Gathering a Critical Mass of Members to a Forum

To engineer a successful forum, there are three key questions an administrator needs to ask before building the forum.

Goal #1. How will you gather a critical mass of members
Goal #2. What will compel members to provide content
Goal #3. How will the forum survive pass the first year
In this article we cover goal #1 – how to gather a critical mass of members.
Be niche

Your forum has to build a name for itself as the authority on a subject. All successful forums have something that sets them apart from the rest. For example, it could be the unique content of the site, an under-served niche demographic they target, or the personality of the site administrator.

If you’re creating a forum, ask yourself, “What will people get out of my forum that they can’t already get somewhere else?”

All successful forums have a purpose. They exist for a specific reason, to accomplish something. To connect people with common interests, or to facilitate conversation on issues related to the site.

One major reason many new forums fail is because there are too many forums on the same topic! Forums will not be successful if their sole purpose is building traffic for the main website.

Choice of forum software

Getting this right is critical. There is a high probability the existing forum posts will be lost by switching to different software later.

Consider search engine optimisation first. Since 85%+ of new traffic to your website will come from the search engines, having your discussion forum posts found by the search engines is essential.

Before you choose a discussion forum software package, make sure that all the posts within the forum can be found and ranked by the search engines. Most discussion forum software hide messages posts in such a way that they simply cannot be crawled by the search engines.

One way to find out if message posts within a specific forum software package are search engine optimised, is to visit a site using that software, copy a recent forum headline and paste it into Google and do a search (surround the search headline with quotes so Google knows exactly what to look for).

If the message headline comes up within the first 50 pages found by Google, you know the forum has been optimally indexed. If the headline doesn’t show, you might want to look for a different forum software package.

Most of the major forum scripts are geared for SEO, but there are ways to improve results further by adding search engine friendly URLs, or in the case of vBulletin, adding vBSEO (a full suite of SEO enhancements).

Dynamic URLs, session ids, etc. used by most forum software can be very detrimental to the forum health from search engine point of view.

Take care when choosing the type of forum and forum script or software that will be used. The forum should be easy to find and easy to use. Some forum scripts and software come with compulsory ads served from the parent company, and lead to a poor user experience.

Focus content and discussion

Users will sign up and post on your board if they find the existing content interesting, and consider it worthwhile to participate. Establish several interesting categories within your forum, without going overboard.

When launching the site you will not have many members, so keep the content focused on a few discussions only to avoid empty rooms. It is far better to have 4 active sections than 15 empty ones.

Don’t be afraid to lump similar topics together. Once a forum grows to a size where threads are pushed to page 2 and 3, then consider splitting a forum into two smaller ones.

Do not have too many off-topic discussion areas. Instead create one or two introductory discussions, where new users can post about themselves and existing users can welcome them.

Know that before making the forum public, it is a good idea to create maybe two or three threads in each forum area, so visitors will have somewhere to post. Many new forum users are too shy to post new threads on their own.

Function over form

Users care more about the content and community than the design. Image heavy sites have a high first impression, but subsequent low usability. Image rich sites take longer for each member to read threads, make a new post, move between forums etc. If the page refresh is slow, users post less and are less inclined to return. Google and Yahoo are not particularly attractive, but very successful search engines which observed the law of efficient page refresh.

Design should not be the focus, instead improve the user experience with clear and easy to use navigation, few fancy buttons and images and making sure everyone understands the functions of the site. There is no substitute for good form design, consistent branding, clear and readable type and ample white space.

Use hacks, add-ons and features sparingly

Many forum scripts have hundreds of freely available add-ons, for example, vBulletin, including social networking add-ons, live chat, shops and arcades.

The trick here is to employ fewer features, but do them well. Avoid making the mistake of adding so many features they become a visual barrier to new users, or slow existing users’ posting. Add too many features too quickly and you do not allow enough time to measure them, or allow your users to adopt them.

A simple, clean layout with features that promote registration, referral and posting are all that is required.

Super easy registration

Almost all forums have some barrier to entry, to screen out trolling and spam. However, a common mistake among forum administrators is making registration complex.

For example, some forums make you agree to rules, answer security questions, validate your identity via email and await moderator approval. While these measures counter spam, if your signup process is long and tedious, many users will give up. Try to achieve a good balance between security and ease of use.

Apart from making registration hassle-free, offer registrants some kind of benefit to join other than permission to post. These could be freebies or downloads.

Set your barriers to entry to be either large or small. Large will net you fewer members, but quality; small will gain you more users but of mixed quality.

Member referral schemes

Many forums fail due to a lack of publicity. Tell your friends to join, and if they find it interesting, they will tell their friends, who will in turn tell their friends etc. This can tie in very well with a referral scheme, whereby users are rewarded for referring other users to the board. Word-of-mouth advertising, in tandem with other forms of advertising e.g. SEO optimization, Google Ads, link trading with other forums, can result in a powerful combination which will draw more and more users to your forums.

Seeding links in other forums

Get people aware about your forum/site for free, simply by joining other forums and having your link in your forum/profile signature. Emailing sites such requests can attract negative publicity, as recipients may perceive you to desperate spammer.

The best technique is to join another forum. Have a link to your site in your signature, and try to make 10 or so posts each week. If you get a great reputation on the forum, people will check out your link. If you are a credible, it is likely people in those forums will join yours.

Useful forum articles

Forum design
Building content
Long term survival
Anthony Coundouris is a director and digital consultant for the digital marketing agency Firestarter.

Types of Online Auction

The different types of online auction is straight auction, reserve auction, Dutch auction, private auction, overstock auction. An English auction on the internet is called as absolute auction, ascending price auction, English auction, forward auction, reserve price auction, standard auction, Yankee auction. A classic Dutch auction is called as Dutch auction, reverse auction, and bidder’s choice.

A sealed bid auction on the internet is called as private auction, sealed bid auction. A Dutch -vickrey auction on the internet is also called as vickrey option. Proxy bidding agents on the internet is called as proxy auction, robo bid. An online auction means buying and selling of products by the process of bidding and then offering the goods to the highest bidder on the internet. There are various types of online auction, the most common being English auction.

In this type of auction, a reserve price is fixed for the goods and the customers offer larger and larger bid. Finally, the product is sold to the highest bidder. Different people offer different bid prices; the bid is completed once the highest bidding is done by a person and no one does bidding after that. After the hammer has been hit no one can bid. In some cases, when the reserve price is not revealed, the bid ends if no one is willing to bid an amount higher than the reserve price.

The traditional method of English auction includes the use of a candle. In this method, the winning bid was that the last one which was offered just before a candle died out. A Dutch auction is a method of selling in which the price is reduced until a buyer is found. For example, the home was offered in a Dutch auction beginning at $150,000. The auctioneer lowered the price gradually in $5,000 increments until a bidder was found willing to pay $120,000. Therefore, the home was sold for $120,000.

A Walkthrough Of Product Creation

The internet has diversified business opportunities. Affiliate marketing is one of the available business models. In this model, an affiliate endorses the products and services of another company for a commission. This is an easy, low-cost method to setup a business. However, a vast majority of entrepreneurs prefer to start from scratch by creating their own products and services.

The idea is a good one, but demands higher startup investments and a bit of research. Here’s a short guide on business product creation.

1. Outline your Goals:

The creation process starts with outlining your business goals. This initial planning process proves beneficial in the long run. It allows you to balance proposals and projections with the available resources effectively. It helps outline varied sources from which you can generate income for your plan. A SWOT analysis is a must for every new venture irrespective of the merchandise you specialize in. A SWOT analysis allows an organization to pinpoint its strengths and weaknesses and identify external opportunities and threats. It also helps understand current marketing trends.

2. Involve Customers in Product Creation:

Customers are king. You may have a great idea for a product, but it will be of no use if it is useless to your customers. The secret to perfecting the development process involves including potential customers in it. Prepare a survey or list of interview questions. Visit local stores (similar to your business) and ask people to fill out the forms. The answers will give you more information about the product they are looking at and their expectations. It also gives you cues of the features that will render your product successful.

3. Create a Prototype:

After you have outlined your business goals and collected consumer opinions, you should proceed to create a prototype. This prototype serves as the basic version of the product. Hence, it need not be very expensive or perfect. In fact, it is weapon to test customer response. Based on the findings, you can iron out product and technical issues in the versions to follow.

4. Screen the Product:

Sell the prototype to your customers. Observe how your customers respond to it, how they use it, features they like and aspects they don’t like. Compare expected response with the actual result.

5. Fix Gaps:

This is the stage of perfection. The comparison gives you a deeper insight into the flaws of the product. Use the information to improve your current prototype and shape your marketing strategy.

Besides, the steps mentioned above there are a few other tips to keep in mind. Customer criticism should be taken positively. You should not underestimate a competitor. Instead, compare your product with that of your competitors to test how it matches them in quality and features. Employee suggestions are crucial. One should also keep in mind the constant technological changes and updates.

There are ready product creation systems to create, test and launch business products on the web. The combines human resources and information technology to design an expert product that will fare well in the market.