How to Build a Popular Forum Community in 5 Steps

You may have heard that having a web community is a great way to increase sales, customer loyalty and word of mouth for your web business. In fact a web community itself, if large enough and targeting an affluent demographic (or one that advertisers like to target), has the potential to bring in revenue. Commonly people use a web forum as the centre point for a web community. However building a popular forum is no easy task and requires patience and dedication.

Over the years I’ve built many forum communities, from my most successful with over 2000 members at MTGParadise Forums to the not as successful YoungActivist Forums which struggled to get out the gate (not helped by my own lack of contribution after I finished building the site). To help you better understand what it takes to build a successful forum I will outline some of the lessons I have learnt over the years.

Perhaps the least important variable, but certainly a vital aspect, is the forum software you choose. I came to settle on Invision Board as my favourite forum of choice. Over the years I became very familiar with Invison Board functions so it would take a lot for me to switch to different forum software. Unfortunately the team at Invision recently stopped offering a fully functional free version and the most current free version has limitations on numbers of users. I’m a strong supporter of Invision so I still recommend using the free service and then paying to upgrade once your board is large enough to warrant it. Chances are with your forum being that popular means you can justify the fee anyway.

The other top quality free forum out there is phpBB which is the open source offering. I haven’t used this myself but with Invision no longer being free I can see this being the main player for all small business forums. I see this forum everywhere so I think you can take that as a strong endorsement.

Another popular choice, especially for large corporates that can afford the fee is vBulletin. This seems to the professional forum of choice for those with the moolah. I only played with this forum many years ago when they had a limited use free version (in fact it was the first forum I ever installed). It’s definitely a top forum with a great design, but you pay for it.

As I said which forum software you choose is not too important. You are going to have to learn to use at least one, so choose the one that satisfies your criteria and then get playing. If the idea of installing forum software is daunting to you then I suggest you look at the installation services most forum businesses offer. You can pay a small fee and one of the staff or community members will install the software for you. There are also remotely hosted forums where you don’t install any software at all on your server but instead use one hosted by the forum company. Note this often either costs money or is advertiser supported so you might have some icky banners or other ads streamed across your forum. I recommend you host the forum on your own server because you get control, ownership and better search engine benefits.

Regardless of which forum software you choose the hardest part of building a community is getting members, and members that stick around. Obviously your forum should be targeted to your business niche or target market if it’s not a business site. My MTGParadise Forum was all about trading and talking Magic. The forum at Yaz! is devoted to trading and community for Australian university students.

Picking the niche area you target is vital for success, and the individual forums you create for your community must clearly represent the purpose of your community. However this is where some lessons can be learnt. At first when you start building categories and individual forums you might get carried away with all the interesting forums you can create. You dream of your users lapping it up and talking away about every little area of interest you can come up with. This is the first major mistake you can make. You end up creating way too many forums that have no topics in them. Even if you do manage to bring some quality visitors to your site, they hit your forum and see an empty place and then move on. No one feels compelled to join an empty forum.

But you may ask then, how can you go from having an empty forum to one filled with topics when no one wants to get things started? It’s a catch 22 isn’t it! The number one concept to remember is that people bring in people. If visitors see topics and posts and discussions they are interested in they are more likely to contribute. It’s hardest early on when you first launch but there are some tricks you can do. Here are the key pointers I’ve learnt to get passed this early stage of a ghost-town forum.

1. Think minimalist when building categories and forums.

Look to about four forums maximum to start with, even less if possible. If you find yourself coming up with many different forum subjects, try and group them together under one forum. Then in that forum you can create individual topic posts to cater to each area. That way you are creating conversation starters and making the place look a little busier. As the forums grow and you have enough individual entries to start breaking down forums you can justify creating new ones. You can then move the existing topics into the appropriate categories and the forum doesn’t start off empty. Take a look at this topic at where one of the new owners, my mate ssteven, has just recently broken down one forum into two.

2. As the owner you must keep contributing.

This might seem obvious, but it’s hard to keep motivated when week after week you create new topics and try to stimulate conversation and you seem to be talking to yourself. Personally I get the most excited when I first build the forum, thinking of all the great topics that can be discussed. Unfortunately once everything is done it does take some effort to keep writing fresh content. The only rule I can give is stick to it. Get into a routine of making a few posts everyday.

Now expanding on this concept…

3. Create some fake personalities.

This may seem a little dishonest, but a little trick you can use to stimulate conversation is to create a few different member accounts each with their own personality. Basically you create some fictional members and get posting. You can even have full forum conversations between your characters (just don’t go insane!). Only you know which characters are fake, to everyone else it appears as if your forum is getting popular.

I had a friend take this idea so seriously that he kept profile notes on each character such as age, sex, personality type, occupation etc so whenever he made posts he made sure to get into character first. It’s like forum acting.

This method again takes dedication because you need to keep logging in with each character and making new posts. However it can be MUCH more effective than if it was just you making all the posts as your own identity. It looks sad when the webmaster is chatting away to no one, but not quite as sad when Jim, Katie, Chris and Jane are having conversations even if they really are all the webmaster.

4. Publish content.

There are sites available such as ezine articles that have articles you are allowed to publish on your site provided you follow their terms of use policy (which usually means you publish the articles exactly as they are and keep all links intact). The authors of these articles make them free because they get good promotion if their article is widely published. Note that because these are free articles you will most likely find that you are not the only site out there with the content.

If you want unique content you may have to pay for it and consider hiring columnists. With MTGParadise we had such a good community that many of our members were happy to write articles and reports for free. They enjoyed writing and seeing their article published. It’s not easy to generate free unique articles this way especially early on before you have a community running, so it might be necessary to throw around a little cash and buy some articles.

If you can find content relevant to your market and distribute it to your community you have a good way to stimulate conversation and make your forum look a little busier.

5. Recruit your mates and spread the word.

This is harder than you’d think. If you are like me, most of my closest friends are too busy or not really the forum community types so they won’t help out much. Generally though you should have a few friends that are interested in the topic of your forum and they might help out with a post every now and then. Don’t put to much pressure on them and be thankful for anything they contribute. You don’t want to get carried away trying to get your forum off the ground that you lose your friends because you constantly pester them to make posts or join up.

As a general rule, don’t be shy, tell everyone you know about your forum. But only do it once in a polite manner. Say you are inviting them to check out something you have created and that you want their valuable opinion before you officially launch. This “sneak peek” will make your friends and family feel special because you are demonstrating that you value their opinion so they will be more inclined to check out your site.

You can put a note in your signature file in your email about your new community, make a few posts at newsgroups that focus on your target market and hit some other complimentary (not competitor) forums to advertise your new forum. Remember always be courteous, follow rules and don’t come across too desperate whenever you promote your forum. All this will come across negatively and harm your chances of members signing up.

The most important tip I can give you to grow your community is to not give up. Even though is sitting out there all alone with no members and very old content I still value the site. While I didn’t achieve the success I wanted off the bat, I haven’t given up and hope that one day can I can get the site growing again.

Sometime after months, maybe even years of making new posts, adding content and spreading the word, you will find that your forum has grown to have a few hundred members, a handful of devoted regulars and no longer requires daily injections of posts from you. You reach a critical mass and your community moves forward without too much intervention from you. This is the holy grail of forum building because your members became the best advertising tool you could ever have. Word of mouth helps the site to continue to grow and attract new members. You can start creating new forums with confidence that they won’t be empty for long. Best of all, you now have an audience that you can either leverage around your own products or services or start to derive revenue from through advertising, premium services or subscriptions etc etc.

Yaro Starak

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  • Wow – thanks so much for that information! I’m always looking around for some advice on how to earn a bit online, and I think I’ve just found a goldmine of knowledge. I particularly like your advice on getting the message across to friends – don’t be too pushy. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit of a bully with my games website – I just can’t stop shouting it out anywhere I go online. Perhaps now I shall remain calm, and tell people to check out my new content before I post it live occasionally! Thanks again – I’ll be sticking around this site for a while!

    • Thanks for this article, Yaro…Some good advise you have put up here…It made me start thinking about the future of my own forum..Thank You

  • Hermann Klinke

    Yup, really good article!

  • […] 4. Community Forums, chatrooms, bulletin boards and any form of membership service helps to keep visitors glued to your site. All these services take time to build up the appropriate critical mass of users. However once your community tools take off the value they provide is hard to beat. People enjoy interacting with other people and if they are doing it on your site then you have more time to show them advertisements or convince them to join a list etc. If you want some tips on forum building try this article – How to Build a Super-Popular Forum Community in 5 Easy Steps. […]

  • Wow thank’s for the articles.
    I am an Indonesian, n i am 20 years old, sorry for my English, i’m not good in English

    I run a web forum, it is you can access it on the forum is about entrepreneur, motivation, positif thinking, self development for business n life skill.

    Yeah you’re so right, it is so hard to make it crowd. I need so hard work in publishing n marketing.

    I have a questin, how can i get some advertising in my web site? n how they pay us? n how many the cost? i hope u can reply me on my mail: [email protected]

  • Hi Deniar, I suggest you continue reading this blog as most of the questions you have asked are answered in other articles.

    Thanks for visiting!

  • Hi Yaro

    can we discuss about it in e-mail. Please mail me [email protected]

    I need more suggest about this business

  • Hi Deniar,

    I’m sorry but I don’t have time to personally provide business coaching over email, especially for free. I’m happy to answer questions in comments because that also helps other people but email doesn’t have this benefit.

    I’ll be launching a consulting service soon that might suit your needs. Stay tuned to

  • Love this site! I really need the help because I don’t know what the heck I’m doing and the concept is really cool. I’d like to see my blog turn into something that actually helps society. Thanks for all you work and good luck on all you do. BTW, I tried and got nothing.

  • WOW!!! That article is so true! Everything you said has happened to me! My friends dont really want to post that much, and I post up topics that nobody responds to! I feel not as alone now! Thanks a lot, and I will take your wonderful advice!!! -MATT

  • Thanks for heading me in the direction of this article Yaro. A few little tid bits in here that I’m going to use on my sprintrants forum and may even use on my newest forum that should be live in a few weeks!

    Great post.

  • […] Create multiple personalities :- Now this is something interesting but dishonest I’ve seen in a similar article written by Yaro Starak(How to Build a Super-Popular Forum Community in 5 Easy Steps.). It is nice idea to get your site off to a nice start. Sign up youself as multiple personalities and talk with yourself. […]

  • […] Since I opened my new forum today I went and looked for great articles or posts about building a successful forum. After some hard digging with google’s not very accurate  matches I found  Yaron Starak post about building a popular forum. […]

  • Some good advise you have put up here. Thank you!
    It made me start thinking about the future of my own forum..


  • Thanks Man i realy hope this helps my forum
    Thanks for the advise i have not had even a guest for a long time ! ! !

  • Sue

    Thanks for this article, Yaro. It has allowed me to think more logically about how to set up a forum on a site I am planning.

  • Thanks for the article, good guide for me as a starter in community world.

  • >> 3. Create some fake personalities.

    Very good point. This approach is also applicable to the blogs, not only to forums. When I just created my first blog in the far 2002 there were no blog community in my experience area at all. Actually, I used to explain to my visitors what is the blog itself.

    Then, I started to use fake characters, and this did the job. People started commenting and soon I got a lot of real participants.

    I even know a web designer who made portfolio of designs for 20 web sites of fake companies. Having this portfolio, he came to the the real companies and attracted them affectively. Despite the fact these 20 designs were made for fictive companies, they were made well.

    So, as soon as you write valuable content, it is pretty honest to comment yourself, especially if your comments are as good as content you wrote.

  • I took down my Dr Sheep and the Aardvark forum because the only people it attracted were spammers. Any tips on how to avoid this?

  • @friedegg – I suggest first getting a good anti-spam plug-in for your forum and a moderation team too so you can deal with the spam, then after that go to work building up your forum by marketing it and making sure you post to it daily.

  • Thanks mate. I have taken your advice and am now getting a bit of activity on the forum. Best wishes.

  • Hi guys,

    Just to add to Yaros great article, what I did with my forum was to throw a few bucks at the Google Adwords program.

    I might have been lucky and found a niche market but the adwords saw a steady flow of visitors from which I got a reasonable amount of new members. The forum has been online for only a couple of months and has nearly 70 members, most of which come by regularly to see whats being said.

    What I found too is that the more posts contributed to the forum by the members, the more hits from the search engines I’ve been getting. For instance, this happens more often then not if lets say, a Googler searches for something on Google and their search phrase just happens to match something written within the forum itself. Great stuff!

    Even though it may be a result in the off-topic discussion forum, a hit is a hit and is something to point out when the time comes to solicit some outside advertising. I’m getting about 3 or 4 new members weekly just by users searching for something so I don’t have to use the adwords anymore.

    I’ve also put the Google Adsense thingimyjig on the forum which is making enough to pay for the hosting.

    The forum is only 2 or 3 months old and is growing steadily so if anyone is considering launching a new forum, I definitely recommend using Google Adwords along with the fake identities concept to market it initially. It also helps if you know a little SEO but if not, you’ll probably get enough hits from your threads to see some new fresh faces drop in on you.

    Also, my forum is for Avon cosmetics so I could keep members coming back by offering them something for nothing. What I did was to let them post their own contact details on the forum so anyone who came by wanting to join Avon could contact them as their local sales rep directly. This was something out of the norm as beforehand, new Avon leads would be harvested by sales reps and sold to other sales reps in their local area. Proved to be a bit of a hit idea. I’m sure this idea could be altered to suit any theme/forum/niche as the concept is just the same.

    What else I wanted to do was to require a minimum post count before these sales reps could post in this part of the forum, this way I’d have plenty of posts from members keen to solicit leads from the forum but PHPBB didnt have the feature (should have went vBulletin or InvisionPB) but PHPBB is free and you can upgrade to either of the latter later without losing your members/posts.

    To close, I was spending only about £15/$30 per week for Adwords which I got about 150/170 targetted hits. If anyone is serious about getting their forum off the ground, I’d recommend this first ;o)

    Thanks guys,

    Hannah x

  • Thanks for a great article.
    Just in the process of starting a new forum, (see and your comments have given me new motivation to get the ball rolling !!!

    Many Thanks again.

  • I planned to set up a forum for internal staffs in my organization. Should I encourage or force the members to use their real name as login credentials or just use anonymous members name? I’m afraid if real names to be used, they will shy away from using the forum as a platform to express their opinions/rants towards the management.

  • Great article Yaro, thank you! I really enjoy participating in forums and I’d like to have one, but it was the thought of that initial ‘ghost town’ phase, as you so aptly put it, that has kept me from going ahead and doing it. But hey, I talk to myself anyway, so I should have no problem talking to myself in a forum 😉

    Another way of getting some members and posts initially is hiring people as forum posters. There are some forums at DigitalPoint where there is already a bit of a market going, lots of people who are keen to post in forums for cheap. A common price was 10 cents a post, and the buyer totally controls the terms – so if you want more members you could hire people to post 20 posts for 10 cents each. Or if you want a few members who have lots of posts – hire a set number of people to do a hundred posts and pay them after they have finished. I did this a few times as a poster (just for fun, not to get rich!) and I think in some cases people actually stayed on even though they were no longer getting paid, because they liked the forum. But anyway, it’s a way to get things going that doesn’t have to cost a lot.

  • The problem with forums is spam. I know one site which has 7,125 members and hundreds (maybe a few thousand) of comments. However, almost all of the posts are spam. The owner does not post the spam comments. However, he cannot delete them. He deleted an entire forum section a few months ago and reposted the 25 on topic posts. There is so much spam that it’s not worth the time to check for on topic posts.

  • There is some great advice there. I have been working on my site/blog/forum for over a year now, and will little use of the forum, with the exception of spammers (I hate spammers). Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the advice. I will be putting it to use ASAP.

  • Nice article Yaro! I have few question here:
    a: Should you also help about adding key words / or about adwords.
    b: Please tell us how to create forum from scratch like domain registration and everything else.
    c: About all your experience if our forum is spammy then would google adsense pay you?
    d: Tell us more companies like google adsense.

  • Great article, i’ve spent most of the morning trying to find information about forums and how to draw traffic to the site, i’ll definatly be trying to convince people to come through here

  • Hey everyone!

    My name is Gary, I just wanted to introduce myself since I am new to this site…

    I am a rookie to the internet but I am learning alot real fasssst!

    I’m a Hair-sample Matcher and devoted father.

    The things I like most in life are family, friends and football.

    On week days you’ll usually find me riding my bike. On the weekends I like to party and watch football.

    My idea of the perfect day would start with sleeping in. And then I’d go to the park. Later I’d eat a great dinner from uGO FlameDisk. And I’d top it all off by snuggling with my girlfriend.

    I also love rap videos.

    Anyways it’s great to be a part of your site!


  • This helps me a lot… it’s interesting because I only found this site AFTER launching my own at I was searching google for my own site and found this one! I’ve been watching Yaro’s blog for tips to help my community ever since!

  • Great article Yaro – I just found this post after I wrote you about your recent choice to use VBulletin. Still curious why you decided to choose it for your next forum. Lots of helpful tips here – we’re considering what topics to focus on for our ThailandEdge forum… this will be our major project for the next couple years and if we have to pay for vbulletin because it’s the best – then that’s what we’ve gotta do!

  • dan

    wow great information getting my forum off the ground is no easy task but when it does get going it will be worth it, editing spammers out is part of the job of having a forum. I seen some webmasters change catagories of your post just because they are that anal about things. So you go to look if your question was answered and the post has either been deleted or moved.

  • I am thinking about creating a forum, and to see competitors with popular forums is quite daunting when it comes to creating a new one that could one day compete. This were some great steps to follow, and I believe Im going to do it! Thanks for the tips!

  • Thanks I’m thinking of setting up a forum but know it will be hard. I would love to have a busy and fancy looking forum community like the following forums which are amongst the best on the web IMHO: a video (phpbb) forum community, a conspiracy (not sure what software?) forum community and a few others that have that extra special touch.

  • Hey Yaro,

    It’s amazing how long a good article lives. What you wrote so long back is still as valid. I’m trying to setup a traveler’s forum at where people can post blogs, discuss travel ideas and network with other travelers. Also coming up would be flight search capabilities. Really appreciate your pointers.

  • Great! Thanks for all the tips, it’s a good motivation to know that it isn’t simple to get a forum running.

  • Mrt

    i have a question i am building a forum and i have so many categories is it better to have it more simple. my thinking is to help direct people to the right rooms. But i can easily have more then 100 subjects.

  • JB

    Your Message

    conversion chart

    learnt = learned

  • Jay

    Hi Guys
    Great post even it is old but still commands at the present state. I am starting a forum for software testers and read the comment by Hannahx. I want to follow the same pattern:
    Adwords+Create some fake personalities.

    Regarding forum posts, I came across some software scrapers which will scrape and post the content to the new forum for initial activity and some old look. Does this concept works?


  • Excellent post. Jumpstarting a new forum is actually very-very hard. For me what works is to create 40-50 fake accounts and start to post. This is not easy to do, usually you loose account at some point.

    The target is to have some posts every week or so. have new stuff.

    Mind you, forums need a lot of work and time. And don’t monetize very well.

  • mrt

    This was a great idea that VB Came out with there new CMS for 4.0 where this can act as a great information or news source format and then people can sign up and leave a comment,start a blog ,groups,gallery,or just join the Forum but there are so many settings that you can work it anyway you want. But if you want something simpler Word press and php bb can Be integrate , but in today’s times the work would have to be in the content itself and possibly the forums may not be used as much. One other feature vb 4.0 is nice if a member has a great topic on the forum or blog and group you can promote that topic to the CMS so the subject can get Front page exposure. I have heard about forum starter software but now i believe this is getting out dated. I have just read a lot on the subject and not a pro and have never got a Forum really off the ground just looking at the possibilitys but i am a VB 4.0 License holder and just love playing around with the software but the trend is uncertain where years ago before facebook myspace forums SItes was the nummer 1 way of communicating on community level OK There was also NEWS GROUPS that was also popular. There is one thing i have noticed in face book in the groups they have forums available and there are hardly ever used …hummm

  • Great tips and advice. I am a young entreprenuer in the midst of starting up a musical website and am planning to create a forum as part of the site. I have a few ideas for my initial categories but am not going overboard to start.

  • It is a nice guidance from u Yaro. Thanks

  • Thanks very much Yaro, this is a push in the right direction and will help me not to just give up. I have just created a new website / Forum about electric cars. I have unfortunately created lots of topic’s already so not sure if I should delete these now after reading your post. Anyway thanks for posting your experience it a great help to us newbies.


    Terry Greensill

  • I’ve followed these steps, and one of my forums has been successful. I just wish the process was faster to get a forum grown but as with all websites and forums, they take a lot of work.

  • Excellent advice. I just started my first forum and I you are absolutely correct, it is not an easy process of getting people to join it. I have been up for a couple weeks and I have gotten 30 spammers to join so far. I have created 30 tutorials to be seen on this forum concerning my subject matter.

    You are right though, don’t go into the Internet game unless you are prepared to spend a considerable amount of time there posting, obtaining links, and writing articles. If it were easy everyone would be successful.

    Suggestion to newbies: Try to see if you can start a regular small bricks and mortar business to accompany your online efforts. If you are a photographer and start a forum, try to do some local photography and start marketing to people in your local communities on the Internet and by using standard marketing practices. This is one way of making a little money right off the bat while redirecting people to your forum that you actually know. Also, try to outsource some of this if you can and set goals. If you can do 10 posts a day and you put that goal over your computer your chances of survival will be greater.

    Anyway, this post really confirmed everything i always thought about online marketing. Thanks so much for being honest.

    God Bless!

  • Thank you Yaro, This is really good advice, Speading the word is so much harder than I thought, this just gives me more motivation.

    Keep up the good work.



  • Great tips! I was actually thinking about creating fictional characters but then I figured that sounds crazy. Good to know though that it is a pretty good idea. Haha! 😀

  • I started a site four months ago and the main site is doing terrifically. In fact, I’m looking to switch from shared hosting to VPS because the site is growing so quickly. However, the forum is a whole different story entirely. While we have 1000 registered users who come back every day to read the articles and comment on them, they have no interest in joining the forums.

    So, I really appreciated this article despite being written a long while back. The ideas are still relevant. I have a hard time faking personalities so I asked a friend who I thought would be perfect for the job to come and start up some arguments (without going so far as to get himself banned.)

  • Hey Yaro — really enjoyed your article on how to build a forum

    I ma trying to develop a forum for indian doctors.
    Am doing a lot of things that you have suggested here.I have been working on my forum for the last 6 months – populating it a bit at every 1-2 days time.

    But then i noticed that you have dropped your MTG paradise forum idea ?
    A bit disheartening to see that. – and makes me afraid as well 🙁

    Would you care to share why did not stick to your very own suggested rule:
    “The only rule I can give is stick to it”

  • Your advice really helped me apart from the multiaccounts as i already have friends and relatives who use the site and that would seem odd. Word of mouth is a goldmine as when at the games a simple mention can get up to 20 unique users viewing after a football match. I recommend to others submitting your site to tumbler which lets people load up random web pages which lets people form all across the world see the site.

  • hi I wanted to say thank you really. Am in the process of listening to your mp3 membership site doc…

    Very good and insighful. I thought my understanding was of a good level but your experiences have been very helpful so far. However I am still unsure as to which platform to go for, i.e Nanacast, amember or stick with wordpress.

    I can see why you are so popular.



  • Nice article and very useful for any new start-ups.

    I’ve had success with invision in the past when I ran a rugby league forum which boasted 1,000’s of posts a day….until it was hacked!

    Since then I’ve started using phpbb behind a dedicated host and database, do much more reliable. In fact I’ve just launched a new conspiracy related forum last week which is in its early days and my task at the minute is to draw the attention of new members…..feel free to check it out at 🙂

  • I see that this post is from 2005 and I am unsure if this was around then, but Automattic (creators of wordpress) have a great forum software called

  • Great post. I just put up a forum this weekend and have really benefited from your suggestion that I should not try have a lot of categories. Right off the bat I think I added something around 10 categories. I will have to remove them for now and start basic. I plan on having 1 category as I think that will suit my needs for now. In case your wondering it’s an IT forum.

  • Thanks Yaro for this great writeup of community building tactics, it’s amazing how well this advice has held up.

    A lot has changed since you first wrote this, with many communities that would have been forums moving to a Q&A model, but I particularly agree with the first tip of keeping it minimalist and not creating too many forums.

    I find that using tags instead of subforums allows you to segment posts the same way without the growing pains when you have to split subforums into more granular topics (or on the other side of the coin, when some of them don’t have enough interest and you have to merge them).

    I wonder if you’d be interested in a little community forum tool I built to be more Q&A centric and use tags and other things we’ve learned from the social giants over the last few years. It’s called Rootbuzz (not linked per the comment rules 😉 – let me know if you’d be interested in evaluating it and we can figure out something, demo account maybe? I’m not sure exactly the best way but I’d love to hear your feedback!

    Thanks again for the timeless info!

    • Hi James, I was actually looking at Q&A scripts for CrankyAds recently. Perhaps we could try your tool on that site if we like what we see?

      Send me an email and we can talk about it there.


  • So I’m stumbling thru the maze of social networking when I had the bright idea to work on promoting my forum. I was looking into phpbb when I came across this article. I was grateful to see the 5 tips and will apply your wisdom. However, I too noticed this post was in 2005 so maybe my comment here won’t ever get to you but I’m willing to try…anything actually.
    Here’s what I was thinking; using phpbb to then participate and also pay to promote my URL etc… in other forums like JLA, offtopic, or something awful. My intro into the forum world has been at Club 10 and I’m getting a good dose of the kind of time forum cultivating consumes. Before I commit to yet another forum, I’d like to know it’s the one which suits my intention the best. Would you recommend; 1) spend the money to hire someone to save me from this social networking nightmare. 2) stick to my own forum, upgrade it and then hope people stumble upon it. 3) once upgraded, promote it via other forums? If #1, then who? If #2, then how other than simply hoping? If #3, then which ones would you recommend?
    Well, I hope this finds you and I hope you can help me. Think of my project as your greatest challenge and I will love you forever! Seriously, I’m about to give up; your number one travesty NOT to commit.

    • If your own forum is working Lee, then stick to it. If the idea of starting a new forum is much more exciting and thus you will work harder on it, switch. If however you find yourself always switching, then it may be time to focus on what is already in front of you.

      • Nope. My forum is not working. My webiste has gained over 8000 hits, people are signing up to participate in forum, but most never do.
        Currently, I’ve hired someone to help build a fourm, he’s using wordbuddy, but he’s hitting a few roadblocks. I had forgetten about this post here & when I recently recieved a notice & then re-read your advice, I saw the Invision Board. I’ll check that one out.
        Before I land on a base, I need several key features which is the reason I’m not trying to cultivate my plain Jane GoDaddy forum going as they have no features! The biggest feature, & one that wordbuddy doesn’t seem to have either, is a ratings plug-in. No, I don’t want a like or dislike plug-in but rather, a ratings system for best solutions to given problem.
        If anyone knows what base has this, (phpbb, v-bulliten etc) please let me know. thanks!

  • Thanks a lot for your instructions, they helped me curate my forum’s initial structure to something more in tune w/reality: it went from 5 sections and around 16 subforums to a single section of 5 forums: Less is More and K.I.S.S rules in action!

  • Amazing post Yaro, thanks a lot for the advice, building for a couple of years still seems a little daunting! Set my forum up so that all the categories where hidden which is good for member privacy, but not so good for adverting your forum to new members, so gotta see if that makes a difference? If you get the time can you visit the forum and see what you think, give some tips maybe as I’ve not had any quality visitors yet, what I’ve had is fakes, friends and spammers, but no quality members as it were.

    Great post and thanks for the advice 🙂


  • I think having rewards for your members is a great way to boost your membership! It gives reason for others to come to the forum and what not!

  • Devona

    This is really good advice!
    I have been thinking of making an avatar/forum site and I feared I wouldn’t get any views or members. However, reading this article makes me not so fearful.

  • Thanks Yaro, I’m writing an article about forum building and this has helped give me a lot of extra tips. I will be giving you a shout out in the article as well.

    • Happy to help John – I haven’t worked with forums in a long time, but I still love owning them!


  • Thanks for the tips. I think my problem is like you mentioned…not giving enough of myself to participation…I admit it. 🙁 But I am going to get more dedicated cause you told me what I really need to hear!

  • Thanks for a nice outline of the basics. Not sure when this was posted as the date/time data is stripped out but it seems as though both the forums you refer to are inaccessible. I was looking forward to seeing prime examples of your handiwork 😉

  • Yaro this was quite detailed and honest, I am glad you mentioned taking it easy on family and friends. Also suggesting we give them a sneak peak before launch summed it all up for me.

    You just never know till you are in, many people are too busy with their own lives and businesses, sticking to it will definitely win it. I also suggest making a few changes and adjustments to suite the trends. Relate your topics with relevant happening in the news, tell a story and stay focussed. Keep your eyes on the prize! A million thanks Yaro.

  • Hi Yaro,
    This was a very interesting and helpful post on building a web community, such as a forum.

    Thanks a ton.

    On an unrelated note, your first name “Yaro”, in my native language Hindi means “Friend”. 🙂

    Anirudh Bahadur

    • I am glad you liked it Anirudh, and thanks for letting me know about my name in Hindi – I had no idea!


  • Building a forum community is really hard in 2015. Because people just read topics and don’t registrer on this site. So to have an active forum, it’s complicated. Thank you for your advices, I will try to boost my forum community on animal 😉 !

    • You are right calvin. I just launched a forum, an extension of my main blog so as to build an online community. People come, read what i post and don’t register. I don’t intend giving up at the moment because i am determined to build this forum.
      But one statistics i like about my forum is that the bounce rate is very low. what this means is that when people come to my forum, they seem to enjoy what i post so they view more than one page.
      All i have to work on now is to make the site homely so that people can actually feel like registering and participating.
      I will get there soon once i apply the crowd mentality factor. people find it easy when they see other people there. So i know that as my community grows, people will see the need to join.

  • Jacob

    Yeah, its really hard to keep motivated when you have no help without money in your pocket i just cant think of anywhere else to advertise

  • Christine

    Wonderful!! Thank you so much for all the helpful tips. I’ve own a blog for almost 5 years now and I’ve been thinking deeply about opening a forum. I will for sure keep your tips in mind. Right now, I’m testing different free forums to see which one will fit more to my needs. Its way more advance and different from managing a blog. Thanks to your article I’m feeling more confident now and will continue testing to find the right place for my new home 🙂

  • Thank you for these great tips! I rarely saw so nice articles about web forums, one can easily see that you have your own experience in forum building.
    The only point I do not completely agree with, is your idea that the forum software is a not very important variable. You are right, it’s not a question of software itself, but what is important, in my opinion, is to choose a solution which will fit for your level and your idea of expenses.
    I did not manage to build a forum community until I discovered free forum hostings. It was impossible for me to set up a forum on my own. Finally, I found a free forum builder Forumotion which offers a huge number of features and is very easy to use. So I think it’s a variable you have to think about seriously.

  • LadiEmma

    Hi Yaro,

    Like your article, very informative even went to your suggestion for the free forum software. I downloaded it but nothing happened after I unzipped it. I am not familiar with setting up a forum and so far everything I’ve read seems more towards those who are web developers or CSS or some other technical skilled type. I tried Beehive which I really like from the outset but again faced the same thing. Contacted the help center for each but I’ve received no reply, went to their facebook page…no reply. Not exactly leaving me wanting to use their product free or not, especially if you had to pay for it…I’d be cancelling it due to bad customer service. Is it possible for you to give me some advice or suggestions on what I’m doing wrong after downloading. I’m using winzip. Thank you so much, Ladi

    • You might want to try what is called a “hosted” forum Ladi, which means you don’t have to install it.

      Do a google search for “free hosted forums” and see what you find.

      Either that or hire someone technical to do the installation of invision board or vbulletin or bbpress.



  • riyaz

    I planned to set up a forum for internal staffs in my organization. Should I encourage or force the members to use their real name as login credentials or just use anonymous members name? I’m afraid if real names to be used, they will shy away from using the forum as a platform to express their opinions/rants towards the management.

  • Tom

    If I wanted someone to essentially set-up the forum starter bit for me how much would the cost be? I would eventually get around to learning how to work on the site and all that, but the initial set-up would take me a long time. I’m really out of tune when it comes to certain internet stuff despite my relatively young age, and would rather the set-up be done quickly.

    I wanted to start a forum center on writing.

    Secondly, how does one generate income from these forums besides people paying t advertise on them? Is it just web hits? I really don’t get how a forum can make you any extra cash…

  • Estefani

    well I know building a website can be a overwhelming. In fact, like everything in this life, you can do a quick/crappy job or a quality website that can bring thousands of visitors everyday. Think about it, google it is just a “Website” but they have thousands of engineers behind it. In any case, I recommend first thinking of which framework you want:

    i) You can use build it yourself drag and drop web builder, such as or squarespace. This is a great way to make a website fast, but really simple. If you are serious about building a website, this has a lot of limitations. Wix, does not have a mobile friendly design, so you need to create ANOTHER website. Squarespace takes about 3% of commission of every sale you have. This is on top of the 4% paypal takes. So you can be loosing some money by using them. In addition these web builders cannot be that customized in terms of functionalities. Let’s say you have a cool idea for a social network. Well forget it, these web builders won’t cut it.

    ii) WordPress. This is much more powerful/robust than a web builder like wix. However, it requires more tech skills. You need to set up a server, using a hosting company such as BlueHost. Then you need to install WordPress, and import a theme (from themeforest). Then you can start adding plugins, and start building your website. If you are not technical you can hire a web developer, but sometimes it makes sense to hire someone. Especially if this website is for your business.

    iii) MVC Framework. Examples: Ruby on Rails, CakePHP, Laravel, etc. These MVC Frameworks are very very scalable. Twitter used Ruby on Rails for a while! So you can get an idea of what you can build with them. For this, I totally recommend you to hire a web development company, such as , a web development company based in San Francisco.

    Conclusion: If you just want a simple website, use wix or a web builder. If you are building a website for your business, then build something with WordPress or an MVC Framework!

  • I run an ever growing popular site and I’ve been considering adding a forum as I think some of the viewers of the site would join quite quickly. Should I add the forum to the current domain or should I have a brand new website for it.

    I was thinking of having to create the illusion of a busy forum so it’s funny that this was mentioned here as well.

  • Great information. I love the part about creating fake users. I did the same thing when I first started my forum in 2012 and it worked. I started getting actual contributing members to the forum.

    Now almost 5 years of the forum being online I can talk to others on the forum instead of myself.

    But it’s okay I talk to myself offline too. I’m a great person for me to talk to. lol

  • noname

    Works almost identically for blogs too.

  • Gary

    Hi I was wondering where I could find information about the laws of making a membership website. I would like to know specifically what restrictions there are about misrepresenting yourself or your product online through your membership site. I also would like to know if hiring a lawyer is a good idea for a membership site owner or if this is over the top.

  • dam yaro, i never new of the fake personality trick….. wow! gotta get to work!

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