How to kick life into a stale forum

by Martin Reed on 14 August 2007 in Articles

Reinvigorate a dead forum

Maybe when you first started your online community you weren’t able to dedicate the time needed to get it off the ground. Perhaps you didn’t realise just how much work it takes to create content and attract and retain members. Whatever the reason, your online community is now a little stale.

Don’t despair though, as it’s always possible to kick a dead forum back into life.

Are you ready to commit?

Your online community went stale for a reason. Before you decide to put the effort into getting it up and running again, consider whether you are ready for the effort that will be needed. Sure, your initial enthusiasm may be high right now but how will it be a month down the line when you are putting in hours of work every day only to see a handful of new members as a result?

Think about how your online community got into its current condition, and what will be needed to avoid that happening again. If you are sure you are ready for the challenge, here is what I advise you to do.

Steps for invigorating a stale forum

1) Consider a redesign

A new forum design shows your members that you are making a real investment to get your community fired up. Consider setting up a contest on sites such as SitePoint, or browse the Web for new forum skins.

Consider a new design akin to a re-branding – you’re back, and bigger and better than ever!

2) Create content – and lots of it

Your forum probably died a slow death due to a lack of content. If someone arrives at your site to see no new content, they may forgive you on the first occasion. If things are the same when they next visit, you may not get off so lightly.

Never let this happen again. Create content now – if nobody else is doing it, then the task falls to you. Don’t just write a few new posts – write like the wind. Spend a few days, perhaps even a week populating your forum with fantastic, high quality content. Register under a few different user names if you like; the name of the poster is irrelevant at this stage – it’s the content that counts.

3) Set yourself targets

Set yourself targets for your community’s future development. Write them down. Decide how many new posts you will add each day. Decide on how many new link exchanges you want to establish each week. Set yourself targets for every stage of your forum’s development and stick to them.

4) Email current members

You are now ready to encourage your old members to return. Email your current member database and invite them back. Some of your members may need convincing that this is worth their time and effort – really sell your forum to them and get them excited so they can’t resist clicking through to your site.

Point out some interesting articles, talk about the redesign, share your plans and ambitions for the community as it develops in the future. If your members can sense your passion and enthusiasm, they are far more likely to drop by and give you another chance.

5) Continue to market, create content and nurture your community

You have now set the stage for your community to return with a vengeance. You are likely to see a fresh buzz of activity – keep this momentum going by continuing to create content. Continue to market your online community, continue to interact with your members, and continue to keep your members happy.

Stick to these stages, remain committed, stay enthusiastic and your forum can rise from the ashes!

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Smiley August 14, 2007 at 8:25 pm

I agree.

I’m going to have to pull my recent application to join back at JC.

My site’s only just taken off this past few days for some reason. I don’t know why but people keep finding me through Yahoo, I’ve been having trouble keeping up with the boards as I haven’t been spending as much time on the net lately.

Now I sit in my room all night and always on the boards, hoping to keep the momentum going, and now people are finding the chat, I need to be there to keep ‘em chatting until the other regs enter or another new person.

So I’ve left other sites now. Time just to dedicate myself to all the hard work I’ve already put in.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 15, 2007 at 11:35 am

Smiley – You should definitely dedicate the time needed to maintain the momentum your site seems to be gaining. Keep creating content, keep your members happy and keep up the hard work!

CarTitans August 15, 2007 at 10:55 pm

Did you ever use paid forum postings or even paid chat? I’ve heard about it from several SEo companies… what do you think?

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 17, 2007 at 12:19 am

CarTitans – I have never used them myself. Back in March I wrote an article about my opinion of paid forum posters; feel free to take a read.

Chris October 2, 2007 at 5:45 pm

one tip is to always respond with questions… if someone posts about how life is going well in a new city, don’t just say “oh, cool. glad to hear it”.

Say, “oh, cool… so what part are you in?” etc etc.

Do anything you can to keep people posting, responding and interacting.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 3, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Chris – That’s a great tactic, and one I often use over at Soap Forum. When a new user joins and introduces themselves, I often ask them what their favourite soap is. Questions encourage interaction, and that is just what a forum relies on!

Chris Guthrie April 8, 2008 at 1:08 am

Another way to kick life into a stale forum is to become more active on it.

I’ve noticed that one of my main forums started losing members because I wasn’t posting as frequently and providing site updates. While staff members were still posting content I noticed a direct correlation to the day I started being more active and the the time the traffic started to turn around.

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 8, 2008 at 10:23 pm

Chris – Definitely. It is always worth testing out how mature your community is by seeing how it gets on without you from time to time. However it is important to remain attentive and ensure you jump right back in if interest and interaction wanes without your involvement.

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