and with good posts or topics you will make your “ad” be shown more. Best part – it’s always there! If you’re not using it – you’re missing your chances.

If you have any questions to me about forums or you don’t agree with me in some parts – please let me know so we can talk about it. Sharing is appreciated.


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