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Tips for a good community site

Just wanted to give a few tips, because I see this happen a lot, and people wonder why they get no traffic...

Firstly a few don'ts:

- Don't make yourself any different than the rest of the members (excluding the admin ability).  By this I mean don't make a seperate forum for your own posts, unless there is a specific reason (IE: a sub-section for each person with a large amount of blog posts, which includes yourself).

- Don't speak as the owner, speak as a member that can help.  This is similar to the first, but remember that by putting yourself with other people's level, it makes them want to come back.  This also means don't put anything as "My Cartoons" make it "George's Cartoons", and welcome a similar forum for people that could use it like yours. (if you have 20 cartoons as a subforum, and someone else has 30 cartoons, make a subforum for them too).

- Don't be condescending to your members... they are their by choice, be nice to them or they might not come back!

- Don't make mods right away, it looks bad to have 12 members, and 9 of them are mods.  People are less likely to join because those 9 mods didn't prove themselves, they are just friends.

- As a point from the last one, don't give favoritism to friends.  Admins need to be biased, unless people have earned their status (It's fair to give more credit to a trusted mod than a new member).

- As the admin has pointed out here, don't make your forum invisible to guests.  People don't want to join a site that they cannot see.  If you want it mostly hidden, then make a guest area to let people know that there is a reason to sign up.


Now for some Do's:

- If you do make a sub forum for yourself (after following the don'ts) then place it where it belongs (which is not at the top).

- Make the forums and community warm and welcoming, nobody likes talking to a piece of paper.

- Split large forums into smaller ones, but don't go overboard.  Split "entertainment" into "Movies" "TV" and "music" (or "art" "poetry" etc), but don't split it into "Lost" "24" "american idol" "Movies" "rock" "punk" etc.  Keep it general enough so that people can post about all sorts of things.

- Make your forums easily navigated.  Don't put the help section squeezed between a music and adult forum, that's illogical. (Note: Most people expect to find a help section at the bottom)

- Encourage members to get to know each other.  Just because you run a support site, doesn't mean that people don't want to chit chat.  No matter what forum type you have, an off-topic area is always welcomed, and suggested.

- Make your forums easy on the eye, if you get popular, people will troll the forum, and you don't want them with headaches because of your bad choice of layout.  On the same note, make sure everything fits, it shouldn't be a random mix of images and colors, it should blend together.

- If you want your forums to be able to be found easier with search engines, try some SEO (search engine optimization) (more info here).  One easy way to do this, is add links between your forums.  Don't just give the name of a topic, give a link to it as well!

- Another way to help a site grow is to use link exchanges.  These sometimes work, but a site that has 30 other link exchanges in a massive list most likely will have nobody joining your site.  Give exchanges with forums that will be useful.  A lot of members interested in cars? Exchange with a racing or car tech forum!  Use ones that will be relevant, not just random ones.


And a few things you might want to think about...

- Add some portals on the side, it helps navigation, and also makes the forum look a little fancier.  But don't go overboard, it's just some icing, not the full cake.

- Make some parts of your forum invisible to guests, give people a reason to sign up! (see above on why you shouldn't make it all invisible)

- If you can manage without mods, I advise you to do so, when it gets busy enough for mods, then choose one from trustworthy people that are active (don't give bias for friends here).

- As well, if you want to make more people mods, break it down into categories (on my forum, I have mods for each section, and global mods for the full forum)

- If you (or your members) enjoy variety, make a few working styles that your members can choose from, even if it is just different colors of the same style.

Well, there you have it, some tips from me on how to make a successful forum.  But remember the #1 thing to making a truely successful forum, is making members want to be a part of your site! Don't just have them visit and forget about it.. leave an impression!

myff admin

Hierarchy is an issue that varies somewhat with a forums needs.

On my  forum the aim is very egalitarian albeit we do have an even more tiered structure than members/mods/admins, we have actually formed a real company with directors and so have a directors group.

But from the members point of view we try and keep things on a level.

Here on the support it is somewhat different, there is a degree of consultation to try and direct things to meet members needs, but there has to be a far clear hierarchy and a lot shorter shrift given to abuse.

Excellent advice.

Re: Tips for a good community site

Zudane wrote:

- Make your forums easily navigated.  Don't put the help section squeezed between a music and adult forum, that's illogical. (Note: Most people expect to find a help section at the bottom).
I always expect it at the top O.o

Good advice as Rc girl, musicfanforum, and I know! We have a site(in signature) that has great navagation! Forum Index -> Running your community
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