this has always been a problem on forums. What I do is to set myself up with five or ten fake ID's and post, religiously, three or four posts a day....often on controversial issues or questions that are answered on my site.
Then either wait for new users to come in or answer a few yourself as "admin". If your site is trafficked enough and you have clear links to your forum, eventually things will take off.
You could also try hauling in a few friends to achieve the same results as above.
The main thing you can do is just market your forum really well, so more people are inclined to post and sign up. Some great ways of marketing are:
-Submit URL to all major search engines like:
All the Web
-Start a newsletter, that targets people about your forum.
-Install a tell-a-friend form on your forum.
-Make a "Link to us" page on your forum with different banners and text links that webmasters could use on their website.
-Start a link exchange program on your site.
-Join a banner exchange.
I hope this helps, and best of luck!
I have found that the kickstart method works well.
I have about 10 fake ids which I used to post 1-2 posts a day each. I tried to discuss issues that might be niche search terms in google.
If WebmasterWorld teaches you anyhting, it is that forums can indeed be content.
Also take a look in our Forum Community Building [webmasterworld.com]. There have been a couple of good discussions about this topic.
I tried running a giveaway on my forums early on and had a few people register and enter. After it was over, not one of the newbies ever came by again. So, I wouldn't recommend that highly. ;)
On the other hand, I am a big proponent of doing more with your forum site than just waiting for people to post.
On my site, I have set up things to keep people coming back. Some of them are specific to my area (some weekly polls and voting competitions) but one thing I do that could apply to a lot of subjects is to post news stories about my niche.
I use the google news alerts to email myself links to news stories about my subject and I post those links as seperate posts in a specific forum on my site. Not only did it get people to come back more often to read the news but it also gives them the opportunity to post their opwn thoughts on them.
The key to getting people to post is to keep them coming back and give them something to post about. If you are lucky, you will reach a 'critical mass' and you won't have to worry about how to get people to post. ;)
First of all, does your site justify a forum? There had to be a reason for you starting a forum, what was it?
|I don't want the board to look like a ghost town. |
Unfortunately many boards end up this way. Many think that a forum is a great way to bring in visitors. That is not always the case.
Usually when a forum is considered, it is because there is a history behind the site. That history is a telltale sign of whether or not a forum would be successful. If your site does not justify a forum, don't waste your time.
To build on pageoneresults' comments, if your site traffic and history don't justify a forum, then you should be convinced that your niche needs the kind of forum you plan to offer. It's not impossible to build a forum on a low traffic site, but you'll have to work harder to bring in external traffic (and then entice those visitors to hang around).
I'm having the exact same problem.. if you like i can help you out by joining and leaving a couple of messages on there.
[edited by: rogerd at 10:38 am (utc) on Aug. 24, 2004]
[edit reason] No specifics, please. [/edit]
This isn't the place to set it up, but exchanging posts with some other forum owners isn't a bad idea. Get some friends to post, too.
I actually created 4 different ghost members over a period of 1 month and had them posting in different forums on my board so that the board had some life. I also asked family members and some 'experts' to handle particular questions that I didn't feel I had enough knowledge to answer. It worked pretty well.
My favorite forum analogy is a dance floor - almost nobody wants to get on an empty floor and start dancing, even at a crowded event with many potential dancers. Once a handful of people are on the floor, though, many more people may join in.
By creating posting activity, you'll help break down the initial reluctance to participate.
There's some really good ideas in this thread. My wife wants me to set her up a site where forums will be the driving force behind the site. I was wondering how I was ever going to get them to take off. Funny it had not even ooccured to me to create some initial users to get the ball rolling.
Thanks for the suggestions
The posts above are pretty much on target.
The only thing I can add is that you should not be tempted to create hundreds of categories on your forum. You will then always appear to be inactive, even if you get users. Create 1-3 categories and KISS (keep it simple stupid) until userbase warrents more categories to branch out into.
>> Create 1-3 categories
I disagree with this as a general statement. Let the topic of your Board dictate how many categories. Yes, it is wise to reduce the number of forums under each category when starting out. And yes it is wise to limit the number of categories too - to some degree.
Anyone who's been here at WebmasterWorld long enough has seen how Brett slowly builds out the number of forums only after there're enough posts to warrant it. That's a cautious approach and has worked well here. But don't force yourself to limit an otherwise well rounded offering of categories and forums to suit a number. If the categories you choose and the forums beneath them work well together and are solid I say keep them. They indicate you're thinking about the Board and what the users will find useful even if they sit idle for a little while. They'll get used eventually.
there's some good stuff in here [webmasterworld.com]
What a great topic, glad I stumbled across this.
I, too, just started a forum and am having similar issues. My situation is a little more unique in that my forum is for my neighborhood so it's a private forum in that you must be a resident of the neighborhood to join.
I got it going early in August and then on August 22, I finally had time to deliver flyers in the neighborhood announcing it. I have password protected the forum directory with a "global" login/pw that was included in my flyer. Once past that, the user is free to create their own account. I have further set it up such that you must register to view the forums. Although this could potentially confuse the user, I feel it's necessary to try to ensure that only neighborhood residents are viewing the forum.
I delivered 171 flyers that day! Since that time, I've gotten 29 members, but only 6 of those have made any posts! One member in particular advertised his computer services in my products/services section and never returned! (Gee... thanks! :) )
In the time it's been active I've been busy making posts in all the various boards. My husband has an account and he's helped out a little although he's really not a forum type of guy.
It was active that first week, but now it's slowed to virtually nothing. :( I still try to make a few posts each day whether it be neighborhood related or in my off topic section. Most of my initial sign-ups never even returned after initally signing up.
When I run into a neighbor outside I always get positive feedback about the related webpage, and although they think the forum is nice, there doesn't seem to be much interest in participating. I'm also careful when talking to people as I don't want to appear pushy as I understand computers and the Internet don't excite people like they do to me.
I have an e-mail all members feature on my forum and I may do something with that after I first make sure all 29 e-mails won't appear in the To field when everybody gets their message (wouldn't that be a major turn-off!). I'd use that to see if people perhaps don't understand they can't post, etc. I feel as though I'm dealing with a unique situation as I'm marketing my forum to a very specific group of people who may not necessarily be technologically inclined.
And in the mean time, I continue making posts as does my husband when I tell him to. :) Wish me continued success, please!
Hello kriskd, I think what your doing is an excellent idea. You've taken the local concept one step further by concentrating on a specific community, your neighborhood.
Now, you need to sit and think about what would help drive those neighbors to the site. Here are some things you might want to consider...
- List local events for both adults and children, keep them separate.
- Build a marketplace for the neighborhood. Maybe someone has a car they want to sell or they are having a garage sale.
- Neighborhood complaint center.
- Community calendar.
- Kid's place.
And the list goes on and on. You need to provide incentives to get the community involved. If there are no incentives, the community will perish.
My first post here, so hello to all.
I found this site from Web User magazine, and, having just launched my site headed straight here to find out some tips for my forum, because I too am worried about the 'Ghost Town Effect'.
My site has been built using Xoops (www.xoops.org) - a great open source community, and I have used that community to bring visits to my site and to get feedback, but getting forum postings is still going to take a while.
I had not thought of the 'fake ID' idea, and will do that ASAP - great tip!
Bye for now
[edited by: rogerd at 12:06 am (utc) on Sep. 16, 2004]
A bit late on getting back to this thread.
First to pageoneresults. I actually had implemented most of those categories when we last exchanged posts! :) I don't have a kids' area an I think I'll keep away from dating as most people in the area have family households or otherwise have partners. I'd love to do a kids' area, but haven't gotten a sense that there is a desire for that.
I am now up to nearly 50 members and almost half of those have made at least 1 post. I still struggle with lurkers and could use some advice there. I see the neighbors log on, read the posts, but they don't participate.
One member in particular just sends me PMs (private messages) with her questions and concerns about issues in the neighborhood. I simply whip a note back to her with a suggestion of a thread to post her note in. I refuse to make a post for her saying so-and-so PM'ed me saying blah blah blah.
I've thought about taking away parts of the board to the zero posters, but since they have had access up until now, I think it would look bad. Also, I will ultimately see all these people out and about so unlike world wide forums, I can't really hide behind my computer monitor and play these "games" with my members.
Whenever I have a 0 poster online, I also send them a PM saying hi and sometimes asking them if they are having trouble posting/replying. They usually reply back to the hi and they gives me indication right there that they should know how to post/reply to threads. As far as if they are having trouble, they say no, they are just browsing.
Maybe I could make up a little lie about having so much traffic and therefore I "have to" limit what the non-participants can see and if they want to see more they have to post...? How does that sound?
kriskd, my pref would be NOT to lie about anything - MOST especially in an enclosed environment of the sort you have! Lies bite one in the butt too frequently....
Does your neighborhood do street parties, barbeques, equinox festivals/haunted house, whatever? If so, that'd be a great time to circulate, try to let everyone know that their input is not only welcome but is a big part of a viable, growing neighborhood meeting place....