If you have a topic you're passionate about, the internet allows you to meet like-minded people around the world. Forming online clubs and societies is an excellent way to further your knowledge and seek information about different subjects.
So, creating an online forum can help you moderate an online community with minimal effort.
You may think you need a programmer to develop an online forum, but that's no longer the case. There are now plenty of forum platforms that can help you easily set up a new forum in no time. But there is a range of different things you need to consider when you start a new forum.
I took a look at some of the top forum platforms that can help you simplify the process of starting a forum website.
These are 5 steps that will help you to create a great personal forum website:
- Step 1 - Choose your topic
- Step 2 - Choose a web host
- Step 3- Organize your online forum
- Step 4 - Create your community guidelines
- Step 5 - Create your platform
1. Choose Your Topic
If you don't already have a topic in place for your forum, it's essential to choose something that you're passionate about. As a moderator, you should be an expert contributor in your forum. Members of your forum will look to you as a leader, so make sure it's something you enjoy and have a strong knowledge of.
If you do have a general topic in mind, it's important to stick to niches. If your topic is too generalist, you may have a hard time attracting new users. You need to stand out from the crowd. That's why it's always important to look at other competing forums in your subject area.
If you run an online business, a forum can help you attract consumers interested in your business's industry. For example, if you run a baby products business, an online forum that covers baby topics can help drive relevant traffic to your site. You should consider which topics will be of most interest in your market segment.
A domain name is also critical if you don't already have a site. If you need help finding the right domain name, make sure to check out our tutorial. In essence, you want to pick a name that is catchy, easy to recognize, and as relevant as possible to your target audience!
2. Choose a Web Host
If you don't already have a website for your forum or online business, it's essential to choose a host that can help you set up an effective site. Remember, your online forum will be part of a larger website. A good hosting partner will help ensure your site runs smoothly for its visitors.
Alternatively, if you don't want to spend money at the beginning, you can look at some of the best free forum hosting providers. While hosting is free, they have certain conditions and restrictions with every offer. So read all the fine print and reviews before jumping in.
There is a range of different features to consider when choosing a hosting company. If you'd like to look at comprehensive reviews of the leading hosting companies, check out our reviews.
3. Organize Your Online Forum
After your forum is set up, it's time to organize it. Choosing the right organization and layout can help you facilitate better conversations and interactions. In most instances, a moderator creates different general topic boards. When users click into these topic boards, relevant threads can be created to start online conversations.
For example, if you had a forum about bird watching, you could have a topic board titled 'North American Birds,' and inside this topic, users could create different threads within this subject area.
This helps organize the conversations and ensures people can easily access areas that they're interested in. Determine the type of niche topics you're interested in covering and divide them into different topic boards.
4. Create Your Community Guidelines
Once you have your site set up and organized, it's time to outline the rules of the land! If you want to know how to start a forum that doesn't decay into chaos, this step is critical. As with any community or online forum, it's essential to have rules in place to ensure everyone understands what's appropriate.
As a moderator, this will help you justify your actions against certain users if the situation calls for it.
Outlawing abusive language, racist remarks, bullying, and other types of anti-social behavior will ensure that your online community isn't overrun by negative people. If you want your forum to expand, it needs to be a conducive place for constructive conversation.
It's also a good idea to put guidelines in place that prevent promotion, spam, and excessive external linking. This can help you prevent your website from becoming a message board for profiteers. People don't want to head to an online community with excessive spam and advertising.
5. Build your audience
Now it's time to let your audience grow. Encourage new members to participate and add to the conversation. The better content you have on your forum, the more likely it will be that other people visit your site. Set up an introduction board that allows new users to introduce themselves and receive welcoming posts from current community members.
You should also decide if you want there to be other moderators that can help regulate content and get in contact with members. This can take some of the load off your shoulders and spread the responsibility across a few different people.
Choose The Best Forum Platform
Now that you know how to start a forum online, it's time to choose the right forum platform. Let's take a look at some of the most popular forum platforms available to the website owners.
vBulletin has emerged as a major player in the online forum industry. It allows users to build websites with fully functional forums. With vBulletin, you'll find a range of different features including forums, posts, links, polls, built-in ads, paid subscription options, and more. You can choose to host vBulletin yourself or use its vBulletin Cloud platform to build your own site.
If you're looking to set up an easy website without much web experience, using vBulletin Cloud will have you up and running in no time. Best of all, if you're looking to create a blog powered by vBulletin, you can create a website with a forum and blog on vBulletin's platform. It's perfect for creating multi-purpose sites with forums.
phpBB is one of the most popular forum platforms on the market. If you've used online forums in the past, there's a high chance you were interacting with a forum supported by phpBB. It's a completely open software that's free to use for any website owner.
If you want an affordable way to get a forum up and running, you can integrate phpBB with your current site. If you host your site on Hostinger, Bluehost, or a range of other hosting platforms, you can still integrate phpBB.
The only problem with this platform is that it can take some coding or development experience to set up. While there are plenty of online resources and tutorials to help you get the job done, it's best that you have a bit of web development knowledge if you want to get the most out of the customization process.
If you want to figure out how to start a forum with WordPress, bbPress is probably your best option. This platform is specifically built for WordPress users who want an easy-to-use forum integrated into their WordPress websites. You can use this platform to create simple, minimalist forums with easy-to-organize features.
You can also take advantage of additional plugins to make this platform even more functional. For example, you can use plugins to add additional features such as avatars, signatures, stylistic enhancements, and more. If you want to start a forum that you can continue to customize, bbPress works like a charm.
How to Start a Forum: Keep Your Online Community in Mind
Now that you know how to make a forum, always put your community first.
Whenever you're creating an online forum, it's important to keep your users in mind. A forum website creates an online gathering of like-minded people. Your platform is only as valuable as the people that use it; always ask for constant feedback and input from your users.
What's your experience with forums? Are you an owner of one or just a reader? Comment down below!
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