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#1 tommr

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 09:03 AM

I have been developing a site for a while, a long while, and it centers around my main interest in life which is arts and crafts. artsandcraftsnetwork(dot)com
It has taken a while to get the site ready, mainly because we had to write a crafts show directory PHP script from scratch and adapt a number of other scripts to fit the look of the site.

Anyway we want to offer a forum where like minded people can share experience on topics relating to arts and crafts.

I am wondering if there are any ways to spur interest in posting and user participation. So far I have had only a few spammers interested.

There is a link to the forum from each page so it's not too hard to find it if one is on the site.

Thanks,
tom

#2 jonbey

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 10:27 AM

Well, I dunno, never ran a forum for more than about 12 hours. Set one up once and had so much spam I took it offline again.

If I was to start one again I would first see if the script I was using had a way to easily migrate content to another platform, just in case (like wordpress, drupal, another forum etc).

Then I would start new threads every day, much like blogging. Make the opening post like a blog entry so that it is complete, but may lead to discussion. In time hopefully people will come and join in.

A forum with no posts and no discussion is not inviting. People will just ask "why take the time to sign up if nobody will reply".

This is why I run my site using blog software. I write, others chime in with questions and the odd comment.

If you know many people in the arts and crafts business then maybe they could be roped in. Set them up an account and mail them their username and password. LEt them know the plans etc. send it as a special invite to be involved early on in the first discussions, maybe to "claim their specialise area". I am not talking from any experience though, just blueskying. Right, better get out the clouds and do something more tangible.

#3 Dr.Marie

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 11:46 AM

I have one that is barely surviving. It's a lot of work to run a forum. You need a good base of people who are interested in the topic and you need to really encourage participation. I ran some facebook ads to attract visitors initially.

#4 jocelyn

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 03:12 PM

I wouldn't touch that even with a 12 feet stick... even just moderating is a pain...
Spam, moderation, updates... very hard to launch, and very hard to monetize...
Too much work and trouble... unless it's for fun cause you're bored... :D

#5 jonbey

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 04:15 PM

I am now trying (without much success) to get more action on my Facebook Page. I think that this is the way ahead. No maintenance, all time spent on running the community (or wondering where everyone is).

#6 AbleReach

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 08:06 PM

You could start with a blog and go from there. A forum is like a blog with different formatting and active commenting. :D

#7 tam

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 08:09 PM

I think the way to start is to get off with a bang. Have a really big userbase that you can get to sign up in one go - that way you get over the no posts = no sign ups cycle that plagues new forums. You need, for example, a big newsletter list. Give a 'launching soon spiel' and a launch date. Maybe even see if the forum allows pre-registration. Then set a date and email everyone on that date with a big wow email.

Then rope in some friends (or paid staff) to get a lot of new topics in the first week. Set accounts to subscribe as default. Give people a reason to keep visiting - eg a prize a day for the first week. You want to get them into the habit of checking daily.

You also need to have a niche, if they already have a forum they use in the same area then you'd have a massive job breaking into that.

#8 tommr

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 03:18 PM

Thanks for all the positive feedback.

I probably should have clarified that the focus of the site is the arts and crafts show listings and the book but we also wanted to offer a blog, forum and classifieds script.

I think what we will do is "seed" the forum with some useful posts be for we start the push.

We have a mailing list signup on the home page for the site and that gives us some leads.

I like the idea of a contest to wind a prize. We could make up some arts and crafts network t shirts and give one away each week. Maybe give out a bunch during the launch blitz.

I would be happy if people only came to the site for the show listings.

Thanks again

#9 tam

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 01:11 AM

I would be happy if people only came to the site for the show listings.


Just to play devils advocate, but are you sure a forum's a good use of resources then?

If your main feature is show/event listings then I'd think getting the info to them, rather than getting them to come to you might be the better option. So putting reminders out in every format you can think of twitter, newsletter, txt, rss feed to other craft sites, iphone app, email reminders, even paper reminders, maybe look at sites that accept event listings via api/rss, or newsfeeds/press releases. Rather than starting your own forum, you could try doing a deal with existing ones to provide event feeds. That gives you all the benefits of a captive audience without running it yourself :D

As well as the general homepage newsletter signup, I'd also have a 'remind me about this event' on every event page (with a tick to also sign up for the newsletter) - to send them an email/txt nearer when it's on maybe with a link to you to get directions/open times etc.

I wonder if you can do something facebook style ish with who else is attending?

Blog would definitely tie in well with reports from past/future events - and gives you the comment option without a full forum. For prizes - free tickets to events? - swap free event advertising for prizes. Make it a regular thing and it's a good incentive for signing up to a newsletter.

#10 mrgoodfox

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 12:44 PM

In my experience for forums to be successful you have to put a lot of time into it yourself. Pretty much the first 6 month you are the only driving factor in it.

Unless you hire forum posters (related to your niche found from other related forums) but that cost can add up

#11 AbleReach

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 11:58 PM

you could try doing a deal with existing ones to provide event feeds.

Nice idea. You could look at what our own Barry Schwartz does with Search Engine Roundtable's SEO Forum news overviews.

#12 tommr

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 09:38 AM

Wow,
These some great ideas.

Tam, great idea! Many crafters want people to know which shows they are attending. I could do a feature show for the blog/forum where people and maybe even offer a signup in the show listing script as well.

I think I want to stay away from user submitted reviews of shows. I'm not sure how to be sure they are fair unless I used a poll and offered specific questions.

And, Able, I really like the concept of Barry's site. Like a cross between a blog and a forum. More organic than a static forum and I would have no trouble adding content, unlike my sad wedding site. I already have the blog started with wordpress but I may change it.

I may be looking at a re-load using joomla or other CMS, except for the weather and show listing scripts.

This is getting fun.

#13 tommr

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Posted 16 October 2011 - 01:02 PM

I have been turning this around all weekend.
One problem I have is our event script is not going to work very well with CMS.
It's a real Frankenstein solution that does what we want it to but will not fit into a wrapper.

I am leaning toward leaving the forum and classifieds up and working on the blog and show listings.

Maybe use some rss feeds on the home page for the site and on the blog as well.

#14 Rachael

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 06:27 AM

It is important to plan about the topics you will have in your forums and how user participation can be encouraged. If you are planning to start a forum, you must take into consideration that the forum has to be checked and moderated regularly. You can start with some topics, see the response and then expand the forum further.



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