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Zantherus http://blog.zantherus.com The official blog of Zantherus Sun, 10 May 2009 04:49:10 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.7.1 en hourly 1 Setting Goals = Success http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/05/09/setting-goals-success/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/05/09/setting-goals-success/#comments Sun, 10 May 2009 04:49:10 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=255 So your forum just opened and you’re bustling with the first few members that have discovered your forum. What next?

Many forum owners stumble across this question, and as a result, their forum stumbles too. Activity dwindles down, members stop logging on daily, and ultimately the administrator gives up.

Setting goals can help prevent this roadblock. It provides you with a solid direction as to where to go with your forum so you won’t be wondering “what’s next?” as your forum begins to fail. Here are a couple of ways to set effective goals that will propel your forum to success.

1) Be Realistic

Nothing can ruin a goal more than an unrealistic one. You can’t hope for 100,000 posts within the first month of opening. Aim small. 1,000 posts is certainly an achievable goal for a month. Then decide how you’re going to approach it. 1000 posts a month equates to a little more than 30 posts a day. Doesn’t sound too bad now does it? You can do it. You yourself can make 10 posts a day, members can make about 15 a day, and even exchanges could account for that other 5 posts. When you set realistic, achievable goals, it’s a lot more motivating. Why bother attempting to get 3,000 posts a day to achieve that 100,000 posts within a month? 30 posts a day is a lot easier to achieve.

2) Be specific

Once you’ve set the goal, elaborate on it. “1000 posts a month” is not a good goal. A better goal is “I will achieve 1000 posts a month by posting at least 5 times a day, with at least one good topic. Then I’ll keep advertising so I can get more members to help me achieve that goal.”  That way you have some sort of idea what to do so when you log on for the day, you know exactly what to do.

3) Push yourself

Don’t set a goal that’s too low. If your board is averaging 1,000 posts a month, don’t set a goal to get 1,100 posts the next month. Aim for something a little more, like 1,500 posts or even 2,000 posts if you want to aim a little higher. This doesn’t mean you should make it unrealistic though - you have to find that balance. Set the goal a little higher than your expectations but not completely unrealistic.

4) Write down your goal

A goal is useless if you can’t see it. Write it down. Put it in a place that you see often. If you hide that goal somewhere, you’ll forget about it. Make sure that you’re aware of that goal often so that you’ll be motivated to reach it.

5) Reward yourself!

In psychology, reinforcement increases the probability of the rewarded behavior to happen again. Treat yourself out, take a break, and in general do something special when you hit that goal. If you announced that goal to your members, have a signature or avatar made that commends the goal. But sometimes, even just the satisfaction of reaching that goal can be good enough. You can’t beat that.

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8 Ways to Bring Up A Community’s Activity http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/05/07/8-ways-to-bring-up-a-communitys-activity/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/05/07/8-ways-to-bring-up-a-communitys-activity/#comments Fri, 08 May 2009 02:23:24 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=244 A member (I’ll call member A)  recently asked on another forum on how to bring up activity. Another member (member B) replied to make a bunch of new topics to stimulate conversation. When member A replied that he tried that and it doesn’t work, member B said that sorry, but chances are that the forum won’t come back to life. Well, that’s absolutely not true.

There’s many different ways to bring up activity without you having to create a bunch of new topics, which can frankly be quite boring and repetitive.

So I present to you 8 ways to bring up your community’s activity without you having to create a bunch of new topics.

  • Do post exchanges.
  • Have a contest with a cool prize.
  • Revamp your forum, if it’s been awhile since your last revamp.
  • Make a survey to learn about your members and their view on your community.
  • Change or re-start your advertising strategy.
  • Encourage inactive staff to post again.
  • Send out an e-mail to everyone.
  • or, just WAIT. Sometimes there’s an external factor that’s keeping members away, such as real life. Sometimes it’s affecting more than one member at a time. For example, at this point in time, Advanced Placement Exams are happening which could explain the hiccup in forum activity. Waiting it out could solve it all.

There you go. Thoughts?

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Advertising Forums: Yay or Nay? http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/05/05/advertising-forums-yay-or-nay/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/05/05/advertising-forums-yay-or-nay/#comments Wed, 06 May 2009 03:17:54 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=238 Sometimes when a forum owner is jumping from forum to forum, they may stumble across a forum whose sole purpose is to advertise other forums. Sometimes these are met with skepticism, but other forum owners eagerly take this easy opportunity to get their name out.

But the real question is, do they work?

The answer: Maybe.

Would I recommend them? No. Not as a primary method of advertising.

Advertising is most effective when the audience is related to the subject you are advertising. You wouldn’t advertise McDonalds to a Weight Watchers group, would you? Advertising  your new line of healthy foods to the same Weight Watchers group would be more effective.

So what does the audience have to do with advertising forums? Think about it. You, a forum owner, are at an advertising forum with the intention of advertising your own forum. The other members of that advertising forum are probably there for the same reason. So when you get someone to click on your forum ad there, their intention (most likely) is just to find another place to advertise. If you see an influx of members who join with an ad signature for another forum or website, it’s likely that those members aren’t there to actually be there, but instead to post enough so their ad signature gets recognized.

In my experience, I have rarely seen a successful community that developed with solely advertising forums. If these members who come from advertising forums don’t see results from your forum, they’re gonna leave. That’s what happens with communities who attempt to get big through advertising heavily on these forums. They’ll get members, but not necessarily members who are there to truly contribute and create content.

So why do people join and use advertising forums almost religiously? My theory has to do with reinforcement. These forum owners are seeing results from these forums, no matter how “empty” they may be (joining and not posting, or posting spam), and therefore they stay on these advertising forums hoping they’ll get the same results. And when their forum fails and they make a new forum, they do the same thing again.

Unfortunately posting your ad on there and seeing results immediately really does seem too good to be true, because it really is. The traffic you’re getting isn’t really the traffic you want for your forum. The statistics at the bottom of your forum are simply not just numbers. I think that most forum owners would agree that 10 quality posts that are relevant to your forum’s theme are better than 20 posts that generally consist of “yea i agree” “no, not for me” and other “empty” posts.

As hypocritical as this is going to sound, the only good way to use advertising forums is to use it to find forums that are related to your forum topic to advertise at. Also, advertising forums have other services that could be helpful such as reviews or exchanges.

So if you’re gonna join an advertising forum, consider with a grain of salt. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective.

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Personalize your forum http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/04/28/personalize-your-forum/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/04/28/personalize-your-forum/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2009 15:58:21 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=231 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

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Got Visitors but No Members? Convert them with these tips http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/04/23/got-visitors-but-no-members-convert-them-with-these-tips/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/04/23/got-visitors-but-no-members-convert-them-with-these-tips/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2009 15:39:21 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=226 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

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Pros & Cons of Free Hosted & Self-Hosted Software http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/04/21/pros-cons-of-free-hosted-self-hosted-software/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/04/21/pros-cons-of-free-hosted-self-hosted-software/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2009 16:04:29 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=221 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

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“Smaller Forums Have A Better Community” is just an excuse http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/29/smaller-forums-have-a-better-community-is-just-an-excuse/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/29/smaller-forums-have-a-better-community-is-just-an-excuse/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2009 04:11:05 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=212 I’ve heard this phrase a million times. To me, a forum owner saying such a phrase is just an excuse, shielding the fact that they don’t have a big forum.

Let me say first that a small forum is not a bad thing. It can be nice, but once these small forum owners start blurting out these phrases is when it crosses the line.

Because that’s simply not true.

In fact, I’ve seen quite the opposite. Bigger forums have members confess their deep dark sins and fly across the country to meet each other, while smaller forums struggle, using filler topics to try to keep alive, claiming that their “community” is real while the bigger forum’s community is not.

Extreme example but I’ve seen it happen. It’s not always the same for every forum, of course.

However, let’s define the word “community” first before I get into this topic. Dictionary.com defines it as:

a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

Just the first definition, but I think this fits the definition of a forum community, does it not?

A bigger forum does have a community. There are a couple reasons why:

1) The chances of you finding someone you share a common interest with you is greater.

That’s the definition of a community. Granted, it’s a lot easier to find someone if it’s a niche forum, such as computers, but finding someone who’s into Ubuntu Linux may be a bit tougher. Or finding someone on a general forum who’s into underground hip-hop. It’s easier to find someone with a similar interest on a forum with 100,000 members than 100 members.

2) It’s easier to talk about “real” stuff.

Analogy time.

Imagine you walked into a convention of people with a similar interest to you. How comfortable would you feel, doing things such as checking out the stands, talking to other people, if there was only 5 people there? 10 people? How about 100? 100,000?

It could be a little awkward to you if you’re the only one doing things at the convention while everyone sits down and is silent. It’s a lot easier to do something when so many other people are doing the same thing. In a bigger community, the chance of that happening is a lot better. Leading by example plays a huge part in the community.

If there was a thread where people confessed their deepest darkest secret, would you feel more comfortable posting in it if it had 1 reply or 10,000? In fact, you may feel more compelled to post in a bigger thread than a smaller one because you could relate to a lot of the posts in there. A bigger thread is more likely to occur in a bigger forum.

However, this is not to say that a smaller forum does not have a community. But these forum owners sometimes get a cynical view on bigger forums, saying they’re too rules-based, strict, no community, or other false accusations. But you know, there’s a reason why they’re big…and that’s because they do have a community.

Of course it’ll be harder to “be known” in a bigger forum, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Each forum has some sort of “tolerance” for new members, and usually for smaller forums it’s lower because they need to be welcoming, otherwise their memberbase could dry up.

Anyways this may sound a bit jumbled but I’m just posting as I think.

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Constant Revamps is a Bad Sign http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/28/constant-revamps-is-a-bad-sign/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/28/constant-revamps-is-a-bad-sign/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2009 02:27:13 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=207 If you find yourself having to revamp your forum every couple months or so to stimulate activity, you better take a hard look at your forum. You’re doing something wrong, and that problem can’t simply be solved by a revamp.

They’re living off the hype that brought the members to them in the first place. When they revamp, they want that same hype that they received when they first opened.

Not necessarily a good thing. First off, it’s tough to replicate those opening board stats and two, the constant revamps will eventually backfire. Revamps are supposed to be something cool for your members to experience, not a monthly ritual. Consistency is a good thing. Members like to see a consistent applications of the rules, the same moderating team consistently active, a consistent layout that doesn’t change up too often, and revamping too often can kill that idea of consistency. Imagine going to school or work and at random times, they moved the desks, chairs, and even rooms around randomly to “give it a new look.” You’d get annoyed by that of course. Maybe once every so often can be good to relieve the boredom of the workforce or students, but not all the time.

The biggest problem that causes a revamp is a lack of a true member base. A forum may brag that they have 200+ members and 10,000+ posts in a matter of days, but how often they revamp really shows how “successful” they are. Of course, such stats aren’t much to brag about if you just opened, because chances are you’re just riding the hype. When the hype dies down, it’s back to the revamp board…unfortunately. You can’t rely on your members to bring activity.

Revamps bring a new look, and because of the look, it seems to provide fresh new content that entices members to come back. It doesn’t always work that way.

But you don’t need to revamp to stimulate activity again. It’s tough to replicate your most active weeks, so first of all, don’t aim for that. Instead, aim for a member base that posts rather consistently. Maybe not 100 times a day, but maybe a couple times a day is something to shoot for.

There are several other things you could do in order to stimulate activity again. Remember though, don’t do these too often. Instead, these are meant to delay the revamp and try to get activity going so you don’t have to revamp to get activity.

1) Get a contest going

A contest is a great way to get your members going. However, make sure the contest is something simple, accessible, and most of all, related to your forum. For example, a posting contest. A posting contest can be done on any forum really, and members will be motivated to post. Watch out for spam though. The moderators need to step up. A more specific contest for say, a gaming forum, could be an online tournament.

Be sure you offer a good incentive too. Same rules as the contest - simple, accessible, and related to your forum. For example, with a gaming forum, you may offer in-game items as a price if the game is online. Or with a music forum, offer a CD or even an mp3 player as a prize. It costs a little money of course, but if your members and you have fun doing it, you didn’t really lose anything at all, did you?

2) Get Involved!

Nothing hurts a small forum more than the admin not interacting with the members. If you have a gaming forum, hold a weekly/bi-weekly gaming night where all of the members log onto a game and do something together, whether it be just chatting, playing against each other, or playing as a team against another team. Have a leaderboard where you can keep track of the best players and maybe award prizes.

When the event is over, your members will come back to the forum to discuss it, stimulating activity. Additionally, it’ll bring your community closer.

3) Add a new forum

Alright, this could almost fall into a revamp, but not always, especially when there’s a huge demand for a certain kind of forum. This should definitely not be done a lot, but adding a new forum can have a lot of benefits. It shows the member what  is allowed at the forum and can trigger something in their mind that they could post.

As an example, imagine a general discussion forum with three forums, “General Discussion” ,”Music & Movies”, and “Books.” If you wanted to post about sports, where would it go? The most logical place is General Discussion but it’s not really “General.” If a forum added was “Physical Activity.” It’s more specific and you know where sports should go.

So there are a couple tips if your forum needs activity. Remember to get your member base started so that way when you revamp, it’s because you need a new look, not because you need new members.

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If you have a niche forum, ad forums are NOT for you http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/21/if-you-have-a-niche-forum-ad-forums-are-not-for-you/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/21/if-you-have-a-niche-forum-ad-forums-are-not-for-you/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2009 00:06:17 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=203 I’ve been on a lot of advertising forums lately, and I’ve seen a rise of very specific forum (niche forums) admins pop up on these advertising forums and advertise with a futile effort. The “niche” forums I’m talking about are pretty specific forums like say, gardening forums, health and fitness forums, etc.

Let me put it out there that there is nothing wrong with these forums. If at all, it’s good as it’s a break of all of the generic “relaxed” general chat forums, gaming forums, and music forums that seem to pop up twice a day.

But what is wrong, is their advertising method. These owners go to advertising forums in order to show off their forum. The problem is, from what I’ve seen, it gets no results.

Why? Because ad forums aren’t the target audience they’re aiming for. However, the simple act of them advertising gives them a sense of work and accomplishment, so they do it, even though it gets them no results. Members on ad forums aren’t looking for a niche forum to post at. They’re looking for forums that are easy to post in so they can advertise their own forum.  Not exactly the best way to get members who are into cooking, car repair, or woodworking.

There’s better ways to accomplish the traffic niche forums want such as link exchanges, word of mouth, and simply getting your name out on things RELATED to the niche (stores, conferences, etc), which are exponentially better than posting at a forum where no one is really interested in that topic. I have never seen a successful niche forum in my time that has advertised on an ad forum. If they have, the forum had already been established so the extra advertising wasn’t really helping in the first place.

The only reason why I should see a niche forum owner on an advertising forum is to get post exchanges to build the forum up (which could be hard because the forum is pretty specific) or services that benefit the forum rather than advertise the forum (like reviews).

Once again, nothing wrong with niche forums but it’s just something I noticed.

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Lack of Innovation is Killing Forums http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/19/lack-of-innovation-is-killing-forums/ http://blog.zantherus.com/2009/01/19/lack-of-innovation-is-killing-forums/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2009 20:49:51 +0000 Ziveeman http://blog.zantherus.com/?p=199 For the past couple years while I’ve been looking to promote Zantherus, I’ve seen an influx of clone forums that seem to be riding on the trends that have been taking the Zathyus Network by storm - advertising and “no-rules” general chat forums are recent examples. When a forum is going to open up, the owner promises “unique” services or content that would make the forum different. However, when the forum opens, there’s nothing new, with the supposed “unique” content being the same as another forum’s except with a different name.

It’s unfortunate that people actually reward these admins by going to their forum, fooling themselves that this content is really different, and proceed to boost the admin’s ego by accumulating hundreds of posts per day. These forums offer nothing different, so why make them succeed?

Then there are forums who offer something truly unique…but there’s a reason why they’re unique: they don’t work. For example, an ad forum awhile back offered a YouTube Video Service for forums and they would make a YouTube video for them. First off, that’s not bad of an idea. Sites can get traffic off of YouTube. But, it was executed poorly. It was just a plain old advertisement. Nothing compelling for a YouTube viewer to watch. Was there any research done to see if this works? Given that most Zathyus Network admins aren’t marketing majors, probably not, but before you come up with a service, you should at least make sure it’s effective. Just because it’s easy/fun for you, doesn’t mean it’s good or effective for the customer.

I’ve mentioned before on forums that you don’t necessarily need innovation in order to succeed, just the perception that you are. While this is true (at least for Zathyus), it’s unfortunate as well. A real innovative forum that doesn’t stretch the boundaries (like the YouTube Video Service) is a big advantage over the clone forums that make way too many empty promises. Don’t make a forum simply because everyone else is making one. If you have a truly different idea, don’t be afraid to make one. And vice versa. If you just want to make one, don’t make it.

Short entry…eh. I’ll expand more later.

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