The life of a forum Startup

By | March 24, 2009

Some of you may remember, that in one of my original PeterFoti.com posts, I mentioned the fact that I am the co-owner of a forum named RandomChatter.org. The forum’s title gives you an idea of what exactly we are doing there, and that is chatting randomly about topics ranging from football to music to politics to home cooking. Its all under one roof at RandomChatter and I wanted to make a most describing the life of this startup.

You see unlike normal web startups like a blog or a mini site that do not require actual user interaction to make them successful (although it helps) Forums are dominated by user created content. In essence this means one very simple thing, no content, no users, no success/money. The idea of relying on other people to make something successful for you sounds like a daunting task, and ill be the first to tell you, IT IS! As the old adage goes “If it were easy, everyone would do it” Holds very true when talking about the idea of a forum on the internet. Its not an easy task to establish yourself as a top forum where hundreds or even thousands of people will come every day to post, but if you are persistent in your efforts and you are able to make it to that list of prestigious forums then you can be sure of your success.

RandomChatter.org was officially founded on November 7, 2008 (about five months ago) and since that day my partner James and I have done nothing but work around the clock to make this thing work. Posting a combined 900 times in that period, we are doing everything within our power to make RandomChatter the place to come and talk about anything and everything. The forum software that we are currently using is called Vbulletin and is one of the most popular forum platforms in the world. Although the price is a bit steep it is a great piece of software that I am very familiar with and enjoy using quite a bit. On our forum we are also using:

Vbseo

Although I have started forums in the past, never before did I give Vbseo a try, and at this point in time I do not know if I will use it on my next forum, however I am being told by the owners of Vbseo that the reason we are not seeing much organic search traffic is due to a lack of content. That is something that like I said James and I are working on, by posting every day about whatever comes to mind.

So far RandomChatter houses over 600 members, and over 1,500 posts. Now granted these stats may seem high or low depending on the forums that you visit regularly but James and I feel as if these numbers are not the true indicator of success, rather as long as we are providing a platform for people to come ask a question or share a thought and get instant feedback then we are happy. Granted as long as we continue to pump out content and have others do the same their is no telling where this forum might lead us.

Are you thinking about starting a forum? Here are some tips!

  1. Make sure that as the forum owner you are posting every single day without fail. It does not matter if you have no one to talk to, make a new account temporarily and talk with yourself from two different accounts. You need to stimulate the activity first and then let the members take over later on.
  2. Never pay for posting. Trust me on this one guys, I do not care how empty your forum seems, your better off creating 10 accounts and talking to yourself than paying people to post. The reasoning behind this is simple, once those people come to post they get paid and never come back, so they might start a thread when required and ask a question, but will never come back to talk about the answer which overall is pretty pointless. And as you see with RandomChatter we have over 1,500 posts and are still working on getting more users and Organic traffic, so imagine how many posts you would have to buy to make that work for you.
  3. Do not spam other forums asking people to come to yours. I see this often and it never helps, a signature link is fine, but do not make a thread spamming your forum and claiming that you are better than the forum you are on. You will not get members and worst of all you will make enemies with other forum users which is never a good thing.
  4. Moderate your forums heavily. If someone makes a thread titled “HELP ME!” Edit the title with the problem they are having, for instance “How to take screen shots in Windows Vista?” This will give you much better on page search engine optimization.
  5. Search around on various forums to find little tips and tricks on how to make your forum better. Such as disabling the archive, eliminating white space, validating your code, etc.

I hope this helps those of you that are interested in starting a forum, and if you have any questions what so ever please feel free to comment here and I will answer you asap!

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