A quick way to attract more forum members

by Martin Reed on 27 November 2007 in Articles

Easy way to attract forum members

One of the most frequent questions I get asked from readers is how to attract new members. To be honest, there are loads of ways to do this but the most effective way is through the quality of your content. If you are already creating masses of fantastic unique content on a daily basis and are not seeing as many new members as you would like, read on – I am going to tell you about an easy way to immediately attract new members to your forum.

New visitors don’t have a clue

The title may sound slightly offensive, but it’s true. As far as you should be concerned, a brand new visitor to your site knows nothing. They don’t know about you, they don’t know about your members and they don’t know about your community: you need to educate them.

This may sound obvious, but you need to remember that a first time visitor to your site may not know what it is actually about. For this reason, you need to ensure you educate them at the earliest opportunity. Remember that you only have a few seconds in which to do this – so make the purpose of your forum clear, and ensure it is in a prominent position.

An example

I could choose from a hundred examples here, but I will choose a forum run by a regular reader of this blog.

The Kandy X-Change forum looks pretty good on a first visit – the design is a little different to all the other forums out there, and there aren’t too many categories. The problem is, the first time visitor has no clue as to the purpose of the site!

Now, Kandy X-Change is a little different as the main homepage has been handed the task of explaining the concept behind the website. What needs to be remembered though, is the fact that not all of your visitors will arrive at your homepage – every single page of your site is a potential entry point. For this reason, you need to make your site’s purpose clear on every page. Someone should be able to arrive at any page of your website and know what it is about within a few seconds.

So easy to do and so effective

When I took over Soap Forum, it was pretty much a dead community. After a huge redesign and the creation of content, it is finally getting back on track. Even though you might think the name of the forum is evidence of its subject, I still felt it necessary to include a few lines explaining the purpose of the site. Since doing this, I have seen a marked increase in the number of new members.

Welcome page of Soap Forum

As you can see from the screenshot above, I have only added a few lines describing the forum. Now, every single new visitor will have no doubt as to the purpose of the website. They will immediately understand what it is about, and will be more likely to investigate further. Now you just need to ensure you have the quality content needed to convert that first time visitor into a member!

Does your forum explain its purpose to first-time visitors? If not, why not? Have you added introductory text and seen an increase in new members? Share your thoughts, opinions and experiences by leaving a comment below.

Share this community building advice


Similar Posts

Previous post:

Next post:


Amish Made Furniture November 27, 2007 at 2:58 pm

The blog and the illustration with the soap blog has been executed very well. I intend to launch a new blog in the next few weeks and I am gathering a lot of information and yours has come at the right time. Thank you.

Smiley November 27, 2007 at 3:18 pm


Good post. I agree – explaining the purpose of your forum is an important step to getting new sign ups. I’m seeing a flow of new daily sign ups, most of them genuine was they are activated and I see them posting; but I still don’t stop improving my welcome message.

After reading this article, I actually edited my welcome text to explain the community better as I realized I didn’t put as much effort as I should have into it.


The welcome text is now much more explanatory of what we are about, but no doubt I will improve it even further later.

Also, you will notice I’ve BOLDED the ‘register’ link and wrote a sentence encouraging people to join. I think you’ll agree that sometimes suggestive wording can help draw somebody in to do what you want them to do.

Ie: Click here to register now!

News Bandit November 28, 2007 at 2:34 am

It can be hard to get people to stick around when they come to your site. If you let them know right up front what the site is about I think they will stick around to check it out more.

Smiley November 28, 2007 at 8:13 am

You know something.. I’m not sure whether I like the portal or not anymore. But I’m afraid to simply remove it incase the members flop their wrist about it.

Yogesh November 28, 2007 at 1:13 pm

You are right; one needs to have a welcome message on all the forum pages to ensure that a guest knows exactly what your community is about. Also it helps with the registration bit, since people would be easily able to spot which link they need to click to register.

Andy November 29, 2007 at 3:30 am

Awesome tips. I haven’t been focusing much on the layout and colors as you point out i should. I have been focusing on SEO with poor results. So im definetely going to give this a try. Thanks for the great advice, i will respond on my results.

Regards Andy

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 29, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Ramana – Thanks for your comment, and good luck with your new blog!

Smiley – I’m glad to hear you have explained the purpose of your forum a little more prominently. I agree with you on the portal look; I have never like those layouts and think it makes a website look unnecessarily cluttered. Indeed, when I went to your forums to find the new introductory text you mention, it took me a while to even find it!

News Bandit – I completely agree, hence the need to make sure you engage every new visitor to your site.

Yogesh – Of course, hiding away your registration link is the worst mistake you can make. Including it prominently in your welcome text is definitely a good idea.

Smiley November 29, 2007 at 2:31 pm

I made a big mistake yesterday. To differentiate the forums a bit more, I searched long and hard for a new emoticon pack that I haven’t seen elsewhere, uploaded it, replaced the generic emoticons and then told the members I hope they like the new emoticons.

They all seem to like them, but what I should have done was made a post first notifying them I was changing the emoticons and then uploaded a few different sets that I liked, and gave them a choice.

Oh well, we learn by mistakes. I’m letting them vote on the portal, I was hoping they’d all vote no to keeping it. They’ve voted yes!

Online furniture store November 30, 2007 at 4:32 am

A mission statement is a must, but how come when i want to see what Martin Reed looks like, all i see is some Baywatch guy with horns?

notebook recovery November 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Nicely described pal. some untold things i’ve seen. good for a new person.

Martin Reed - Blog Author December 1, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Smiley – Introducing such a minor feature shouldn’t necessarily require feedback from your members, but seeking regular feedback is a good habit to practice. I wouldn’t consider your actions in this case to be a big mistake.

Reena – Some Baywatch guy?!? That is David Hasselhoff and we should all feel privileged to see his likeness ;)

Notebook – Thanks for your comment; do you run a forum?

Tooth Fairy December 7, 2007 at 1:08 pm

you are right martin the forum need to have a description and interesting topics post so that the visitors will be convince to become a member

Martin Reed - Blog Author December 10, 2007 at 5:53 pm

Tooth Fairy – Thanks, I am glad you agree :)

KandyX January 4, 2008 at 12:53 am

I have to admint it was so hard to follow your advice and trim down the number of sections on my forum but after a few months I can see how it made sense.

Now to this topic – Hmmm, more very good points. I am pleased you gave the soap forum as a living example of how to tell the visitor what you are about on the first forum page (just have to learn how to do this on my own forum now, knew I should have learned php and not just HTML – DOH!)

Also trying to figure out how to explain what my site is about on EVERY page of my main site (running to a couple of hundred at the moment not including the forum, the MySpace and YouTube pages and the blog of course).

Thanks for more (much needed) pointers.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 7, 2008 at 3:28 am

KandyX – I am glad you saw the benefits of cutting down the number of forum categories on your site. As your forum fills with relevant content, you can then add new categories as your site grows.

I am glad you enjoyed this article, and I take your point about the use of examples – something I am now trying harder to do.

Kevin Malone January 7, 2008 at 8:34 am

The screen shot really let sink in the import of your point. I saw that the welcome message was commanding yet didn’t feel too out of place, and wasn’t too commanding.


When I was using the phpBB software for my community, I had to custom code a welcome message at the top of the index. At first, it was short and simple, but too simple. It welcomed, it said what the subject of the forum is, and encouraged you to join (citing the benefits of registration). What it lacked was obvious, and I know it, but didn’t know exactly what to add due to the fact that my forum doesn’t have a focus. What it lacked was points of registration.

My first concern was as to what to list. I decided to include the philosophy of the administration, and the “culture” of the forum (including its being a none-Net Nanny forum, and striving for a contributive posting atmosphere), but I prefaced these points by being upfront that I agree that there’s nothing special about the forum, and that these are just points I felt worthy of note, in case someone would be interested, regardless.

After seeking advice at a forum administration community, I received the advice that would lead to another alteration to my welcome message: because of the points of registration, it was too long, and therefore looked unprofessional.

For that reason, and finding myself agreeing, I sought a way to remedy this, and yet to keep the import of the points of registration. My solution: to start a new thread with information about the forum most notable to first-time visitors (including what makes the forum unique, or points of registration), and to encourage the first-time visitors, on the welcome message, to view this page, and why.

With vBulletin, a welcome message comes standard, and I simply edited it to include the work I’ve already done on phpBB. I think I can do even more to help it stick out, like adding a relevant graphic, like on the screen shot shown, with the big graphic “Welcome”.

Now I understand a niche would be of benefit to my forum, and that has never been out of the question. I have simply not put too much into it, because I run my forum purely as a part-time hobby, and the focus comes as a secondary concern. Certainly not the best attitude to take if you seek great advancement, but even so, you can accomplish much if you apply yourself, and I think my community stats show that I have.

A customized welcome message alone may not seem like much, but every aesthetic customization, customizing your forum names, applying that welcome message, and anything else you may do, together helps keep the attention of the guest, and increase the chance that you’ll convince him to take the time to look around more, and maybe register.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 10, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Kevin – Thanks for your well thought-out and informative comment. I think having a welcome message is extremely important. Having a welcome message in a thread is not as good as a user still needs to find that thread before they can learn about the purpose of your forum.

As you mention, when it comes to welcome messages, being brief and concise is key. Remember – web users are lazy. You want to convey the basic point of your community within a couple of seconds. The visitor is then able to decide whether your forum is something that is worth closer investigation.

Looking at your forum, I would recommend you just add a few words at the beginning of your welcome message detailing the purpose/subject/aim of your forum prior to the link to the ‘about’ thread. For example ‘We are a community of friendly individuals who come together to chat about whatever is on our minds’ – then the visitor can decide whether to proceed onto your ‘about’ thread.

Investing Forums March 7, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Hi. Thanks for the article. I just started my forum 2 days ago, and noticed a lot of lurkers. By creating a detailed description at the top, this will surely attract new members.

Thanks for the wonderful read.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 15, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Investing – Thanks for your comment. Good luck with your new forum; be sure to keep in touch and keep us updated with its progress!

Belle August 19, 2008 at 12:42 am

Thanks for a great article. After reading the article, I changed the title to reveal a little something about the forum. Hopefully, this will encourage the lurkers to participate.

KandyX August 19, 2008 at 10:37 am

After updating my forum with phpbb3 (and losing my entire forum in the process) I have had to start again from scratch.

Anyone got a tutorial for adding some introduction to the forum home page as in the soap forum example?

Also I installed a purple theme on the forum and ended up getting locked out of my own forum (a bug in phpbb3 of some kind) now I am afraid of changing my theme to a purple one or any one other than the blue default theme and this sucks. Anyone know how I can safely change the theme?

Any help would be most welcome.


Smiley August 20, 2008 at 6:41 pm

I never bothered with phpBB 3, I simply modded phpBB 2 to have all the same features, and MORE, than phpBB 3 ;)

No messing around with databases or lost data.

The front page is mainly a portal I believe, or an ordinary HTM page that’s forwarded server-side.

Dave September 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Its a good point that people need to know what your site is about as soon as they arrive. The other point though is that its equally important to know where your visitors are comming from and what page they are landing on first.

If you get lots of traffic from search engines then it’s likely they’re coming to your home page first and you need to make sure your meta stuff is in order. If they’re coming from referrals from other sites you need to know what page the link points at and in what context the link appears. These things help you get into the mind of your average vistior and therefore helps you know what you need to give them.

Mark October 19, 2008 at 4:25 am

I think its critical that people treat the landing or intro pages as billboards, and o not load them with tect that has to be read. As you say, you only have seconds to convince a new reader. Don’t waste thsoe seconds with details. I can;t tell you how many sited I’ve visited where I actually had to look around to figure out what the site was about!

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 23, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Belle – That is a good first move (especially for the search engines) but make sure you do something more than just changing the title. Not many visitors will read the browser title bar, so make sure you give a prominent description somewhere on the site itself.

KandyX – Ouch! Losing your entire forum is awful (I speak from experience). I can’t believe I missed your comment, and I am now replying 2 months afterwards! I just took a look at your site and love the steps you have on the homepage for new visitors. As soon as I visit your site now, I know exactly what it is about. Well done.

Smiley – Ah, but we can only hold out for so long!

Dave – I agree that it is important to be aware that not all traffic arrives at your homepage first. Therefore, you need to ensure that regardless of the page a visitor arrives at, the purpose of your site is clear. The more you know about your traffic and visitor behaviour, the better.

Mark – Well those sites are lucky you stuck around and tried to figure out what they were about; most won’t do that. You need some amount of text to convey the purpose of your site, but yes – you don’t want to overload visitors with huge amounts of it!