Anybody can make a forum. In fact, over the past year, several thousand people have gone through our tutorial on how to make one. It’s a little disheartening to think, though, that within two years, many of them won’t exist anymore. They’ll be swallowed up by the black hole of neglected web pages. Why? Because no one knows they’re there. If by chance someone lands on your site, and sees that there aren’t many members or threads, they’re just going to bounce. Let’s face it, most internet users don’t have very long attention spans. They’ll keep looking for forums that have a community; one that can quickly draw them in and satisfy their needs. But when you begin a forum, it’s basically a bunch of empty pages. You need to culminate a mass before it will be appealing to anybody, before they’ll get anything out of it. So, where do you go from here?
Call in some favors.
Firstly, ask friends and family to (pretty please) go on your site and create accounts and make preliminary posts. Seed money, if you will. A few quarters in the guitar case that display to passers-by that there is something here worth paying attention to.
Fake it ’til you make it
Hire cheap help. One way to do this is a site called Microworkers.com. Essentially, it’s a site where you can hire people to perform micro-tasks for micro-pay. For example, you can pay someone just a few cents to do little jobs that would take less than a minute; for example, go in and comment on a post on your Facebook page, or comment on your blog, or, in this instance, create an account and post in your forum. Another option is a site called Fiverr.com, where every job costs five dollars. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s possible that the jobs your clients do may be less micro.
By using these suggestions (and a few creative ideas of your own), you’ll create a forum that has the appearance of a legitimate community. Say you drive a hundred people to your site. Instead of having zero of those people sign up because there’s no content to grab them, you might get ten to sign up and actively join the conversation. So, the organic community will grow large enough that you can begin phasing out paying people to use it, and let your friends and family off the hook (and maybe owe them a favor or two in return). The general population will begin using your forum on their own. And there you have it: a flourishing, thriving, active community forum.