So, you've got this awesome idea of starting your own forum, but you're lacking some experience? Pretty exciting stuff! But let me tell you, it's not as simple as hitting the "install" button on your favorite forum platform and calling it a day. Oh no, there's a whole bunch of common mistakes that newbie forum admins tend to make, and trust me, we've all been there!
Now, don't you worry if you've already tripped up on some of these blunders – we've all done it! But let's have a good laugh and learn from our missteps, shall we? Here's my personal top 10 list of silly mistakes new forum admins can make. Brace yourselves!
1. They fail to plan properly
Planning, or the lack thereof! You know, if I had a psychological diagnosis, it would probably be "ADD patient of the year." My attention span is sometimes worse than my 11-year-old's dog – and that pup was a ball of energy! Ideas just pop into my head all the time, even when I'm sleeping or taking a leisurely stroll. And guess what? I can install a forum in less than 5 minutes. So, impulsive warning!
I've been guilty of some impulse site-starting. You know, the whole "Hey, this sounds like a cool topic – let's launch a new forum!" routine. And yep, I've done that more than once. But lemme tell ya, I didn't think things through. Niche? What niche? Who are the big players in the forum game? Monetization? Pfft, never crossed my mind!
Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently wrong with starting a forum in a specialized or even a competitive niche. But here's the kicker – you gotta know your stuff! Understand your niche inside-out, get to know your competition like your best friend, and be ready for a load of hard work, determination and consistency!
So, before you dive headfirst into creating a forum, do your homework! Scope out your main competitors, figure out what makes them tick, suss out their real activity levels, and snoop around how they make their money. Only then, my friend, should you start your forum adventure. Prepared and with a mission to take over the internet.
2. They are not willing to invest
If you're starting a forum to have 10 members and fun, that's fine by me. If you have the slightest desire to make SOMETHING out of it, then prepare to PAY for it. Don't waste your time and your members' time if you're not willing to go the extra mile.
Let me break it down for you – your forum needs some TLC. First and foremost, get that domain name and hosting locked down. Next up, snag the best script you can find – and yeah, sometimes that means opening that wallet. Trust me, it's worth it! We always had a love for Invision Community and XenForo. Although, to be honest, Woltlab looks pretty decent too!
And hey, while we're at it, consider some sleek custom design for your forum. It'll give you that extra edge and show potential members that you mean business – and care about making their experience awesome.
We're not just talking about spending money for the basics. Nope! If you want to bring things to the next level, think about investing in editors for top-notch content and promoting your forum. Having a budget to play around with each month, even if it's just 20 bucks per month, can work wonders for your forum's growth.
So, if you're ready to take the plunge, be prepared to invest in your passion project. Trust me, it'll pay off big time!
3. They move from forum software to forum software
Members hate change! User interface is one of the most important things to make it easy for your members. If they have to re-learn the use of your forum every x time, chances are they won't bother anymore. Let's get this mantra going: "Members hate change!" Say it with me now! Seriously, it's no joke – your beloved members invest their time and energy into your community because they believe in you.
I mean, picture this: you start on some free hosted forum, then suddenly move to a domain name, and oh, surprise, you decide to change to another software altogether. It's like a never-ending maze of confusion for your members. They've got their bookmarks set, their routines established, and bam! You throw a wrench into the works every time your free host gets cranky about resources.
Prepare on losing a percentage of your members with every move you undertake.
So, here's the deal. Your forum platform is like the backbone of your community. Choose wisely from the get-go, and if you think XenForo (or whatever you fancy) is the key, make the effort and invest in it right from the start. Trust me, it'll save you from migraines and member meltdowns.
By moving around like a nomad from one place to another and shifting from software to software, you're not just ruining your traffic and SEO efforts, but you're also giving your members a headache they didn't sign up for.
4. They see it as a game, not a business
I've written before about thinking of your forum as a business, it's not to take lightly and make a joke about. So, why not love what you do, have a blast running your forums for fun, and still do it properly like a boss? It's totally possible! Here's the secret sauce – treat your forum like a business, even if it's your favorite pastime. Picture yourself as the CEO of your forum venture – you call the shots!
When you started your forum, you had a plan, right? Wait, if not: you need a Mission Statement. You made small investments – hosting, domain name, maybe even splurged on a top-notch software and a sleek design. That's the spirit! And hey, don't forget about hiring the right people to help you out. They're like your team members, making your forum a well-oiled machine.
Now, here's the icing on the cake – your forum can be a moneymaker too! You won't turn away an advertiser willing to pay for some prime advertising space, would you? That's revenue right there, my friend!
So, in a nutshell, your forum is like a small business, and you're the mastermind behind it all. Even if it's a fun-filled passion project, running it like a proper business ensures that you take it seriously and give it the love and attention it deserves.
I'm right there with you – I run AJ with this mindset too. It's a ton of fun and gives me a breather from my daytime job. But hey, if you've got the forum open, why not give it the proper care and attention it needs to thrive? Embrace the role of CEO, make those smart decisions, and watch your forum soar to new heights! You've got this!
5. They fail to make quality 'unique' content
Oh boy, empty forums – that's a thorn in my side too! It's like new admins create their little online haven, start promoting it with all the enthusiasm in the world, and then... tumbleweeds! It drives me absolutely crazy.
If you want your forum to be buzzing of activity, you gotta put in the work. And by work, I mean original articles and fresh threads – the lifeblood of any thriving community. Don't just sit back and wait for magic to happen. You're members aren't going to do it for you!
I've seen way too many forums desperate for some action, ready to exchange posts with other forums to boost their activity. But guess what? The admins themselves can't be bothered to create new topics regularly. How can you expect others to engage when you're not leading the way?
Running a successful forum takes effort and dedication. Posting daily is a must. Trust me, it's not rocket science! And if you're passionate about your niche, this shouldn't be a chore – it should be a joy!
Let's face the facts – the online landscape isn't what it used to be. It's a fierce competition out there, and you're up against forums from every corner of the globe. Not to mention other Social Media. So, unless you're willing to roll up your sleeves and put in the effort, you'll struggle to make it work.
Now, I'm not trying to scare you off! Running a forum is an awesome adventure. But it's a challenge that requires your dedication. If you're in it for the long haul, willing to create a vibrant community with hundreds of thousands of posts, then go for it with all your might! Don't let those tumbleweeds take over your dream. You've got what it takes – now go out there and make it happen!
6. They focus too much on statistics
When it comes to forum stats, it's all about quality over quantity. Sure, we might have a modest 26000 posts right now, making us one of the smaller forums in our niche. But hey, let me tell you, each and every one of those posts is a shining gem of excellent quality, thanks to our amazing members!
We don't believe in playing tricks to boost our post count. Nope, no useless forum games or chit-chat that adds no real value. Except a small proportion. You know, building a community does need us to go off topic. Our members know that we're all about quality, and they go the extra mile to deliver top-notch content. A big shout out to all of you for showcasing such terrific posting skills!
You know what our secret weapon is? It's content that matters – meaningful discussions, valuable insights, and a community that genuinely cares. From day one, we've attracted members who appreciate the level of quality we maintain. We might not be the biggest forum out there, and that's perfectly fine. Our goal is to be known as a place where you can find truly great content.
Don't be tempted to inflate your stats or resort to traffic schemes. It's a short-term game that won't get you very far. Instead, focus on what truly matters – content quality! Every post counts, and it's the substance of those posts that will establish you as a real authority in your niche.
In this fierce competition with giants, it's not about trying to outdo them in sheer numbers. It's about making your own path and creating a name for yourself based on the value you provide.
7. They are not born leaders in their community
Being a forum admin is so much more than just handling software and dealing with spammers. It's about being a true leader in your community, inspiring and guiding your members to be the best versions of themselves.
Think about it – your role as an admin goes beyond the technical stuff. You need to be a friend, a mentor, and even provide personal support when your members need it. It might sound a bit cheesy, but being an inspiration is a big part of your job description.
An admin who's distant, mean-spirited, or just posting meaningless junk will never gain the admiration and respect of their members. Instead, your aim is to lead by example, showing the kind of behavior and engagement you expect from your community.
Want your members to be welcoming to newbies and avoid posting one-liners? Show them how it's done! Be there to greet new members, express gratitude to the most active ones, and create well-researched, valuable content that goes beyond mere "me too" replies. When you set the bar high, your members will likely follow your lead and aim for the same level of excellence.
Take a look at those big forums out there. Many of them have admins with well-known names who are respected and admired by many of aspiring community admins. So, why not build yourself a brand as well? Craft a positive image, strive to be that inspiring leader, and make sure that when people think about your forums, they immediately associate it with your name – "Ah, X is the admin!"
8. They don't know how to handle the forum internal struggles
Being a forum admin is no walk in the park, that's for sure! If you're after an easy ride, better look elsewhere. You're bound to encounter spammers, copycats, and troublemakers trying to disrupt your community. It can get messy, and it won't always be smooth sailing.
But here's a golden rule – stay calm! There's a great read in our "How do you respond to personal forum threats ?" thread. Don't let everything get under your skin, and don't let the problems consume you. I remember back in the day, I had sleepless nights and shed tears over members leaving and causing chaos. It was tough and took a toll on me.
Now, does that mean I'm free from troubles today? Not a chance! I still have folks trying to badmouth me, stealing my hard work, and even trusted person's revealing their ugly side. But here's the difference – I've learned not to let it drag me down.
When an issue arises, I tackle it head-on and promptly. If long-time members start acting out, they get the boot immediately. Spammers? They're gone with a simple click. I give warnings when necessary, but if members won't play nice, they're shown the exit – no ifs or buts. Luckily, we had little issues where we actually had to use the boot.
The truth is, you don't have to make a big fuss about every little thing on your forums. People can be jerks sometimes, even me. And even the once-amazing members might take a negative turn. Content theft? Sadly, it's a recurring theme.
So, here's the magic formula – see the problems, deal with them swiftly, and then move forward. Don't let the challenges overshadow the joy of running your community. Tackle the bumps, handle them calmly, and keep your forum on track.
9. They don't promote or they promote too much
Discovering amazing forums can be a real hide and seek situation, and one great way to get noticed is by being an active member and linking to your site in your signature. Most forums allow it, and it's a fantastic way to attract traffic and potential new members. If you haven't read my "Do not promote your forum, promote yourself!" article, definitely do that!
But let's talk about those dreaded 'spammers.' You know the type – they register only to plug their links, showing no genuine interest in the community. It's a real turn-off for everyone. So, here's the secret to promoting your site effectively – do it discreetly and thoughtfully.
Don't make your first message all about promotion. That's a sure way to get banned faster than a blink. We admins can spot the difference between you and those pesky bots, trust me. We want members who care about our communities, not just folks looking to shove their links down our throats.
Instead, start by engaging in the community and adding value. Share your insights, contribute ideas, and let the other members see what a fantastic addition you are. After a few days (if allowed), you can discreetly promote your site. No need to bump it daily with boring stats – nobody cares about that. Instead, share updates on new articles or exciting features.
Remember, silence won't do you any favors either. If you want people to discover your site, you've got to be an active and helpful member. But remember, there's a fine line between active promotion and spamming. If you cross it, people will start hating you, and admins may take action to block your access.
So, let's find that balance! Be an engaging member, offer value, and promote your site thoughtfully. Win hearts, not just clicks. It's a win-win – you get to be part of an awesome community, and others get to discover your fantastic forum. Let's make this forum world a better place, one thoughtful promotion at a time!
10. They give up too easily
Building a successful forum is a journey, not a sprint. Don't expect overnight success or massive revenue within a few months – that'll only lead to disappointment. Expect the worst, then the disappointment will be less hard to swallow. But if you do your initial planning right, use a good software, design your forum well, and deliver excellent content, success is within reach. You may not be the first in your niche, but you can become an authority and attract new members each day.
Keep in mind that an active forum can indeed generate revenue, but it requires consistency and dedication. Don't post a flurry of content one day and then disappear for weeks. Pace yourself and aim to start 3-4 new threads daily. Promote your forum, write valuable articles, and actively engage with your community. As they say, "rinse and repeat" – keep the momentum going!
Managing a forum is no easy feat. If it were, we'd all be millionaires! But with hard work and passion, you can make it happen. No matter what your niche is, if you make each day count and put in the effort, you'll build a thriving and successful forum.
There are the biggest 10 mistakes I see most admins make. I have made them and sometimes 'slip' again. Hope it helps you all run better communities