Want to drive more traffic to your message boards? Here’s a list of tips I’ve gathered of not only getting members initially, but keeping them active as well. Enjoy;)
1. Content is king. And keep it fresh! Post informational articles. Post pertanent news and messages from mailing lists, newsgroups, sites, and other boards (non-copyrighted material, of course). Encourage other knowledgable and opinionated people you know to register. Give your own unbiased opinions about topics and post often.
2. Post on other bulletin boards, mailing lists, and newsgroups in your subject area. This is not an overnight thing, but if you are an active participant and people get to know and like you, they’ll want to play in your sandbox. (Include your URL in the sig line, and make it obvious on your home page that there’s a forum.)
3. Hold ocassional contests for registered members. Announce these contests on other boards, mailing lists, etc..
4. Don’t show the number of registered members on your board until you have at least 100. The low numbers may turn some people off by giving the impression that you have an unimportant site.
5. Set the default in the Control Panel to Show All Topics on thes forums category pages, so that you get the benefit of every post. These two suggestions are related. Many people seem to be shy of posting unless they’re one of many.
6. Work on getting listed in search engines. This isn’t merely a matter of submissions, but getting other sites to link to you. Another slow growth move to get traffic, but it does pay off.
7. Ask other webmasters in your subject area to give a link to your site and/or forums, and do the same for them in return.
8. The word of mouth is important. Ask your posters to each try to bring in a friend. That doubles the board “overnight”.
9. Send ocassional e-mails to your registered board members (but don’t get carried away with this — they’ll quickly perceive these to be spam) announcing major board updates, site additions, etc.. This will help encourage some of your more inactive members to click on your link and take a look.
10. It’s very important to the long-term health of the board that the first members reflect your own sense of what you want your board to be (unless you just want to attract anybody and everybody so the numbers are up for advertising purposes). This way you really create a community, and those who are of like minds and temperaments will be more likely to join.
11. As a board owner/administrator, do your best to act courteous and professional. Don’t be a hothead, don’t be a jerk, and don’t be quick to condemn/judge/slam/argue with those who disagree with you. Getting a reputation as someone who’s difficult to get along with can turn potential board members away quicker than anything else. Be sure to tell your moderators to do the same.
12. Encourage your moderators and even some of your “veteran” members to post often, and you should follow suit. It goes back to the aforementioned idea that people are hesitant to post if there’s little going on. The more activity there is on the board, the more likely people will want to jump in and join the “fun”.
13. Don’t have too many forum categories at first, just have a few that are more general in subject matter. Let those build up and then branch out to new forums. If people see a bunch of empty forums with no topics, they won’t want to post there.
14. Advertise the board on your site’s home/main page! Don’t have it be a small link that is easy to pass over. Give links to the particular board topics on your website. Many times after reading the topic, people will drift to other parts of your board. Plus, make it easy for them to register — put a link to the “Register” section in the header of the board itself.
15. Make sure you have plenty of useful hacks and lots of attractive (but still easy-to-use) features that will get people’s attention and keep them coming back to the board.
16. Join the others’ boards. Combined and stronger, your boards will become. Form a network, even if only to help co-promote.
17. Make sure you have an area for feedback and ask people what they want – and if its reasonable – give it to them.
18. Try to start discussions. Go to other message boards and see what they are talking about, and bring up the same thing on your board.
19. Try moving some of your site’s page content to the message board. For example, make your board your news page. When you make updates to your page, tell about them on your board.
20. In addition to getting your friends to join up, try registering 3-4 different fake identities that you post under (other than your main one) and seed the forums with posts. Use your identities to bring up interesting topics, ask questions, answer them, respond with differing opinions, and so on. This will help spark discussion and bring others in to join in. It’s a little dishonest