This is the first post in this series Forums for Beginners
Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing this series for people who are looking to enter the world of Forum Administrating or recently have. Hopefully I can give you a few tips from another Admin who just recently went through similar challenges.
First things first when it comes to starting a forum:
Do you have the time?
Plenty of forums open every single day, and it would be my guess that after 6 months maybe 20% of them are still active. This is mostly because forums take time. I mean time as in actually using up time in your day and time as in patience. If you start a forum and don’t plan on supporting it with your time it’s probably not worth starting. Most forums will take time to get on their feet with a base of solid members and you have to be willing to be patient and wait for these people to arrive.
What is it going to be about? Choosing a Niche
This is pretty obvious, but I highly recommend doing something that you have interest and knowledge in. Within that, if a forum is about a broad topic you may think that you will get more visitors, but in reality most people are looking for highly focused information now. I’ll give you an example:
My first forum “Domestic Disturbance” was designed for all american cars. My thinking back then was to not focus on a specific model because then I’m limiting my memberbase. However that isn’t really how it works and I’ve found it be much easier if I focused on a certain car model or engine series. While less people will own a Dodge Charger than all american cars, you’ll likely get more registrations with a specific focus because people are looking for specific information. I believe that was my biggest mistake as an administrator so far, and I’ve learned from it.
I read quite a bit about not joining into a forum niche that has been saturated. While it may be harder to get moving with a niche that has been “forum-ized” (just made that up 😛 ) already if it is really something you want to take on, by all means do it. Throwing your forum in the ring with larger developed forums of the same niche isn’t always bad either, some good can come of it and you can learn how to do things. First, see what users enjoy at other forums that yours will be similar to, see if you can incorporate similar things (without ripping off ideas). Second, check their suggestions to see what users seem to want that they can’t give, or don’t want to give to their users. That can be a great way to get you some members and is basically a walking billboard of what people want in your niche that they don’t have!
So there you have it, my thoughts for your first 2 steps in thinking of starting an forum.