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 MTGParadise.com 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.
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
Hope I Help