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Zantherus » 2009 » April

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Archive for April, 2009

Personalize your forum

April 28th, 2009

Think of all the forums you regularly visit. You know, the ones you open as soon as you get online. Why do you visit the forum?

Personally I visit the forums I do because I have a connection. I have developed a relationship with the members and the community and as a result I feel compelled to visit that forum day after day.

It’s more than having topics and posts. It’s more than having a contest and having participants. It’s about developing something that the whole community shares.

What that is for your forum, I couldn’t tell you. It could be different for every forum. However, one way that works for my forum and other forums is to introduce external forces to your forum. By that I mean making the forum about more than just the forum. Video game communities can do this really well because of the popularity of online gaming. If you can get members to interact outside of the forum then you’ve got a success.

It can work in more ways than just that too. Even introducing your personal life into your forum can work just as well. Once members learn about YOU, maybe you will begin to learn about them. In real life, would you feel more comfortable hanging out with a best friend or a complete stranger? Chances are you’d be more comfortable with your best friend. So turn your members into your best friends and then they’ll keep coming back for more.

Thoughts? Contact me (Ziveeman) on the community @ http://www.zantherus.com/community

Forums

Got Visitors but No Members? Convert them with these tips

April 23rd, 2009

So you have advertising and visitors are looking at your forum, but how do you convert them to active members? Here are some tips you can try out.

1) Hook your members in from the start

Don’t be like anyone else. Make sure your “above the fold” part of the page is interesting. The “above the fold” refers to the part of the page that the visitors see without scrolling. Most likely for a forum it’s a logo, then maybe the first forum. Pick an interesting graphic or theme to display there so that visitors will be compelled to scroll down and check the rest of the content.

2) Be friendly

Welcome all of your members warmly and encourage them to post. No one likes a place where they aren’t noticed. Notice your members.

3) Make sure your forum is active

This seems like a Catch-22 - to get activity, you need activity - but in reality, it’s not. Start out by doing post/registration exchanges to fill up your forum a little bit so members can interact and then begin to contribute their own threads to the forum. You can also get friends and maybe family members to start posting a little bit too.

4) Offer exclusive content

This doesn’t mean close off your whole forum and force guests to register before viewing the board - that just turns off activity. Instead, open up all of your forums for guests to view, then offer one forum that is only available when you register, and be sure they know that that forum exists! For example, offer downloads, free games, or whatever the genre of your forum is, offer something from that genre. You can even provide a little sample to guests that would make them wanting more. Why does Costco offer samples? Same reason.

5) Listen to your existing members

They say that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. In this case, the opposite applies to forums. You need to know how you got your active members in order to repeat it. Did you get it by advertising at a particular website? Try it again. Did you use a contest? Repeat the contest, albeit with a different prize. Knowing how you got your existing members can really help.

However, it’s more than that. If there’s a particular thing your members don’t like, consider removing it. If there’s something they like, consider adding more. After all, they see the forum differently then you do - You might like a feature just because you thought of it, but in reality the actual feature could be useless.

There you go. Some tips.

Thoughts? PM me on the Community - http://www.zantherus.com/community

-Ziveeman

Forums

Pros & Cons of Free Hosted & Self-Hosted Software

April 21st, 2009

One of the big debates for forum owners is whether or not to use a free forum host (like Zetaboards) or a self-hosted forum software (like Invision Power Board, vBulletin, or phpBB). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that make each one desirable. Each have communities with millions of posts and thousands of active members. So which one is right for you?

Free forum hosts store the forum on their own server and leave you to deal with only the administration and moderation of your community rather than the server upkeep and the technical details which can suck out a lot of time out of developing your community. Errors can occur when you simply install a self-hosted software if you miss one part of the instructions, forcing you to backtrack and find the problem. However, with a free forum host, just register the name of your board and you’re essentially good to go. Free forum hosts often have their own modifications and themes that are one-click install, or at least simple enough, so you don’t have to go around searching the Internet for a good one.

Of course, free hosted forums have problems. With a free host, you’re essentially stuck with what you’ve got. You have to rely on the developers in order for it to change. Modifying the actual layout (such as where a menu links appear) can be difficult, if not impossible. Also, a free community often come with ads, and depending on the ad service, can be inappropriate. Another disadvantage is that you don’t necessarily get your own domain. So rather than a .com, you may get a freeforumhost.com/boardname URL. However, many hosts offer a way to change your URL, so if you’re willing to buy a domain, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Self-hosted forum software have the software available for download from their website (often for a price). You have to find your own host where you can upload the software to. However, with this comes the flexibility. Unlike free hosts, self-hosted forums have large databases of modifications around the Internet that allow you to modify your forum to your needs, much more than a free host can offer. Want an awards system so you can give members awards for achievements? You got it. An arcade? You got it.

The biggest problem that comes with self-hosted forum software is price. Invision Power Board and vBulletin both cost around $150 for a license. phpBB is free but regardless, you’ll probably have to pay for hosting and a domain. Modifications can take some time to install since many times you’ll have to go into the code and add or remove lines, and that requires a little of technical expertise.

It’s really all up to you which kind you want. If you’re looking for a professional look and you’re willing to spend a bit of money, go for a self-hosted software. If you just want a community fast, or just want a place for your friends to get together, go for a free host.

Some free hosts:

http://www.zetaboards.com

http://www.proboards.com

http://www.forumer.com

http://www.smfforfree.com

http://www.ipbfree.com

Some self-hosted software:

http://www.invisionboard.com

http://www.vbulletin.com

http://www.phpbb.com

http://www.mybboard.net

http://www.simplemachines.org

Anyways, sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been real busy lately. I’ll try to update more.

I’ve also created a Twitter for forum advice, be sure to follow me! http://www.twitter.com/forumtips

Forums