3 minute read.

How to promote a web forum. Getting it off the ground.

Paul Anthony / July 1, 2008

Posted in: Archive

Web Forums are traditionally extremely difficult to get off the ground, but are well worth the effort to create a sense of community around your site. Hopefully this post will give you a bit of a start.

1). Directing Traffic
It is alot easier to get a question forum going on a site if you have a source of traffic already. If not, you are going to have to work hard to create traffic organically.  Find a couple of traditional website promotion tips over here.

2). Combatting the sheep effect

We are a fickle breed us web users. If a visitor lands on your site and it resembles a ghost town, no one is going to ask any questions.  Creating new members (either organically by sending out email invites to your site, or faking it yourself) is one way to overcome this perception. Social networks can help here too if you have a good friend list who will agree to join and help you seed your forum.

3). Incentives to post

If you can provide incentives to post in the forum, you are half way there. At the early phase of growth you will have problems getting people to participate, so if you can offer a prize for the first member to reach say 100 quality posts (or alternatively quality answers if this suits your model) then the posting rate will go up. Remember that as a general website rule interaction happens with only 2% of your audience.

4). Faking interactions

Generating debate between fictious members can be a way of teasing lurkers out of the woodwork, specially if its a heated, spark flying argument. Be careful not to have ongoing flame wars between people as it may set a tone that will be hard to irradicate in your forum.

5). Introductions

Reward members on their first interaction by introducing yourself, and thanking them for joining etc etc. You might want to start an introductions thread to get people talking.

6). Content Content Content

Start postings lots of content to the site yourself, and start answering questions that you have posted yourself, obviously withan alternative username.

7). Questions Questions Questions

Make sure that any posts that you do create have a final question in them, to encourage other viewers of the thread to post.

8). Less topics

If you can start quite small, with less topics and less sub forums your traffic will be more concentrated in one place, which should, at the onset help in getting visitors to post.

Overall remember that your main problem with a forum, is good content, which will get picked up from the search engines and tempt people in. Remember to set a tone, and be quick to let new members know what will be deemed acceptible with regards to moderation of posts, if you are more relaxed, don’t be surprised to find plenty of slagging matches between members. If however you have too strict a moderation policy it can put people off.

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11 responses to “How to promote a web forum. Getting it off the ground.

  1. Some good tips here, especially no. 7, (leaving a question at the end of each post).

    I think you’re right about adding content, as this does seem to be a quick way to get some extra traffic. I use social bookmarking sites to drive traffic to the articles on the site, and this does have immediate effects.

    I hadn’t considered using alternative usernames to kick-start conversations, but this does seem like a good idea, which I will try out.

    Thanks for the tips! Most useful.


  2. Well, personally I think that forums are harder to get interaction on than blogs, and they differ in nature in the way that “threads” are created on forums, and “articles” on blogs.

  3. I like the alternate username idea to fake some conversations. I had thought about it, but wondered if I would degrade my forum by using some deceitful tactics.

    Forums differ from blogs in that (hopefully), forum users return and become a part of the community, as opposed to just leaving a comment once in a while. Forum users can become “experts” within the community over time – which is nice for generating credibility to the forum as a whole.

    I’ve had my forum up since the end of July (’08), and have very little traffic/community discussion. It’s hard, especially when there’s no particular product associated with it, just a topic niche (mine’s about investing).

  4. Hi Paul,

    Some good advice here. I run a website, NoteUtopia.com, were college students exchange their course documents. I think what I do is similar to how a forum operates. Each rely on user’s generating the content.

    Although, to get our website to seem less like a “ghost town”, one cannot make up documents that are useful for download.

    Any thoughts on how forum interaction can be carried over to document sharing? Thanks!

  5. Firstly Ryan,

    I really think the concept has legs.

    In your particular instance, making leaderboards and introducing a competitive element to your site may give additional incentive for students to post content, plus you have to make it easier to provide content within their own communities.

    If it were me, I’d be seriously looking at developing a Facebook application to help get things moving. Showing activity of sharing could also help students feel that they are participating in an active community. e.g. take a look at the Facebook sharing widget.

    Take a look at this post on game theory, might help give you a couple of ideas.




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