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How to start and start a forum website

Create a sense of community on your website by adding a forum. Go through 6 simple steps that detail everything from choosing a platform for your forum to setting up administrative rules.

People tend to fall into the camp of loving online forums or think they are a waste of time. According to experts like Daniel Scocco of Daily Blog Tips, adding a forum to your website is a great idea if you have enough traffic to keep it active.

There's no magic number here, but you should wait for 5,000 or more unique daily visitors before starting a forum. Note that when the DWT forum started we had 10,000 RSS readers on DailyWritingTips and only 400 registered for the forum.

Forums help build a community that will keep visitors coming back to your website.

What is a forum?

The forum is a kind of message board where users can interact with each other via posts and replies. Most likely, you have participated in a forum at some point.

Forums go way back in the online world. KOM, a type of bulletin board system (BBS), was in use as early as 1979. Forum could be argued that they are the first social media spots online. It was a way for people to interact with each other on like-minded topics. Most forums are based on a specific topic or niche.

There are numerous platforms that can be used to build an online forum.

Advantages of creating a forum

From a website owner's point of view, the forum is good for the following reasons.

  • Ability for your readers to interact with each other.
  • Automatic content creation and website scaling.
  • Easy way to quickly answer reader questions or answer many readers at the same time.
  • Generates a sense of community among your website visitors.
  • Can attract new readers.

Cons of creating a forum

Disadvantages of adding a forum are:

  • You need some solid traffic or your forum will be quiet with no posts whatsoever.
  • It's hard work moderating posts and keeping the forum going.
  • If your forum becomes popular, your traffic could skyrocket and consume a lot of bandwidth during hot topic discussions.

When your forum becomes popular, your visitors will create unique content for your website. This can generate even more traffic and revenue as people search for answers on the topic your forum covers.

How do I create my own forum?

Here are the specific steps you need to take if you want to create a truly successful forum.

Step # 1: choose a web host

The first thing you want to do is evaluate your current web hosting company and look at your other options.

Our host reviews here at WHSR can help you get a good idea of ​​whether you're paying a fair price, how fast your server is, and whether the server can handle the load of a forum when it gets popular. For example, are there any additional options for upgrading to a private server?

If you are happy with your current web hosting company and prefer not to move, you may want to take advantage of these uptime monitoring tools to make sure your hosting is the best it can be and your website has no downtime.

Once you've narrowed down your hosting company choices, or have decided to stick with your current host, take the time to get in touch and explain what your vision is for your online forum, and if so they will have options to handle the load in case your forum has a noticeable increase in traffic.

Also, if your forum becomes popular, find out about the cost of upgrading. You can start small at the beginning with cheap website hosting. But as your forum grows, you may need a VPS or dedicated hosting for forum traffic.

Recommended forum hosting: Siteground, InMotion Hosting, A2 Hosting *.

* Affiliate links.

Step # 2: set up

Once you've got your hosting set up, it's time to decide on the type of forum you want to set up on your website. There are many different types of software that you can use, and each has its own unique advantages.

Muut

Visit online: muut.com

Muut is an interesting solution for setting up an online forum. One of the best things about this software is that you can completely customize it.

Just want a discussion with no private messaging options? Muut can do that. They offer a free 14-day trial version. You can then choose between a free plan or a premium plan that starts at $ 16 per month and adds features like advanced branding, custom domains, and a user database. The platform is hosted on Muut servers, which is also an added bonus if you're not quite ready to upgrade to a VPS.

phpBB

Visit online: www.phpbb.com

phpBB is an open source forum. You install the software on your own website and it is completely free to use other than web hosting fees.

Because it is open source, you can find online help from various developers that will help you customize your forum to be fully customized. The style database contains hundreds of styling and image packs that you can use to further customize your forum.

Simple machines

Visit online: www.simplemachines.org

Simple Machines Forum (SMF) is free software that you can use to build an online community even if you don't have a lot of programming knowledge. It can be integrated into an SQL database and is optimized in such a way that no extensive resources are called up from your server. Changes can easily be made via the package manager.

This allows you to add functions quickly and easily.

vBulletin

Visit online: https://www.vbulletin.com

vBulletin is one of the few forum software solutions that offers the option of both hosting on your own website and using their cloud server to host your forum. If you're not very technical, the cloud (pricing starts at $ 15 / month) is probably the easiest solution for you. You can launch your forum in about 15 minutes and customize it to suit your tastes and the overall look of your website.

MyBB

Visit online: https://www.mybb.com

MyBB is free open source software. You can implement threads and private messages. Since it's open source, there are plenty of additional plugins and themes that you can use to customize your community. The admin panel offers you many options for personalization.

Kunena

Visit online: https://www.kunena.org

Kunena offers another option for a forum and is specially designed for those who run their websites on a Joomla platform. Kunena is essentially an extension. It's a free forum and doesn't require you to write hacks or bridges to use its features.

bbPress

Visit online: https://bbpress.org

bbPress can be integrated into your WordPress site and offers you the option of using forums on a blog platform. It basically combines the best of both worlds. With bbPress you only have one administration area. It's easy to set up and moderate and it won't lower your speeds. You can also create multi-site forums and even allow your users to use this platform to create content for you. There are a variety of plugins and themes for this forum software.

vanilla

Visit online: https://vanillaforums.org

Vanilla is another solution that allows you to either use open source software that you host on your own site or its cloud based solution. You can try the cloud-based solution for one month for free to see what you think of the features it contains. The open source option offers community support but no official technical support.

Step # 3: Create forum rules

Once you've installed the actual software, before opening the forum to users, you'll want to create a set of rules that will control behavior on your site. Most online forums implement rules in the following areas:

  • Discriminatory comments
  • Swear words
  • Encourage contributions
  • Spam and self-promotion
  • External links

Obviously, you want to consider your topic and think about what problems are most likely related to that topic. It's also a good idea to read the Terms of Use (TOS) of other forums. Once you've implemented your rules, post them on an important thread so new members can understand the rules. You can also ask them to agree to the Terms of Use when you log in to access the forums.

Here is a good set of rules (template) for your forum.

Step # 4: Selecting and Sorting Forum Topics

Choosing topics sounds like an easy task, but you need to look at what topics you want to cover now and in the future.

Finding a niche is an important element in creating a successful online community. The Yackity Yack community is not getting nearly as successful as the amateur golfer tip community. The key is to find an area that people want to know more about or love and build on that concept.

If you look back on the Warrior forum example listed above in the Great Examples section, you'll find that there are some pretty general categories. In these general categories, the threads are then further broken down into specific topics. Choosing general topics can give you more space for your forum.

Obviously, if you already own a business, you want a niche community related to that business. If you're just looking to build an online community and are just starting out, the sky's the limit and you can pick any niche you want. Remember, you should probably be an expert or be in close contact with an expert on this subject as your members may have questions for the moderators and owners of the site.

For example, if you select the "Starting a business" topic in this category, you can add topics / topics, e.g. B. "Franchise to buy", "Location selection" or "Find investors".

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience
  • What do you know / want / want?
  • What emotions are involved when they come into your forum?

Answer these questions and you will get a better idea of ​​the niche area your community should cover.

Step # 5: Get Help

Before you get overwhelmed with posts and moderating comments, you should get some help. The best people to invite to moderate your forum are those who are already involved and regularly comment on your blog or contact you for discussion. Just ask if they would be willing to moderate the forums. You may want to offer a small amount of compensation for this task as it can be time consuming.

You also want to define the moderators' responsibilities.

  • Make sure posts meet TOS
  • Approve posts and new members
  • Start discussion topics
  • Answers to questions
  • Keeping the conversation going
  • Prohibition of Abusive Members

Step # 6: Manage Your Forum and Best Practices

Stay in touch with your members

One of the best ways to get members involved is to keep in touch. Here are some suggestions on how you can get your members involved in the community and attract new members.

  • Greet new members and ask them to introduce themselves.
  • If you notice a member providing thoughtful, intelligent responses, ask that member to contribute to a feature post or have one of your co-workers write a feature to share.
  • Recognize members' birthdays by posting their name and birthday wish on the official blog. Make your members feel special.
  • Implement an area where entrepreneurs can promote their business or areas of knowledge. People love to share or promote themselves. Provide a suitable forum for this and you will be more likely to get involved in your website.

You can also create regular events that members who have been around for a while await. Hopefully they will explain these events to newbies.

Create a safe zone

Have you ever published an idea or an idea in an online community and another member downright attacked you? Most of us learned it through a few thoughts.

How did you feel about it?

You were likely upset and either argued for a while and then realized it was taking too much time, or you broke up and left the forum. Either way, if members don't feel safe sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings without being attacked, they won't be engaged either.

Creating a safe zone in your online community should be like family. Are you afraid of being yourself with your family and closest friends? Probably not. It's the same feeling members of an online community should experience.

There are a few ways to achieve this:

  • Set fixed rules (no name calls, no swearing, no racist references, etc.).
  • Appoint community moderators to help enforce the rules, keep the peace, and spark discussions.
  • Don't be afraid to change the rules if you spot abuse.
  • Don't be afraid to remove people from the community or block them if necessary. It's a good idea to start with a warning and continue from there.

Moz recommends creating a sense of community by setting “boundaries”. Your community may be smaller, but when it's stronger, that's a positive thing too. 13.5 million members is an impressive number only if those members end up visiting your website regularly.

Once you have established some limits that will protect all of your members, it is important to remind them of these rules from time to time. If your community is successful, many new members will join it. These reminders are therefore important to keep everyone on the same page.

Prohibition of Abusive Members

When you talk about banning abusive members, don't be afraid to ban troublemakers from your forum, both through their registered account and through their IP.

If someone comes to your forum and attacks other users, makes racist comments, or otherwise disrupts the flow of give and take, they can harm your website and reputation. While it is unfortunate that some people have to be banned, sometimes you have to do it for the rest of the community. They have clear rules for the use of your forum, so don't be afraid to enforce the consequences of those rules. The troublemaker is unlikely to become a customer anyway. You can be your competition trying to make you look bad or just a snarky person.


Examples of excellent forums

One of the best ways to learn how to create a successful forum is to study those who are particularly well done, and then implement the features that you think will work best for your own website.

ProBlogger job exchange

ProBlogger is a website for bloggers. In addition to a blog with useful tips, a job exchange has been added.

The board is essentially a forum. Those who need to hire a blogger, post potential jobs and job seekers can read the posts and private messages of the potential employers. The forum is geared towards profit. If you are looking for an employee, you can pay a small fee to publish your job. However, the boards are free for job seekers. This is a model similar to that offered by some of the resume sites like Monster.com.

Visit online: https://problogger.com/jobs/

Startup nation

Startup Nation is a website aimed at people who want to start a new business. There are thousands of topics to choose from on their online forum. Tens of thousands of users discuss various topics.One of the things that work well about this forum is how streamlined and organized it is. No matter what topic you need help on, you can just go to the main forum page and find the right category.

The information goes from Basic to Advanced.

Visit online: https://community.startupnation.com/

Warrior Forum

The Warrior Forum is a popular site for those looking for marketing tips.

The Warrior Forum is a strong online community and the people there are usually very helpful to one another. The categories in the forum are clearly laid out with new categories at the top. Within each category there is a sub-forum in which the topics are further subdivided. There are millions of threads and posts on this site.

One of the things the Warrior Forum does to keep people from coming back is to have experts offering tips, streaming advice, and answers to questions. Looking at the forum it's unclear if these experts are being compensated for their help, but the tactic is obviously hugely successful given that the forum is active and how many community members there are.

Visit online: www.warriorforum.com

Professional pilots rumor network

One of the great things about online forums is that you can focus the conversation on a very niche topic. PPRuNe is a site that is basically just a forum. They provide conversation for commercial pilots. Topics include very specific areas such as rotor heads (for helicopter pilots), cabin crew (for flight attendants), air traffic control issues, and emergency planning.

If it is about flight in any way, there is basically a theme for it. What is special about this website is that it focuses on a specific industry. It is a smart strategy to see what other forums are out on the same topic and tweak yours a little to make it unique.

Visit online: www.pprune.org

Something horrible

Something Terrible: The Internet Makes You Stupid is a comedy-based website with an active online forum.

There are over 100 million posts on the site and over 7,000 users participating in the discussion. The site was launched in 1999 and thus has an established fan base. There are ads on the forums, but you can join in to remove them by paying a $ 9.95 fee. It's probably the humor that makes people come back to this page and that's something you can implement on your own forum no matter the topic. Remember that humor is subjective. Avoid topics that could offend a percentage of your website visitors.

Visit online: forums.somethingawful.com

College Confidential

College Confidential is another website that is basically a large forum.

The niche for this site is college and prospective college students. One of the things that this website does particularly well is offering tools to help the target audience. For example, when you go to College Confidential you will find both ways to interact and free resources to help you find a college, find scholarships, find out which college best suits your needs, and much more.

Visit online: www.collegeconfidential.com

Summary…

Social Media Today notes that forums are the new blogs in 2015. While I don't fully agree as there is always a need for great content and information, I believe that forums can help you get valuable content from your users while you are engaging them and giving them the opportunity to share interact with others on the website.

Adding a forum seems like a smart move, provided you have enough traffic to keep a conversation going.

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About Lori Soard

Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's degree in English and a PhD in journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she has published several books. Since 1997 she has been working as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time evaluating websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.

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