Successful Message Forum
A Guide to Starting Your
Message Forum Today
Successful message forum administration in 2022 is very possible. Yes, I’ll admit, it is harder to run a successful message forum today than it was 15 years ago. With social media, everything is harder to run these days unless you’re doing in on social media. However, social media is rented space and you don’t get as many control features as you do on message forums. If you don’t want that many features stick to social media. But if you are into a challenge and would control all aspects of that challenge, then you might want to keep reading this article. In this article, I’m giving you an extensive 20-step guide on starting your successful message forum is 2022 and beyond. So, let’s get into the nitty gritty of starting a successful message forum…
Successful Message Forum Step 1: Determining Your Niche
Before starting your successful message forum, you need to determine what the forum will be about. The topic of your forum is called a NICHE. A niche is the genre of what your forum will focus on. While some people choose to make the niche anything and everything, like a general topics’ forum, you will have a better chance of success by choosing an actual direct niche. You could still make a general topics forum but create it around a niche where it could be appropriate such as a political debate forum with general topics as well. It will be way easier to manage it and promote it if it has a niche. There are two ways to determine your niche. You could use a hobby or topic you are extremely passionate about or you can go for a topic that is trending and popular in modern times. Let’s dig deeper into these two methods of determining your forum niche.
Choose a niche based around your passion or a hobby. This is the best way to determine your forum niche in all honesty. If you create a forum in an area of interest that you already know about, it is going to be a lot easier to manage and turn into a successful message forum. You as the forum owner are also the community manager and you’re going to have to be active and develop your community. With that said, members are going to look up to you as being an authority of the niche your forum is about. So, what are your hobbies? What are your main passions in life? Determine what you love the most and that is how you choose your forum niche.
Choose a trending topic as your niche. Choosing a current trending topic that is forecast to continue to be popular might also be an ideal way to determine your forum niche. If you know about the topic, it is going to be easier. However, assuming that you are new to the topic, that is where it will become a significant challenge. This isn’t always an option I would recommend to new forum owners. It is a lot harder when you don’t know anything about the topic because like I said, your forum members will look at you as the authority or the expert of the niche and a lot of questions will be directed at you. But sometimes choosing a success message forum niche means you must go with a popular topic especially if you could be one of the only message forums for that topic in the game.
One last tip when it comes to forum niche selection – continue learning more about it! Don’t ever assume that you are a total guru or expert of the niche. Almost every genre or niche is constantly being updated with new tactics, information, and technologies, and so on. You need to stay on top of your game when it comes to niche education. I always recommend to new forum owners to learn something new every day about your niche whether it takes you 5-minutes or half a day, learn something new each day. I have been practicing this advice for over a decade and my knowledge is vast because of it. When it comes to your forum niche, learning will never stop. Learning more will also keep your content ideas rich and plentiful as well.
Successful Forums Step 2: Determining Your Audience
Now that you have selected a niche for your upcoming successful message forum, it is time to determine your audience. In the past, it was a free for all but nowadays, different audiences really matter when it comes to the success of any type of website or even a social media page. You need to research your niche to determine who likes it the most. Then you need to identify that audience based on many different factors. Once you do that, you need to manage your forum and promote it based on the observations of your target audience. This part really requires you to be logic and use your brain for research and understanding. Personally, I find this part to be a fun challenge and you should too because it will so help you in the end.
What is your niche? Define your niche and start researching it. Look for blogs, news articles, other forums, social media pages, influencers, celebrities, and any other digital form of content or media that is directly related to your forum niche. Spend a month researching everything. A month is a long time, but it is also long enough to really collect some good accurate data to determine your forum audience. You really want to look for what age groups the main audience is. You want to know where they are from and what language they speak the most. You want to know what kind of questions they are asking and what type of content they are enjoying the most. You want to know who they see as the authority and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of those influencers in relation to you becoming an influencer yourself. Learn these things and write them down.
Once you determine your forum audience, you can start creating a plan with all your research. Your plan should instruct you how to manage and market your forum towards the audience you have determined to be the stronger people of the niche market. You will want to make the forum for them, exclusively, because these are the people who are most active in the niche. These are the people you want to see you as the authority of the niche. Once that occurs, they’ll be flooding into your forum.
One suggestion though, like with learning about your niche, you also need to stay on top of your audience. Audiences change. People, especially younger people, tend to follow trends and current popular icons. This could change your audience from one group to another and you need to be ready to evolve with them. It might mean a complete reset of your forum strategy, or you may have to pivot to a sub-niche within your main niche. Be prepared for these changes and having a successful message forum will be a simple task. Many of the old forum owners didn’t like change and they were left in the dirt because of that.
Successful Forums Step 3: Determining Member Features
Now that you have a niche, and you have an idea of what audience you will be aiming your message forum towards – you need to write down what features you want to offer members on your community. This will help you with many tasks that are mentioned further down on this article including software selection and addons. But we will get to that later! I think determining a good set of member features before making the forum is important and will lead to better success. It can keep you in line of the software and technology needs to help you pick the right thing first. You can always switch software later, but it could lead to errors or even ruining your entire forum because it isn’t always easy to switch. Knowing what features you want now can help you choose right the first time.
One set of features that I highly recommend is social features. Allowing the ability to have a cover image on your profile and a status timeline for example are good features. This is because everyone is used to them with social media features. There are some old school forum owners that do not like social media features, and I totally get that, but people nowadays are used to those features and live for those features. There is way more people who want that than those who don’t and if you’re looking for an active forum, you’re going to have to evolve.
When choosing feature – be careful of how they could impact main features. Some features will take away from the forum for example. An example of that is chat rooms and shout boxes. If you install a chat system, people may enjoy using it more than the forum and the forum might not get a lot of activity because of that. Chat rooms are also often hard of server resources more so than the forum features and that might mean you have to buy more server space in the end. These are features you really want to take into consideration.
One more thing about features! Try to be modern and select modern features but don’t choose so many that is overwhelms you or your members. There is a such thing as too many features especially when it comes to a message forum. The main feature is the forum, and you choose to dictate how other features will impact the main forum. Some minor ones taking away activity is fine such as a status update timeline, but a full chat will really take away activity and that isn’t good for the success of a forum. New visitors will see an active forum not an active chat room and therefore may not join in the process of it all.
Successful Forums Step 4: Determining Your Budget
Before you even consider installing a forum software or spending any kind of money on hosting, determine your budget and how your will seek an ROI. Running a forum can be done for free if you choose a free forum hosting service like ProBoards but the bad part about that is, its rented space and if they decide to close shop, your forum will vanish and there is nothing you can do about it. I’ve seen that happen countless times. So, I recommend having a budget and paying for your own hosting and needs because in the end, it will favor a successful message forum more than using one of those unstable free hosting services.
If you decide to use a free hosting service, I want to really make you understand the cons of using one. Like I said above, its rented space and you don’t usually have access to the database so if the hosting service shuts down, you will likely lose everything. Another con is advertising, most free hosting service make their money advertising or forum admins who pay to prevent ads. So, you’ll either have ads on your forum that will not make you any money or you will have to pay to have the ads removed and still if the service shuts down and you lose everything, you lose that money you invested as well. Another big con is the domain name of your forum. With a free hosting service, your forum usually is put on a subdomain or a directory which harder to remember than its own domain. So, before choosing a free forum hosting service it you must do so, really try to research it features, policies, and advertising systems in place to ensure you find the right one. You might also age the host because a lot of new ones pop up and close quickly after they realize it isn’t a huge money maker.
Budgeting for a message forum isn’t going to break the bank. A domain name costs $20 a year. Good basic shared hosting costs about $10 to $20 a month but usually gives a discount if you pay annually. The thing to remember though is the more members and activity on your forum, the more server resources it will require. Eventually, you might need a Virtual Private Server or even a Dedicated Server but don’t feel like you need to jump on that train right away. A shared hosting environment is going to be fine at first if it is a trusted host. Some hosting services will offer prices that seem almost free and that is where you must be careful because those hosting services don’t last very long.
I mentioned ROI above! ROI stands for Return-On-Investment. This is an important consideration for running a successful message forum. You want your investment to be returned on. You want to make money back to pay for the forum and to earn profit in most cases. Imagine if you could make your forum a full-time job! Would you fine with that? With hard work and the right strategy, that could be possible. Be sure to start researching ways you can make money with your forum so that you can get a return on what you invested into it. That’s basic business and it is being a smart community manager. In the future, I’ll be writing another extensive article like this one that will be all about earning revenue with your message forum. Be sure to visit back again to look for that article.
Successful Forums Step 5: New Forum or Established Forum
Now before you install a new forum, ask yourself if you need to even create a new forum. What do I mean by that? There are already many established message forums out there that are looking for a new forum owner. People are willing to see forums these days more than before because many are wanting to get out of the forum game. Many previous forum managers feel like forums are a dying cause and that selling their forum is ideal. Don’t let that discourage you from running a forum because if you do it right, you can be successful at it in the end. So, are you wanting to start from scratch or buy out an already established community? Let’s look at these options, further.
Starting a new forum from scratch might be idea. If you decide to start a new forum from scratch, there are pros and there are cons with it when comparing to buying an already established forum. The main pros are that you can really dictate how the forum is going to evolve as a community because you have controlled all aspects of it from the get-go. The biggest con is that it is going to be a challenge getting those first members and developing a new community with your brand-new forum. Personally, I would always choose to create a new forum to better establish myself as an expert or an authority in the niche that I am targeting for.
Buying out an established forum isn’t always a bad idea, though. An established forum is going to already have content and members. There will likely be a lot of active discussions and a community established. But you really need to research a forum that you are considering buying out. How loyal are the members of the forum? Will they immediately become inactive if someone new takes control of the community? Is the community friendly or is the environment toxic at all? The main con with buying out a forum is pricing. I once bought out a forum to become the top of my competition and it cost me over $1,000 to buy it out. That forum was unsuccessful in the end because most of the members were either duplicate or just lost interest in the topic. So, there are questions you need to ask yourself and answer through research before making a move to buy out an established forum.
No matter if you start a forum from scratch or buy out an existing one, there will still be a challenge of establishing a community and maintaining it. There are no one-solution that fixes all the challenges when it comes to a successful message forum strategy. The forum is always going to require you, the community manager, to manage the community! You will always need to remain active. You will end up treating your forum as a full-time job. It will be like a business. It might even feel like a child. You can start from scratch or buy one out but either or will always require, YOU!
Successful Message Forum Step 6: Determining Your Admin Style
Your admin style is an important step in the process of creating a successful message forum. Web 2.0 brought us a social internet and the age of social is evolving into something more. The newest generations of people do not like to be talked down to. They don’t like to be treated like peasants by a royal kingdom. They don’t like it when credit isn’t given where credit is due. What I am saying here is that you need to define your social and management style as a community manager before you start your forum creation process.
You can be a manager and manage your community. A manager is an authority figure. A manager can be kind and easy to get along with. But most people will know a manager will not hesitate to manager their community. A manager is known to discipline members and even staff team members if the action is needed. A manager is firm about their management practices. In today society, this type of management role is quickly disappearing. People just don’t like and respect these authorities as they once did. This is because it is so easy to move on to better things or to even start your own thing. This is truly the age of opportunity and those who stick to the old ways are usually left behind to fail alone.
You should be a leader instead of a manager. When it comes to community management, you should lead rather than manage. Yes, we should have basic forum rules, but we should also remember that humans are humans after all, and they make mistakes. Being a leader and a coach rather than a disciplinarian manager is the way to be. I’ll tell you this – most message forums that I create occur after a bad experience on a related forum where the staff treated me unfairly. And I make those forums successful because I choose a more leadership role where people don’t feel like I am quick to be an authority-driven manager. It really shapes the whole mood of the whole community in the process, too.
No matter what type of management style you decide on, do make sure you don’t let people walk on you. There is a difference from being laid back and being gullible. Set your rules and enforce them. Take actions when all else fails. Make sure everyone knows that you pay the bills, and you get the final say in the end. But include everyone in the decision making. By everyone, I mean both staff members and regular members. Take advantage of poll features on your forum and let the community as a whole help you decided on big changes. Making the community feel like they are that much a part of the community will result in a very successful message forum in the end.
Successful Forums Step 7: Determining the Forum Name
Now let’s try to determine your forum name. This should be simple enough, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case especially if the niche is very popular. The name you want might be taken. If not taken, the name you want might not be that wise to choose in terms of memory, marketing efforts, and search engine optimization. This is really a two-part step. The first part is choosing the right name for your message forum. The second part is choosing the right domain name to represent the name you have chosen for your message forum. This step is a big one and very important that you don’t make a mistake that you want to change later because it will then a very big challenge after that happens.
Choose the best possible forum name you can come up with. When choosing a forum name, try to keep keywords in mind. Think about Google search! What keywords or key phrase would you search for to find something in the niche that your forum is in? That will help you come up with a forum name. As an example, I have a forum called “Outdoor Adventure Topics” which is three words that are straight to the point. The “Outdoor” part quickly tells visitors that it’s about the outdoors. The “Adventure” part then explains the website focuses on recreation which many of us outdoor folks call adventuring. And “Topics” shows that it is an information website. I don’t like to add the word “Forum” to the name because if I ever decided to pivot it to a blog, I could easily do so and keep the same name. Think hard on your forum name and choose words that will quickly define what the forum is.
Your domain name should match your forum name the same. My “Outdoor Adventure Topics” forum has the domain “OutdoorAdventureTopics.com”. The name of the forum matches the domain name, exactly. The domain name choice needs to be keywords that perfectly match the forum name. Be careful of what you choose the domain name to be here. Don’t misspell words or put in hyphens if possible. This is because not everyone is going to remember that a word is misspelled or that a hyphen is in the domain name. You need to make something to the point that is easy to remember, and it should match your forum name exactly. And don’t be afraid to use the new domain name extensions that they have out now. A .com is probably the best if you can get it, but I like other ones, too. The .blog is perfect for this blog that you’re reading this article on for example.
Remember, choosing the right forum name and domain name is important before you create a forum. A general .com domain name that is registered new for the first time should never cost you more than $30.00 a year. I use DreamHost (this is an affiliate link!) for all my domain name registrations. But there are others out there as well. Just be sure to research the company and make sure they are stable to buy from. If you choose the wrong forum name and domain name, you can change it in the future, but you will lose a lot of search engine score in the process, and it will be a challenge to overcome. So, I really think you need to think about this step very carefully before moving forward.
Successful Forums Step 8: Choosing Hosting & Software
Now it’s time to choose your hosting service for your forum and your forum software. This is where research and reading are going to be important. You want to choose the best possible solution for your forum, both hosting and the software that will power the forum. I go with DreamHost (affiliate link!) for my hosting service. They have a good, shared hosting service but I’m a big fan of their Virtual Private Servers which is what I have used for the past 10-years of hosting with them. So, let’s move on to deciding who to go with!
Choose a webhosting service that is message forum friendly. The best way to choose a hosting service that is best for a message forum is to find out what hosting services other message forums are using. Research that and create a list. Then age the forums and their use of the hosting services. That can help you determine what hosts are stable enough for message forums. Be cautious of hosting services that offer unlimited everything for only a few dollars a year. These services usually have hidden costs, or they don’t last very long. Going with a reseller is fine if they are being fair about the prices and features, and they are using a hosting service that is worth using. I typically stay away from resellers. Be sure to research the hosting service before choosing them. Ask people how they are. Look for reviews. Check their own Twitter and other pages to look for server status reports of downtime. You don’t want to go with a web hosting service that is slow or down a lot.
There is a lot of different kinds of forum software to choose from. Don’t feel overwhelmed by that statement because I’ve tried most of them enough to set you in the right direction. There are good free forum software platforms and there are good paid software platforms. If you want premium modern features, timely updates, and great support – you should go with a paid forum software. If you cannot afford it, stick with a free software that is still being updated and you’ll be fine. Upgrading to different forum software is very possible these days in case you change your mind later. So, I will recommend software to you, but it is your task to research the features, try out demos, and to check that you hosting service has the requirements for the forum software to work. My top picks for free forum software are PhpBB, Simple Machines Forum, and MyBB. I would use MyBB out of all of them. My paid software picks are vBulletin, Invision Power Board, and XenForo. I would choose XenForo out of these options (that’s what I mainly use now). Again, make sure you do your homework and choose a software that meets your needs.
Even if you decide to use a low-cost hosting service and a free forum software platform, plan for an eventual cost. Forums take up a lot of server resources, especially as they become popular and get more member and posting activities. As the forum grows, the need for better servers will also grow. You might always be able to use a free forum software but eventually you will have to have better web servers to keep the forum online. For this reason, I highly recommend creating a plan for earning money with your forum as you keep going.
Successful Forums Step 9: Theme & Addon Selection
After you choose a hosting service and install a forum software, you need to choose a good theme and decide on what addons you want to add to the functionality of your new forum. These two steps are important because they help you establish a unique brand of your forum and create new features that the default forum software lacks. But because there are so many options available, it does tend to become a little overwhelming at times. You can choose free resources for this which is totally fine, or you can choose paid resources which tend to be a little bit better for the community. Also, when you pay for something, it further motivates you to keep at it and try to make a successful message forum as much as possible because you’re invested into it.
Choose a theme for your forum that defines your forum. A theme is the overall appearance of your forum. Some software developers will call the theme a style or a template. Whatever it is called, you want to have theme other than what is default on the forum. Most forum software communities have sections where you can find themes. There are also many services usually online where you can buy premium themes or pay for custom themes. I always choose a premium paid theme and then when the community gets very active, I’ll get a custom theme made. I also have a logo created for my forum that matches the colors of the theme. While not everyone believes in this concept, as a digital marketing strategist, I recommend you research color marketing when deciding on a theme because in my experience, it is helpful. Do research the companies and theme makers before using them – try to go with what the software provider recommends.
Choose addons that will make the forum better but don’t go overboard with it. Addons (also called hacks, and plugins) are basically new features and added functionality for your message forum. There are usually tons of free addons and tons of paid addons for any given forum software. Paid addons usually come with better benefits and no credit required on the bottom of the forum footer. Free addons usually require credit and link back. Now before you go crazy and get every addon you can get, you need to take in these considerations. An addon will put new code on your forum software and provide a way into it. That can be a security issue if the addon is not made correctly. Addons are updated frequently so if you have a lot of them, you then have the task of ensuring every one of them remains up to date. And finally, to many addons can make using your forum confusing and overwhelming. I try to keep my addon amount under 10 and only go with official software addons or from trusted addon makers.
When deciding on a theme and addons, always go with trusted developers. If the forum software platform doesn’t recommend them or warns against them, you should seriously consider not using their products. Make sure you are using products that are updated routinely and the previous update is new. Using something last updated more than two years ago means that the product is probably no longer maintained and could have security concerns. And with themes, try not to feel like you need to have a whole lot of them for members to choose from. I like to keep it to one look and change it every now and then as we grow just to expand and rebrand the look and feel from time to time.
Successful Message Forum Step 10: Settings, Categories & Boards
Now it is time to setup your forum! After you have your theme and addons installed, you can continue setting up your forum. Make sure you read the instructions and documentation for the forum software platform when adjusting your settings. And when it comes to categories and boards, try to not to go overboard with it. Let’s take a further look at these important customizations as we continue to create your successful message forum.
Adjust your settings according to documentation and recommendation. Most forum settings are going to be set to default of what is best. But you might want to fine tune things a bit. Make sure you are reading documentation provided by the forum software on changing settings and options. Go through you Admin Panel and learn about every option listed on it. Experiment but try to go based on instructions so that you don’t break anything which can happen if you’re not too careful about it. And if the forum software platform has a community support forum, you should join it and post on it when you need help. The staff and many forum software users like you are there ready to help you.
Don’t choose too many categories and boards starting out. This is a mistake that a lot of new forum owners make. They create tons of forum categories with tons of boards and sub-boards rooted into them. The problem is that too many of these sections will overwhelm not only your forum members but you as well because you’ll want to ensure each section is active. You got to post frequently on all your boards to keep them active looking and enticing for potential new members to want to join. If you have too many categories and boards, it is going to be overwhelming quickly and that may cause you to lose interest in your forum.
Both steps are also great for the forum software platform support community. People there are ready to help you and give you advice. But if you are looking for more admin advice, consider joining my Admin Forum or join a much larger admin forum such as The Admin Zone. You can join both forums and have access to all the admin resources possible. There are plenty of people out there that will help you and that want to help you create a successful message forum. We forum owners tend to take care of one and another these days.
Successful Forums Step 11: Rules & Staff
After you setup the basics of your forum, you need to create some forum rules and consider having one or two staff members to help you keep the forum rules enforced and to help keep the forum active. These two steps will further the effort of you creating a successful message forum from the start rather than later down the road.
Create some simple rules for your message forum. The best way to create some rules for your forum is to look at other forums that are like yours and see what their rules are. Then create a rules post using your own words based on that. There should be basic rules like “no abusing other members” and “no racism or bigotry”. But there is always room for special rules for special circumstances that you might have added such as if you put in a section where members can sell stuff or advertise websites. You might want to fine tune exactly what is and is not allowed. Over time, you might have to edit your rules and add new ones. It happens to all of us. The biggest piece of advice I will give you here though is that you should require everyone obey your forum rules. Don’t ever let someone get away with a rule but then punish some else for violating the same rule. Enforce rules for everyone!
A staff member or two can help you make a successful message forum. A lot of forum owners will try to tell you to start out with no staff members. I strongly disagree with this suggestion. One to two staff members can be extremely beneficial in helping you to establish a new community. They can help create new topics and help make replies and engaging content as you attempt to grow your membership. They can also test out features and help you decide on what changes you need to make. Most staff members on a forum are volunteers but you may decide to pay them somehow – that is totally up to you. You can usually find people to become volunteer staff members on Forum Promotion Communities (referral link) or admin forums like the ones I linked above.
Don’t feel like you need to be perfect with your forum rules. Like I said, you will probably add more as you move forward with your forum. Member conflicts will happen from time to time, and you’ll learn what you want to allow and what you don’t want to allow. And having a staff member or two will help you decide on things better too because more opinions and observations really does help you make a successful message forum.
Successful Message Forums Step 12: Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of my favorite challenges of running a successful message forum. It is a challenge because a forum is made up of more than one content creating user. This means that most of the users are not creating content with SEO in mind. Now, you don’t want to make them use SEO because that will scare them away but there are things you can do to help improve SEO overall on your message forum. First, we will look at some technical methods and then we will look at some content creation methods.
The technical side of Forum SEO is an important consideration. There are technical things to be done to improve forum SEO. For starters, your URL base should be SEO friendly. Usually, your options have this setting enabled. This make a link like this “forumname.com/index.php?id=2647dghj6” be converted to look like this “forumname.com/hello-everyone-2/” which search engines really like. Another technical must is that you do whatever you can to make your forum load fast. The faster your forum will load, the better it will do in search. If you can find an addon that is trusted on your forum software that will help improve SEO and one to improve speed, I would recommend using those addons.
The content side of forum SEO is a bit more challenging. So, the content side of Forum SEO will require you to be an active content contributor. The idea is to create extremely well-made content using keyword and key phrase placement while keeping it human friendly. I suggest writing and posting articles about your niche on a frequent basis. Create new topics as much as you can and keep the topics engaging. If members are discussions thing more and more and they stay on topic, it will improve forum SEO. You should also join Google website manager and use the tools provided such as sitemaps and speed testing. You might do this for Bing as well. Utilize whatever resources is made available to you for free to improve forum SEO.
Forum SEO is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Understand that we as forum owners are never going to have perfect SEO but some SEO practices are better than no SEO at all. The best thing to do is to keep learning about it. Find out better ways to get back links, organic traffic, and improve the community’s overall SEO.
Successful Message Forums Step 13: Forum Security Practices
Forum security is very important, especially these days. You need to make sure you are taking the right steps to improve the overall security, safety, and privacy controls on your forum. Learn from the mistakes of others, especially big social networking companies and make sure you don’t make those mistakes. Always take the security recommendations of the forum software you always use and keep everything up to date. Let’s look at what you can do to increase your forum’s security overall.
Keep addons, themes, and forum software up to date always. Make sure you check for updates (daily if you can) for your forum software, any addons you have installed, and even your theme. Updates will fix critical errors and patch parts of the forum having to do with bugs and security concerns. If you don’t keep things up to date, your forum could get hacked and you could lose everything. If your forum members realize your forum got hacked, they may not trust the forum enough to stay a member. Security concerns these days are big concerns for everyone and we must stay on top of things. I recommend subscribing to the forum software provider’s newsletter to know when to update. Some updates are so critical that you need to do them as soon as possible.
Practice good security methods as a forum owner. Choose a secure password for starters and enable 2-step authentication on your forum’s administrator dashboard or panel. Basically, that you require you to login with your password and then do something else to gain entry such as get emailed a code or something like that. This will significantly increase the overall security of your forum. If you have a feature that requires all members to use a strong password, make sure you enable it as well. Create policies and rules for security, safety, and privacy on your forum and make sure you live them and always enforce them. Be careful with what information you collect and make sure you are transparent about it. It’s a good idea to comply with GDPR and COPPA guidelines in these modern times.
Forum security isn’t as complicated as it might sound. You don’t have to be a skilled programmer or computer security expert anymore. The software is usually developed in a manner that makes it secure overall, but patches do become available, and it is important to update when required. Just make your security practices into a habit like you would with brushing your teeth each day. And if you can find addons that are trusted and improve overall security, that should be one of your 10 or less addons on your forum for sure.
Successful Message Forums Step 14: New Forum Promotion
Promoting your forum as a new forum can feel difficult. There isn’t going to be much content on the forum and not much activity. Don’t let that get in the way of creating a successful message forum. The first thing I recommend doing is getting an active community established on social media. Then I would recommend asking friends and family to join the forum to help get you going.
Social media is still a great resource for promoting a forum. While social media sites are ranking external links lower than internal links, you can still advertise on them with success. But you need to establish basic community on each social network you wish to market your forum on. I don’t recommend being on more than a couple networks for the time being. I choose 2 to 3 social networks so that it isn’t so overwhelming. Join the network, create a fan page or profile for your forum. Then start following others, engaging with them, getting followed back, and posting unique content that is exclusive to your social media page. Follow the 80/20 rule! 80% of social media content is fun and made for the social media page and 20% is links to your forum asking people to join.
Asking people, you know to join your forum is a good idea. Just explain to them what the rules are and ask that they follow them so nothing crazy happens. Ask your friends, family members, and social media followers to join your forum and to invite others that they might know. This will establish some basic membership and help create more content. You can also ask for better content from people you know directly to help you kind of cheat the system a little bit. There is nothing wrong with cheating if it isn’t dishonest or black hat in nature.
As you grow your forum more and more, you will find other ways to promote it. I plan to create an extensive article like this one all about promoting a forum in the future so be sure to stay tuned for that. But make sure you are utilizing social media because it is where a lot of people are and while many of them are likely going to stay on social media, you can still find some people on there willing to join your message forum.
Successful Message Forums Step 15: Are you Spamming?
Spamming means unsolicited advertising. Spamming is bad, and it could easily destroy your online community and your actual reputation as an authority in your niche. Spam can get you banned from where you spam, and it can even get your forum blacklisted from search engines like Google. Your hosting service might also drop you if you spam. You do not want to ever resort to spamming to promote your message forum.
How to not spam on social media. I tell you to get on social media and advertise and you should, but you can do it without spamming. On your own forum’s fan page or profile, don’t just post links to your forum begging people to join. Post links about 20% of the time (80% should be for content on the social media page only) but post them to new topics and conversations rather than the main website. The discussion would better entice a visitor to want to join to make their reply to it. And never add your link to pages, profiles, and groups that don’t belong to you unless you have been given permission to do so. If you want to successfully advertise on other groups, first work on establishing a reputation on the group. Once everyone loves to see you, that is when you should ask to post a link to your forum inviting others to join.
Enforce spam rules on your message forum. Forums get hit with spam a lot. You will want to have anti-spam control for members registering on your forum. I have seen a lot of success with custom security questions as well as ReCAPTCHA. If you are being bombarded with spammer accounts, I personally would require members to be approved before they can post that way you can check to see if they’re legit or not. Googling the username, email, or IP address will usually show if they’re a known spammer. Remove spam as soon as you see it and ban the spammer for life. Spam on your forum will make real people not want to be active or even join in the first place. You must stay on top of spamming.
So never spam as a forum owner and make sure you are deleting spam off your forum when it happens. Spamming is a big problem on the internet, and it will not only lead to getting banned off sites, but it can lead to legal problems to even criminal court problems if it’s a big deal. You never want your domain name or name associated with spammer databases because they will be extremely hard to get yourself removed from.
Successful Message Forums Step 16: Competition Policies
By competition, I mean other forums like yours. Other forums that have the same niche are your competition. In the past, including me, forum owners have historically banned competitors or disallowed them to advertise their forum because of it being direct competition. It is of my own opinion that it was a wrong style to adopt. I think it had serious consequences of allowing forums to start to fade away as social media took hold. I wanted to make this a step to show you that it’s not too late to take the best approach to forum competition with your new forum.
Embrace competition and allow it on your forum. Even if they don’t allow your forum on theirs, you should allow theirs on yours. It will make you look better than them if you are being fair and they’re not. And don’t be afraid to post that in the public so members see it. It is the only way we can make the change that is needed. Competition isn’t the enemy, embrace it because it can help your forum grow. Instead of racing against one and another, collaborate and work together. Share your members and cross-promote on each other’s forums. This is how it is being done with brands on social media and these brands are getting so many new loyal followers because of it. It is working currently so we should use it on forums as well.
Competition is great for making a successful message forum. You should welcome competition! Other forums like yours are great for observation because we can learn their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and improve our own message forums with what we learn about those activities. I would join every competitive forum you can find and establish an active membership on them. Don’t worry about promoting your forum just yet. Others will find you as they see you more and more of an expert or and authority of the niche. Be friendly and respect others. Be the first to want to help and try to be innovative with new ideas. You’ll see how valuable forum competition is after you accomplish that, I promise you that!
Competition is a good thing. We should embrace it as forum owners and reap the rewards that it gives us. Competitors working together will help increase popularity for both the niche and using forums to begin with. Forums need all the help they can get these days and competitors turned collaborators will be that extra oomph to help establish a successful message forum.
Successful Message Forums Step 17: Advertising Budget
Advertising is the best way to promote you message forum. I don’t mean free advertising, either. I mean paying for ads. But don’t let that statement scare you! You don’t have to create a large advertising budget anymore now that advertising activities are a lot more rampant than they once were. I think buying forum advertisements is better than putting advertisements up to earn money for the forum, no joke.
Social media has made buying ads a success. There are so many options for buying ads now that social media have came into the picture. And the great thing about it is that social media won’t lower your views for an external link if you’re paying them to advertise it. They are going to do whatever they can do to make you buy more advertisements in the future. And rates are so affordable these days that you can spend as little as $5 a day and get a lot of traffic and potential new members to your forum. I focus my advertising efforts of Facebook and Instagram which I find are best for it. I also purchase ads on YouTube and Twitter. Pinterest is another great place to acquiring advertisements as well. Experiment with some basic low-cost advertising and see what works and what doesn’t work for you.
Google is still a great place to buy advertisements. Here is another Forum SEO lesson! You want your forum to be on the very top SERP (search engine results page) which is page 1 on Google. The first result on page 1 are advertisements, then the organic links start to show thereafter. So, buying ads for a specific keyword or key phrase (please research these methods first) can get you on page one as well as one of the first results. That can really get you some great traffic if you use the right call-to-action text on your advertisement. Experiment and see what works for you.
Don’t let paid advertising pass you up. I highly recommend investing into it, especially with a message forum that can use all the help it can get. And it doesn’t need to be bought all the time. You could create a good post with high quality content then advertise it to encourage people to join and reply to it. Just mess around with paid advertising and see what best methods work for you.
Successful Message Forum Step 18: Promotion Forums
Promotion forums are a great way to get new members on your forum. In the old days, many wouldn’t use promotion forums because they would feel the members are too worried about promoting their own forum. That was probably a mistake in the end because forums are not as popular as they once were. Too much competition has driven people away and now social media is proving that being overly competitive isn’t a very good practice. Promotion forums currently are full of people who like forums and that is a big deal for you because you have a forum!
Focus on post exchanges to get more members and content. Post exchanges are a great way to establish members and content on your new forum. It isn’t deceptive because its real people making real posts even if only temporary. And sometimes you might get an active member out of it from someone doing the exchange that likes to remain on your forum. Or you could continue a constant exchange to help one and another out as the forums grow. Post exchanges should be renamed to content collaborations these days. Because that really is what they are. I just recommend posting the best content you can, so others want to exchange with you.
Posting packages can help you get more content. Posting packages on promotion forums as well as gigs on something like Fiverr can also help you get content and establish some membership. These members usually only stick around long enough to do the gig and then they leave but it is helpful to establish content on your forum. Sure, it isn’t active members, but it makes your forum appear more active which will help new visitors want to join your forum more so than they would if the forum was empty and void of content.
One of my favorite forums for exchanges and post packages is Forum Promotion (referral link). I’ve been a member on this forum for over 10-years. They have a nice community of experience forum owners willing to help one and another out and they have a very friendly staff team.
Successful Message Forums Step 19: First Content
It is extremely important that you start to establish content on your message forum. A successful message forum is one with quality content that is created on a routinely consistent basis. You should be creating new topics that are high in quality. You should also be replying to every topic that other members have replies to. Message forum administration is a lot like social media marketing or even blog marketing. Engagement is really the key to success and content is required for that.
Content is King. Your forum needs constant content to do well in search engine results. You should be making new topics every day or every day you can on your message forum. I try to create at least 3 to 10 new topics each visit and spread them out on the boards I have created. Make sure the content is keyword friendly but made for human and not search bots. Ask questions but make it easy to respond to the questions. People tend to like “Do you like this or that?” type questions more than “Explain why you like this?” type ones. Making them think verses giving them the opportunity to quickly respond is something to really think about. Even if you’re the only one making all the new topics, you need to be making new topics.
Engagement is Queen. The King needs the Queen to survive, and the Queen needs the King in most cases as well, at least in the message forum world. Engagement is when you keep a topic going by initiating discussion after replies. To do this, keep asking questions. Reply to every member with a response and a question to further the discussion. Ask questions that you would want to answer. Questions geared towards people in a way that they can share their own experiences tend to do best. We as a species love to brag about our own things so go off that.
Every successful message forum owner should be a lover of making content. If you don’t like to create content, unless you get someone else to do it for you, it is going to be a huge struggle to get your forum going. Forums are built around the process of content creation so not liking content would be strange if you were wishing to create a forum. Content and engagement are two things you should learn to love and master, and you’ll have a successful message forum in the end.
Successful Message Forums Step 20: Launching your New Forum
It’s time to launch your message forum! But before you launch it and start advertising and promoting it, make sure you go through and check everything out, first. Create a checklist of things through this whole process to be checked off before you officially launch. Make sure the community completely ready to be shared with the niche you are targeting. Don’t expect things to be quick and always try to enjoy a forum when its young and the community is small. Once you get thousands of members, it becomes way harder to connect with everyone. A small community is probably one of the best parts of the community.
Logout of your forum and look at it as a guest looking in. Logout out of your forum and open it up in a different browser. This will allow you to check the forum out as a guest to see if anything is out of place or there are any errors happening. Join the forum with a different email address and test it out as a regular member. Also, put yourself in the shoes of someone who has never seen the forum until now and ask yourself if the forum is worth joining. This will help you make sure the forum is ready to launch.
Ask a total stranger to review your message forum. Really! Maybe on an admin forum or a promotion forum – ask something who doesn’t know you to give you a detailed review of your forum. Ask them what is good about the forum and if there is anything bad about the forum. Ask if anything is confusing them about the forum. It is always a good idea to get an unbiased perspective from someone else about something you have created. It could help with ensuring a better launch occurs.
When you’re ready, launch the forum. After you’ve made your checks, you’re ready to start treating the forum as a growing successful message forum. Now you should be focusing on getting more member, establishing authority in your niche, and creating new content. That will dramatically help your forum grow as a new forum.
9,648 words later, this article has concluded! This article has been my best article on the blog so far and I have plans to create more of them in the future. In fact, this article is the article that I will use to officially launch this blog. See what I mean about making the best content possible? So, with that, I hope this article has helped you today. If it has, please share it with others and be sure to check back for more articles I write. Comment down below with your thoughts and consider joining by new Admin Forum feature of this blog.
Founder, Forum Tips Blog
Howdy! My name is Shawn and I founded ForumTips.Blog! I created this blog to share my 20+ years of message forum knowledge with other community administrators and moderators. Learn about useful topics here such as managing, marketing, profiting, and sustaining your message forum community!