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What I done right ….. and wrong

Discussion in 'Forum Management' started by RichardGaspa, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. RichardGaspa

    RichardGaspa Active Member

    By now some of you have discovered that Veterans Briefing.com's story has come to an end. While performing my final acts as the founder and administrator of this site, I thought it was worth my time to write about what I know I have done right and even more important what I done wrong. Many of you will have your own ideas on how I failed, but I wanted to write about what I believed I done wrong. The good news is although Veterans Briefing.com is dead, the content, structure, goal and mission and also the membership was transferred over to a much larger national organization with more than 2.5 million members strong. I transferred my site over to DAV.org at no charge. The domain will also be transferred within 30 days.

    As a blogger on WordPress for years, I already had a familiarity with forums. About a sixteen months ago I decided on creating a new blog/forum. I done this not as a money making venture but as a hobby. I wanted to pursue a hobby doing something I loved doing. There were many limitations to using WordPress so I researched and decided on moving over to XenForo.

    First mistake

    My first move was to decide on the subject of the forum. I always knew it would have to be a niche subject in order to attract both readers and even more importantly content contributors.

    What I did right was coming up with the idea of supplying information to fellow veterans and active duty members on benefits available to them by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. I was quite familiar with the content I wanted to supply as I was a 100% disabled Veteran and worked for the Veterans Administration in the past. What I did wrong was not know what my competition was. I knew of the couple of national organizations out there for our veterans but never thought they would be my competition. I was wrong. Many of my 400 plus members were also members of the huge competition sites. I was finding my membership would post to the larger sites more than they would my site. Although it was not unusual to see 30 replies to a thread on my site the others two sites were getting quadruple that. It was like the story of David and Goliath, but in this case Goliath won. What I did right was finding a niche …. what I done wrong was NOT narrowing it down even further than I did. I have made references to finding a niche in creating a successful site in XenForo threads so many times and I failed to screw down into the content enough to grab a user base that was looking for a certain content and had nowhere else to get it but me.

    Second mistake

    After much research, I decided on a domain name of Veterans Briefing.com, and it sounded Good! The word veterans was in the domain, and I was trying to reach the veteran. The word briefing sounded good, I was going to brief them with the information they needed. The domain was also available for sale. Everything sounds right here right? …....... Wrong! The domain name was too vague. It did NOT speak to a direct interested user group. Anyone doing a search for veteran, military or any of the other keywords of my site would always bring them to the much larger organization.

    Third mistake

    Another problem I had was finding content contributors. Most of the great content contributors wrote for the major veteran site and only from time to time started a thread on my site. I was online so much I felt the site was beginning to consume me. My site was very active, but it was just taking too much of my time and energy. There was no way I could compete with the big three.

    Fourth mistake

    I read many threads on XenForo that a new site owner should run his site alone for the first year or so until it takes off. That there was no need for a moderator(s) …. I disagree with this statement. If and when I create a forum again I would not call my assistants moderators, I should have looked for contributors, social media ambassadors. A contributor could have helped with starting new threads and replied to others. A social media ambassador could have left links on other sites, Facebook, and Twitter. Having these positions in place prior to going LIVE would have made a world of difference. If you don’t have positions like this for your site now, I suggest you open them up soon before you get online burn out.

    Fifth mistake

    Although I only had around five forums, and they all had related material in them I found they were competing with each other. A member would on average leave only one posting or new thread. Most of the activity on my site was replies or comments. I further found that they would post primarily in the forum that was presently being featured. (using the CTA Featured Threads & Portal). A user would log in and see maybe only one new thread in each forum. If I cut back in the number of forums to say one, there would always by at least five or more new thread no matter what time they logged in. So, I feel having too many not so active forums hurt me in the long run even though having five forums looked cosmetically pleasing. ...

    Six mistake (and the biggest)

    Burnout! I already talked about this above. If you're starting a new project or you are the admin of a current online forum. Get help! Find someone that likes the subject matter as much as you do and asked them if they would like to help. Do it now before the burnout creeps in later.
  2. Mr Lucky

    Mr Lucky Well-Known Member

    I don't think that was a mistake. The domain name has more to do with branding than SEO. having all or mot of the main possible search keywords in the domain name would make it unwieldy and probably no better for SEO and a lot worse as a snappy brand name. More important is the meta description, ie what potential visitors see as the snippet when your site comes up against the others in the search results.

    If your site was competing with big organisations, then your secret weapon might be a snippet that implies your site is friendlier and less formal or full of jargon than the big organisations.

    Obviously it's too late to be giving any advice, but I can't see that within that niche you could have had anything even "nichier" that would hep draw and keep visitors, you would just need to be able to persuade people that yours is an easier to use, friendlier, and more informative site because it is a small indie, rather than something more corporate or government related.

    Having said that thanks for your story and incites!
    Adam K M and wedgar like this.
  3. wedgar

    wedgar Well-Known Member

    Sorry to hear about this.

    I commend you for this action. This is outstanding service to your forum members/contributors.

    I suspect this is the case in many forums.

    I truly appreciate your write-up from your side and to provide your insight.

  4. melbo

    melbo Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure that 16 months is enough time to decide a startup forum is a failure.
    Sorry for your loss and best of luck in the future.
  5. Adam K M

    Adam K M Active Member

    I agree - when I have close friends on any projects/website/activity, it's much more motivating to continue said activity. Not to mention splitting the workload with them, but getting a second opinion on things is always good.
    wedgar likes this.

    STORMS Active Member

    I actually agreee with this statement in the sense that you shouldn't necessarily rely on others. If you started it, make it "your baby" and make sure things get done. If your friends don't get to it one day or they forget, no excuses, you get it there and do it yourself.

    However, I am sorry to hear that your forum didn't make it. The only thing I have to say is, if it's still in your heart to pursuit a related forum, try relaunching under a shorter domain and take what you learned and apply it to round 2.

    Good luck!
    wedgar likes this.

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