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I did some research to find out the most productive ways to start a forum successfully . Here is a summary of the best approach you can take.
How to Start your Forum
Before you launch a forum, you want to make sure it is ready to be launched, first. It most always starts extremely slow when you create your forum and launch it to the general population without adding a new theme, logo and content. People get bored with default looks, too many sections and nothing to post about. So you should always consider these steps to take before launching it to everyone else. Make your first launch unique and fun to others so that your membership and activity grows faster.
The way it Looks and Feels
Your forum's look and feel is important. The first look and feel is always the default theme and logo. It may look good but its still the normal old default theme and logo and appears plain to most experienced forum goers. Make your forum more unique than the rest by adding your own custom theme and logo. If you have money to spend, there are various cheap and more expensive theme and logo services out there. Just do a Google search and make sure to reference your forum's software in the search. If you can not afford a new theme and logo, most software offers free themes from what community members create and you can use various free logo generator services all over the internet. If you are forced to use a free theme and free logo creator, try to make the two more unique than what they originally look liked before. A new member's first impression of your forum is very important and determines whether they will return or not.
When choosing a software, make sure its easy to use. Not all members who join are advanced in the knowledge of forum software. If needed, change some words on the software to be easier to read such as making "Register" to "Join for Free" or something like that. These little changes can have a dramatic affect on new members joining. Use a top level domain that is short and unique. Long domain names or use of subdomains with a directory can be hard to remember. Sure they can always bookmark your forum but wouldn't you rather have a forum domain that is catchy and easy to remember? I know I would because that is usually how word of mouth advertising starts.
Less is More
One of the biggest turn offs I have when visiting another new forum is when an administrator over does everything. Examples of over doing everything is adding way too many categories, forums and sub-forums. There is just no good reason for doing it. If you do not have much content, it makes a forum look dead. It can also confuse people on what section is for what kind of posts. It's always the right idea to start out with fewer categories and forums and very little sub-forums. Get your membership base built up first and then GRADUALLY add more as needed. Do not over do sub-forums, it's a very fancy feature but you still need only the ones you really need. Another part of starting small is staff members. When you first open, you really only need you and maybe another staff member. Never have more staff members than regular members. As the forum membership grows more and it becomes more active, ask yourself, Is there a need for more staff? Does your community require more staff because of certain activity? If it does, then add another staff member and see what happens. A good way to keep an active community is hiring new staff from within your community, it shows you trust your members.
Content, and more Content
Before inviting more people to join your forum and releasing it to everyone, consider having some content first. Many people do not want to join and empty forum and be the ones to have to post new content. For one, it makes the staff look inactive. The best way to get around this is everyday, post at least 10 or more new topics. It isn't much but in a few days, your forum will look more active and new potential members will have content to reply on. Give them something to want to join and discuss with you. Post as much as you can. You can also do post exchange partnerships with other forums to get more content and discussions going before releasing it to the public.