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  1. #1
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    How to get users to participate on my forum

    Hi folks,

    What are some of the promotional techniques to get a community forum going? I'm a total noob when it comes to that - but I'm very motivated to make it grow.

    I created a forum which is very nicely integrated with the rest of the site, thatks to a SP member who volenteered his time. It's a very useful forum IMO. Although it looks good and all, it receives very few signups. We do get the traffic but people don't seem to want to go any further. What are some clever ways to get the users to join? I'm not interested in hearing about dubeous schemes; I want users to join because they want to be part of the community. I get one or two registrations a day, but almost no posts from the members.

    Link to the forum

    Thanks, your time is appreciated.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    Perhaps try placing some text around other areas of the site letting users know that they can come to the forum to ask questions. Many people perceive forums as places for discussion, rather than just straight up asking questions. You don't want people leaving tons of questions on a big forum as it would become unwieldy and many questions would go unanswered, but on a smaller forum like yours this may be a good idea in the beginning to generate more content - as long as you don't mind answering all the questions yourself.

    A more drastic measure and one which I'm looking to introduce myself shortly, is to allow guest posting. Many people can't be bothered to register just so that they can post a quick question, but if you can remove that annoyance it may generate some more forum posts for you. This is just a temporary fix though and not something I recommend in the long term as you'll be constantly battling with spam. Guest posting is risky, so you would need to be prepared to remove it if spam became a serious problem. There are some Mods for SMF such as Akismet which should remove most of the spam though and you could look into building a custom captcha to hold them at bay.

    Off Topic:

    The following image and a few similar ones are still based on the default theme ... http://www.godaycare.com/daycareforu...ctive_last.gif

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanhellyer View Post
    Perhaps try placing some text around other areas of the site letting users know that they can come to the forum to ask questions. Many people perceive forums as places for discussion, rather than just straight up asking questions. You don't want people leaving tons of questions on a big forum as it would become unwieldy and many questions would go unanswered, but on a smaller forum like yours this may be a good idea in the beginning to generate more content - as long as you don't mind answering all the questions yourself.

    A more drastic measure and one which I'm looking to introduce myself shortly, is to allow guest posting. Many people can't be bothered to register just so that they can post a quick question, but if you can remove that annoyance it may generate some more forum posts for you. This is just a temporary fix though and not something I recommend in the long term as you'll be constantly battling with spam. Guest posting is risky, so you would need to be prepared to remove it if spam became a serious problem. There are some Mods for SMF such as Akismet which should remove most of the spam though and you could look into building a custom captcha to hold them at bay.

    Off Topic:

    The following image and a few similar ones are still based on the default theme ... http://www.godaycare.com/daycareforu...ctive_last.gif

    Thanks for pointing out the graphics issues. I'll fix those as time permits. Perhaps placing a graphic inviting people to the site would be better then a texcual link?
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LauraDC View Post
    Perhaps placing a graphic inviting people to the site would be better then a textual link?
    I'm not sure it matters so long as it's subtle and isn't too in yer face. Your site is quite slick as it is, so you don't want it the link to your forum to look like an advertisement.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanhellyer View Post
    I'm not sure it matters so long as it's subtle and isn't too in yer face. Your site is quite slick as it is, so you don't want it the link to your forum to look like an advertisement.
    Hmmm....you might have a point there. I do welcome all the members to the forum already. I'm not so sure that opening up the forum to guest posting is such a great idea because I'm already noticing people posting their services on the city pages.

    http://www.godaycare.com/ontario/brampton/1

    Scroll down past the daycare listings and you will see someone's blant advertising. I'm not removing it yet because it ads copy and fresh content to just a "daycare listing in brampton" page. The idea was that people would provide local advice, not advertising.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    That person isn't going to get much business with a website that looks like something straight of the nineties :P

    Guest posting can work if you are mega diligent at removing spam/advertising, but it would definitely be an annoying extra task to deal with. Depends how desperate you are for content really. I'm quite keen to get as much content/chatter going in my new forum so am happy to open it up a little for the first wee while, particularly since my current regulars are used to being able to post comments via WordPress without registering. But I'll be shutting down the guest posting once it grates my nerves enough and hopefully it won't perturb too many of my visitors.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanhellyer View Post
    That person isn't going to get much business with a website that looks like something straight of the nineties :P

    Guest posting can work if you are mega diligent at removing spam/advertising, but it would definitely be an annoying extra task to deal with. Depends how desperate you are for content really. I'm quite keen to get as much content/chatter going in my new forum so am happy to open it up a little for the first wee while, particularly since my current regulars are used to being able to post comments via WordPress without registering. But I'll be shutting down the guest posting once it grates my nerves enough and hopefully it won't perturb too many of my visitors.
    I might just try that. What I was also thinking is perhaps there are not enough topics to discuss on the forum. After all, when I go to some other forums in my niche, they provide many more topics for people to discuss. I only have 5.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    Here is a useful topic on forum development from the "Social Networking" board ... http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=512442

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanhellyer View Post
    Here is a useful topic on forum development from the "Social Networking" board ... http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=512442
    Good read. Not much that I already didn't know but some posts were very interesting. I was hoping to find some concrete promotional techniques instead of being told how hard it is to start one .

    Thanks, Ryan.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    Some people try using prizes for the most prominent poster, best post etc. to get more people using their forum. It's a bit weird though and as a user I'm always a little doubtful as to whether the prize will be awarded to a real person or just a username which the owner of the site is using.

    I've been contemplating ways to get users to at least register for my forum recently. The most likely concept I've come up with is having the thumbnails on my site go directly to a gallery which is off-limits without registering for the forum first. This gives people a reason to register and therefore lowers the effort required to post (assuming I have guest posting off by that stage). It also has a bonus effect of getting more people registered so that when I do the shift from guest posting to registered users only many of them will hopefully already be registered anyway. Plus by registering they need to give me their email address which could be useful for the occasional mail bomb every six months or so.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanhellyer View Post
    Some people try using prizes for the most prominent poster, best post etc. to get more people using their forum. It's a bit weird though and as a user I'm always a little doubtful as to whether the prize will be awarded to a real person or just a username which the owner of the site is using.
    LOL....oh that was funny. . But seriously, do you think it's OK to decieve people in order to help them at the end? I mean, you know my site of decent quality and I put 20 hours a day into it. If people participate, I will make it 1000 times better then all the other ones in Canada (because I know how to). So, these small meaningless deceptions perhaps are what it takes to build something really good for others in the end. I'm personally not a fan of these types of things, but I can definately see how they could help.

    Quote Originally Posted by ryanhellyer View Post
    I've been contemplating ways to get users to at least register for my forum recently. The most likely concept I've come up with is having the thumbnails on my site go directly to a gallery which is off-limits without registering for the forum first. This gives people a reason to register and therefore lowers the effort required to post (assuming I have guest posting off by that stage). It also has a bonus effect of getting more people registered so that when I do the shift from guest posting to registered users only many of them will hopefully already be registered anyway. Plus by registering they need to give me their email address which could be useful for the occasional mail bomb every six months or so.
    What do you think about making a few boards completely open to the guests while leaving the others closed? Right now I don't have the time to moderate the entire forum. If guest posting doesn't work out (spamming ...) I'm going to wipe out the board and leave the rest of the forum intact. I think that's worth the try.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LauraDC View Post
    But seriously, do you think it's OK to decieve people in order to help them at the end?
    No.

    Quote Originally Posted by LauraDC View Post
    What do you think about making a few boards completely open to the guests while leaving the others closed? Right now I don't have the time to moderate the entire forum. If guest posting doesn't work out (spamming ...) I'm going to wipe out the board and leave the rest of the forum intact.
    You may not get any spam at all for a while, so personally I'd just let it open and if it gets spammed, cut it down then. Another option would be to only allow guest posting on existing topics, this may stop the occasional spam bot which tries to create it's own topic.

    I'm surprised no one has piped in here with a "No, no, no, don't EVERY try guest posting. You will be spammed to death in no time" comment. The majority of people I've heard talking about guest posting have adamantly said it won't work because of the spamming issue. But in my experience, forums usually survive for a short while before the masses of evil spam monkey's come along and spoil everything. The first forum I ever made lasted over three months before getting it's first spam post, albeit it became a torrent in a very short period of time.

    At any rate, SMF is one of the best forums for avoid spam. It's not as popular as the other major forums and so the spammers don't target it as much.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanhellyer View Post
    No.



    You may not get any spam at all for a while, so personally I'd just let it open and if it gets spammed, cut it down then. Another option would be to only allow guest posting on existing topics, this may stop the occasional spam bot which tries to create it's own topic.

    I'm surprised no one has piped in here with a "No, no, no, don't EVERY try guest posting. You will be spammed to death in no time" comment. The majority of people I've heard talking about guest posting have adamantly said it won't work because of the spamming issue. But in my experience, forums usually survive for a short while before the masses of evil spam monkey's come along and spoil everything. The first forum I ever made lasted over three months before getting it's first spam post, albeit it became a torrent in a very short period of time.

    At any rate, SMF is one of the best forums for avoid spam. It's not as popular as the other major forums and so the spammers don't target it as much.

    Ryan, I think the problem on my end is that users don't even know they have to sign up to post (I think most people assume they do, so they don't even bother to try). I will try it, got nothing to lose.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    The worst that will happen is you get some spammers. Then you delete them and put the exercised down to a failed experiment! Or put in some better spam protection then have another crack. I'll probably try the latter in my case.

  15. #15
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    Press Release, also try submitting an article to social sites like Digg.

  16. #16
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    I think I need to find some moderators/advisors/writers/everything else to help. Between doing all the tech work and promotions I have very little time to properly dedicate to building the forum. I'll open it up tomorrow and see what happens.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by infonote View Post
    Press Release, also try submitting an article to social sites like Digg.
    I don't think digg will do me any good as people on digg are not exactly interested in daycare listings or reviews . Maybe I will try sites like squidoo with a more balanced audience. Thanks for your suggestion, infonote.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by LauraDC View Post
    I don't think digg will do me any good as people on digg are not exactly interested in daycare listings or reviews . Maybe I will try sites like squidoo with a more balanced audience. Thanks for your suggestion, infonote.
    No problem, look I wrote LIKE. DIGG is an example.

    I think another good thing is to find blogs about your topic and post relevant and useful comments on blogs along with your link to your forum.

  19. #19
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    Forum building is very though job. I have experience with two forums in my niche. One of them is successful now. You need maybe 15-20 passionate members to write on the forum for maybe two or three months, daily, and after that you can expect new members and new posts. You niche is interesting and all content is timeless. t could be important. Keep posting and be very patient

  20. #20
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    I find it interesting to see how people here perceive guest posting. I personally would not do it, but it seems that since most spam finds it's way in the general forums that perhaps you might end up with the focus of the spam being there and leave the rest alone.

    All I can do is wish you luck if you choose this route.

    Forums need activity to encourage membership take up, and this is where your catch 22 lies.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by talkalot View Post
    I find it interesting to see how people here perceive guest posting. I personally would not do it, but it seems that since most spam finds it's way in the general forums that perhaps you might end up with the focus of the spam being there and leave the rest alone.

    All I can do is wish you luck if you choose this route.

    Forums need activity to encourage membership take up, and this is where your catch 22 lies.
    Very difficult to get people involved for some reason. I was just thinking why I joined SP and realised that there are so many forums out there I wouldn't join simply because there is not enough content and not enough people to make it worth my while. My idea was that people will lean towards a quality forum, but it does not seem to be the case.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum

  22. #22
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    You can get there eventually, but you will need to have people posting to entice others. Perhaps you could talk to some friends, online or 3D friends, to ask them to post as a favour to you? Then keep getting the link out on forums that relate to what your forum is for.

    I can think of a few right off the top of my head if it's that in your sig.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Wizard ryanhellyer's Avatar
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    Good advice talkalot. Posting like crazy on other day care forums could help a LOT, particularly if you give quality posts. I would stop short of mentioning your site in your posts though as the forum owners may not like that.

  24. #24
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    Cool forum! I am moving to Canada soon and have a three year old. Hope the forum grows!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by talkalot View Post
    I can think of a few right off the top of my head if it's that in your sig.

    Yes, that's the one. Thx.
    godaycare.com - Canadian daycare listings with reviews
    Parenting and Child care Forum - Canadian child care forum


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