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Starting a Forum in 2016 Is A Real Grind....

Discussion in 'Forum Management' started by la2k16, Aug 30, 2016.

  1. la2k16

    la2k16 Member

    just hit the 7 month mark of www.theblack-board.com and man.....the biggest piece of advice that I read pre-launch that has held true is you have to have PATIENCE.

    I felt I was having good growth (signups) then I hit a plateau here recently. Activity wise I feel I'm okay now, traffic wise I think I'm on a higher curve just based on the niche I'm in and how updated I attempt to keep topics....and I also have a main-page (non-xenforo) that draws people into the forum

    For people who have started forums in the last 2 years or so I was wondering how long until you reached a point before yours was self-sustaining (able to keep discussions going and new posts without you actively posting) I hear around 25-50 active members, active being the key, this will start to happen on its own.

    Here are my forum stats....it launched on March 3rd

    stats.png

    stats.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2016
    Digital Doctor likes this.
  2. Anthony Parsons

    Anthony Parsons Well-Known Member

    What you have is a niche, and that is optimal. People with the biggest of forums have crashed and burned, all because they lose touch with the demographics, current trends and well... how to manage and run a forum. When you start out you have to be the one totally invested, because you are the driving force for the first few years. After that, you can step back, however, you can never just ditch and run, not once you did the work to build the loyalty membership you will attain. Presence is everything, always mingling with your membership, even ten years from now, is important.

    Keep going, as you seem to be going in the right direction. Well done.
     
  3. Snog

    Snog Well-Known Member

    At last someone that actually gets it. I've seen a few site owners start a forum, load it up with add-ons and then just sit and wait for results. When they don't see results quickly, they close the forum. Good forums take years to develop.

    I've been telling people for ages that you start the forum with minimal add-ons, get it going and then as time passes if a need is found add other add-ons. But they just don't listen.
     
  4. la2k16

    la2k16 Member

    very good points, thank you for the feedback! I think one of the things I had no idea about prior, but am slowly learning, is how to monitor trends and keywords and SEO stuff like that. Is there any tools that you would recommend to new admins that you wish you would have taken advantage of earlier yourself?

    I too am starting to learn this. I think early on I was too focused on getting add-ons and the layout perfect (which will never happen, there will always be room for improvement in my opinion) instead of cultivating the community. Now I'm focusing on more interaction and "family" feel. Not so much about drawing new members just to up the count, but getting existing ones engaged in daily conversations.
     
    Snog likes this.
  5. Anthony Parsons

    Anthony Parsons Well-Known Member

    My history is in SEO... so that was never an issue for me. Adwords keyword tool is your single best source for accurate information on what is being searched, and just how much competition there is for that word.

    People launch their own keyword tools, which is a traffic source for them, in essence, but idiots use them. Adwords is the only tool you need, and its completely free with no limitations. If a word is popular amongst free rankings, then it is popular amongst paid rankings also. People who can't get the rank due to the popularity, then duel it out in paid results for the front page listing.

    The main thing I will tell you about keywords, is don't start a new forum with any type of focus towards a popular keyword. Stick with longtail keywords by NOT falsely stacking your site with keywords, but each new thread that is created, either change the title or add a relevant longtail term to the title, IF that is what the page is about and even says as much in the page.

    Some threads you won't need to touch, some you will. Getting traffic from those drips and drabs for accuracy is where you pick up a user here, user there, when starting. Then it is up to you to connect with those drips and drabs of users to make them online friends, acquaintances, and regular members of your community.

    Like Snog said... don't add crap into a new startup, don't complicate the site with rubbish that makes it hard to navigate, and don't have a whole bunch of forums for the sake of it. Have no more than 5 forums when starting. You expand based on what is being posted, and will find patterns of content that will define your next forum / category opening.

    Less is more with a forum. People like simple. Most of our interaction nowadays with the web, is simple. Apps are often the simplest. A couple of touches and away you go to the focus of being in the App.

    Trends!!! Usually by the time you notice a trend, you missed the boat. You have to either be at the start of a trend and capitalise, OR you're just another wannabe who is trying to capitalise from a trend they missed. Finding trends, again, Google trend on keywords using historic data can help...

    My forum uses the Ui.X framework... what everyone see's first is a severely cut back, clean, to the point version, no bells or whistles, nothing can move or hide, na da. Less is more. Then... an alternative theme is there with all the bells and whistles, all options under the sun. This keeps your primary guest theme fast and clean, but you give those who like options, the option for more.

    It takes time... it takes patience, and you will always have to be around if you own the community, otherwise those who are there because of you will leave faster than they had thought about.
     
    RobinHood, Snog, la2k16 and 2 others like this.
  6. la2k16

    la2k16 Member

    sorry for my inexperience, but do you mean Google Keyword Planner? This prompts me to pay before i can use the tool
     
  7. tajhay

    tajhay Well-Known Member

    Its free.
    https://adwords.google.com.au/KeywordPlanner

     
    la2k16 likes this.
  8. la2k16

    la2k16 Member

    This is what I found, when I click the link it prompts me to sign in my google account. And when I do that is is prompting me to register my business and add a billing account before I can move forward

    EDIT: I found the "Adwords Express" button and this fixed it lol

    EDIT 2: Actually this did not fix it, still asking me to create ad and add billing
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2016
  9. eva2000

    eva2000 Well-Known Member

    Depends on type of forums. My Centmin Mod Community forums started end of May 2014 so ~27 months ago https://community.centminmod.com. But it's a community support forum around my Centmin Mod LEMP stack project so it really won't go far without my involvement right now LOL.

    upload_2016-9-2_3-18-5.png

    Forums are very slowly growing - i rather quality than quantity members/activity. Main driver of traffic/members is my Centmin Mod LEMP stack itself which has around 2,000 to 3,000 new installations per month. So just a matter of driving those users to the forums :D
     
    la2k16 and CarpCharacin like this.
  10. Anthony Parsons

    Anthony Parsons Well-Known Member

    Yes, you need an account. Create an ad, just don't enable it. Add payment details, again, it does nothing other than sit there with Google. I have an account of paused ads. You aren't charged anything unless you run your ads.
     
    la2k16 likes this.
  11. dvsDave

    dvsDave Well-Known Member

    A great resource for your line of questions is feverbee.com. Richard Millington wrote a great book about starting and sustaining online communities. A LOT of his suggestions you can implement in XenForo without any additional tools!
     
    Your Ski Advisor likes this.
  12. CarpCharacin

    CarpCharacin Active Member

    I agree with having minimal add-ons installed.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2016 at 2:48 PM
  13. Shawn Gossman

    Shawn Gossman Member

    I've seen most modern forums of today 'crash and burn' due to the myth that forums can actually replace a full time job. Most of the 'few' people earning a living from forums have been in the game for many many years and are the biggest in their niche. I think we often expect our forums to grow into 'big boards' within a short span of time. The thing to do is to quit worrying about the stats - if you've developed an active little small community, enjoy it while it lasts, make great friendships and give the forum its own time to grow on its own. :) I'd rather have a handful of active members than hundreds of members who show up the first day and then never return again. :)
     
    Jack Bastide, la2k16 and CarpCharacin like this.
  14. CarpCharacin

    CarpCharacin Active Member

    I agree. I started my site 2 years ago, but I never really focused on it until recently. I started it on December 5th 2014 and I originally used phpbb. In august of this year, I decided to focus on it so I converted it to XF and now it has around 2800 posts. I have a few active members and I enjoy posting and working on my site.
     
    la2k16 likes this.
  15. la2k16

    la2k16 Member

    just hit 10,000 posts today. it's been a up and down jouney but ironically I'm experiencing the best week organic traffic-wise since the site opened (a facebook article to a forum topic went viral about a month ago after it was shared over a thousand times, sent 60,000 new users to the site in a span of 3 days, but the traffic dropped down to normal after a week)

    like i said it's been up and down but I've loved the journey so far. watching the site grow and getting to the know my members is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever experienced.

    anyone whos interested in seeing what it looks like now heres a link http://www.theblack-board.com/forum/index.php?forums/ I just recently added a currency system for users to buy account perks and access to private forums and they seem to be loving it. Post engagement since I added it a few days ago is through the roof!

    I'm learning to take it day by day and I think im starting to find a groove. I can feel my community growing stronger and now that people are getting rewarded for making posts and interacting with others I can see the positive trend continuing! not gonna get too complacent because I've discovered that you have to quickly be able to shift with the ever-changing consensus of your boards members as it grows and this is a never-ending state of adapting your site . I can feel a core group of members emerging and once that is established the sky is the limit!
     
    Jack Bastide likes this.
  16. la2k16

    la2k16 Member

    I have to thank you. I know it's late but i LIVED on feverbee after this post. I probably have read every article on their site multiple times and easily they have the most insightful and applicable articles on the practices of truly growing and strengthening your community. I URGE everyone to go there and just start reading something, anything lol

    I have their ebook on my phone for easy access and I plan on purchasing a physical copy of their offerings from some of their contributers
     
    Optic likes this.
  17. BamaStangGuy

    BamaStangGuy Well-Known Member

    It has always been a grind. Now you just need a niche to break into as most of the major stuff is so saturated by Vertical Scope and Internet Brands. I think between those two companies they own the first two pages of search results for most major automotive models.
     
  18. tajhay

    tajhay Well-Known Member

    I believe a new forum in 2016 can still work, but a lot of work needs to be put in. Its a cycle where users wont join in and participate unless you have active discussion. And its not possible to get active discussion without people creating content. A forum has to fill a void. There is no point creating a new general discussion forum as that has been filled - many many times. You need to provide content that they cannot get elsewhere. Today i see people copying and pasting articles from other sites and thinking that is 'content'. It really isnt. You need to provide them something new and different. Influential members who have inside scoops, information not readily available certainly helps.

    All i see new forum admins do these days is create a ton of forums, most with no content. You tell them that and they say their forum is 'unique' and needs it to function. BS it is. You cannot run before you have begun to crawl, and the crawl lifespan of a forum is a long haul. People these days think that if they build the swankiest site, people will come. CONTENT IS KING. Noone cares about the aesthetics. You can have the ugliest site and still get lots of people joining in. Make it user friendly. Most xenforo forums for example have the same sub menu system, when its not always practical. Most users for example will never even use 'watched threads'. Remove clutter, make it simple, provide a good user experience and provide good content that cannot be found elsewhere. Concentrate on the basics, cultivate a good culture at the forum where users dont go about posting 'lol' 'hahah thats funny'. Educate the userbase what the standard is without being heavy handed. Be a rolemodel user for others and set the standard. And be prepared for lots and lots of hard work.
     
  19. Shawn Gossman

    Shawn Gossman Member

    I started my big forum about 5 years ago. As of today, we are nearing 8,000 members but it got that way when I bought out my competition. Now I am the competition. I'd imagine ad revenue could be pretty nice but I keep it ad free so I'll never know :) If you can do it, buy your competition and merge but make sure you keep your forum interesting to keep converted members at bay :)
     
  20. Divvens

    Divvens Well-Known Member

    My community launched in 2011, August to be precise.

    And now,
    d4bf9cf40c1d130464756e1564741dbb.png

    There's been a lot of learning experience up until now, and everyday continues to be a learning experience. It is a never ending process, we started out with just 5 members and for the first year-year and a half me and my co-founder needed to drive the community, keep discussions active, be on top of all the latest news. After our 2nd anniversary everything was on full auto mode, but that didn't mean we could sit back and relax. We continued to work everyday, the difference was we stopped concentrating on creating content and started concentrating on having features and improving user experience.

    Even now we continue to provide and improve user experience, improve features that we need, create ways that makes it easier for people to participate.

    The key is to not give up, have patience and create good content.

    My community is one of the top in our niche, the two most well known names is the sub-reddit and our community. So it's at a stage where we are very proud of where we are now :)

    So continue creating content, keep interacting with your users, improve and make easier things that benefit your community and you'll continue to grow steadily and at one point everything clicks and works right.
     
    BamaStangGuy likes this.

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