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Message Board Central - Tutorial

Message Board

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Starting a Message Board

Start Up Basics

1. Pick a topic for your board.
As a rule, general boards don't do very well. When people are searching for forums to post on, they usually have something specific they want to talk about. General boards may work if you're only intending your friends to join, but if you want to attract other people choosing a more specific topic is a better bet. It can be anything from snowboarding to scrapbooking, poetry to pot-bellied pigs--if you can keep up a conversation on it, theres someone else out there who will want to join you.

2. Choose a board host.
There are several free ones listed here:
Free Message Board Comparison Chart

3. Name Your Board.
When you name your board, avoid general names like "My Message Board" or "Mary's Forum." A good forum title usually makes reference to the board's topic (Passionate Poetry Place, Gamers Anonymous, Etc.). The more your board name relates to the topic, the better your chances of attracting the type of visitors who will actually participate in discussions.

If you do have general board, the name should still be interesting. The "Electric Eclectic Forum" may not tell me much about what goes on there, but it sounds vastly more interesting than "Joe's Message Board."

4. Create a Look and Feel.
When picking your background and color, the most important thing is to make sure your choices don't interfere with people's ability to read the posts. A busy background can make text un-readable. So can certain text/background color combinations. Simplicity is often best.

To be sure that the colors you choose are the same on every computer, choose non-dithering colors.

Getting People to your Forum

Once you've set up your forum, you need to get people there and get them to post. Here are some suggestions on steps you may want to take.

1. Post a couple messages yourself to get things started. One should probably be a welcome message. The other should be a question or comment that will entice people to post (something controversial, a question for people to answer, etc. Forum games or get to know you questions (like where are you from, or what's your favorite this or that) are also good starters.

2. Invite friends and specifically ask them to post something to help get the forum moving.

3. Visit message boards your frequent and invite chatters there to come visit your new board. If you don't frequent any boards, start visiting some. It's rude to just spam and leave, so make sure to make posts of real content while you are there in addition to your "visit my forum" post.

4. Moderate your forum well. Check in frequently and make sure every message gets a reply quickly. Regarding SPAM, while you want to delete some spam immediately (pyramid/get rich schemes, posts that are obviously selling something, etc.) you may want to allow spam of a more personal nature (people letting you know about their homepages). My theory on that is, try to draw them in. Visit their page, sign their guestbook, invite them to come back. Some forums have a policy that you must make one non-spam post before advertising your homepage. This practice also works well.

5. Submit your site to search engines and directories. You can find a good, thorough, article on how and where to do that here. Two important sites not mentioned in the article that you should try to get listed on are DMOZ.org and Google. DMOZ is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory on the Web. Not only do a lot of people visit this directory, but a lot of other search engines and directories use the listings in DMOZ, which means if you get listed in DMOZ, you'll most likely get listed other places too. The catch is that they are highly selective, so don't even try submitting your site until it is somewhat active. Google is currently the most popular search engine around. The catch with getting listed in Google is that you're likely to get a better listing if they find you (in stead of you submitting your site to them). If you have a site that is already listed in google, link your forum from and google should find you. If you aren't listed within a few months, though, definitely submit your site. One more thing, most search engines and directories you can submit your site in for free (at least the good ones you can).

6. Join webrings. Most will let you place the webring code on a separate "webring page" which links back to your forum (since sometimes you can't put that type of code directly in your forum--depending on who provides it.). While webrings may not be a big traffic builder, the traffic you get from them tends to be people who like the kind of pages listed in the ring, so it can be worth it to join a few. Here are some good places to find webrings: Ring Surf and Webring.

7. The catch 22: It's hard to get people to post if there aren't various people already posting on your board. If people visit and see very few posts, all old posts, or all posts from one user, they aren't likely to stay. If all the posts on your board are currently from you, one trick is to make a few posts under a different username. Another way to get a stagnant board flowing is to visit other boards and ask people to respond to specific posts on your forum. Find someone who seems to post a lot, post a question they would be interested in, then ask them specifically if they could respond to your post at your board (link directly to the URL to your post if possible.) Or, if someone on another board posts an interesting article or comment, ask them to stop by your board and post there too (I've often asked people on poetry boards to re-post their poems on mine...it works very well). After you've gotten a few people to post this way, repeat step 3.

7. Other Places to List Your Forums

Message Board Central If you haven't already, please add your site to our directory and database, and leave a message on our message board letting us know about it too! You can also add scheduled events (such as books of the month, weekly Bible studies, online games) on our calendar.
Alliance of Quality Message Boards Great site. Very few requirements to join. You must link back to AQMB. Your site doesn't have to have an active membership, but it does need to be kept up well.
Forum Search Only lists active sites. Must have 50 members or more.
Online Events
A site for posting events, like scheduled chats and games and such. If you hold special discussions (like book of the month discussion, Bible study groups, etc.) on your forum these can be advertised on this site so long as they take place at a certain time or over a specific period of time (like during the month of January). If they take place on a regular basis, you can put them on the calendar and set them fro recurring so they show up every week, month, year, etc.
Zeal This is really time consuming, and I only suggest it if you have multiple sites that you want to promote. If you become a Zealot (a process which includes learning about their site description guidelines and passing a test on them) you can submit sites to Zeal. Higher ranking zealots will approve, dis-approve, or edit your site description. If your site gets listed in Zeal it will be added to the LookSmart network of top portals, ISPs, and search services including Lycos, InfoSpace, RoadRunner, CNET, Inktomi, and LookSmart.com.

Yes, I'm a member of Zeal. Would I submit your site for you? Maybe. It depends on three things--whether I like the site, whether I have the time to come up with a description and submit it, and, of course, whether the higher up Zealots approve it. If you would like me to submit your site please e-mail me the URL and a short to medium site description at windhavenglen@hotmail.com (make sure to let me know you would like me to add your site to Zeal and mention this site). Note that I will most likely have to reword the description you give me to fit Zeal's format. Also, please do not write back to check if I've added it. If I don't like your site I don't want to have to tell you that, if I don't have the time I won't want to be hounded, and if a higher up Zealot disapproves of it there's nothing I can do about that.

Other Useful Sites

Forum Search Message Board
A board for boardmasters, all about how to manage and increase traffic to your forum.

Other Webmaster Resources
A listing of free resources that I use on my website.

...or visit the webrings below.


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