Build a vibrant online community
Promoting and publicising your boards
By Mike Slocombe for Internet Magazine, May 2004
Don't let your community go unnoticed
1. Don't be dull
No one likes to be the first at a party, so make visitors to your new boards feel right at home by posting up a host of enticing threads.
Don't post up dull threads like, 'My name's Nigel. What's yours?' . Get things moving with some lively, topical or controversial issues.
Pick topics that people are talking about - so listen to what people talk about in pubs and cafes.
2. Feed your boards
If the boards are part of a bigger site, encourage user feedback throughout the site by peppering your articles with 'calls to action' - i.e. adding links at the bottom of your articles inviting users to comment and react to your words.
Put in links to your forums throughout your site, and invite friends to join in.
If you've got a really lively story, email it to the press.
3. Play dirty!
If your boards are proving as popular as a wet night in Aberdare, you may have to pull a few strokes to liven things up.
Try registering under a host of different names and starting no-holds-barred argument with yourself on a host of controversial topics.
But you're playing for high stakes - if people suss out that the community is in fact a collection of your argumentative alter-egos, they'll be gone forever.
4. Totally topical
Make sure your boards are up to date and archive any outdated content (a 'Santa's Festive Forum' forum might look a little out of place in August).
If there's a big site-related event coming up, spark off debate by creating a new dedicated forum, pre-populated with polls and lively posts.
Make sure visitors know all about the new forum by advertising it throughout the site.
5. Make the most of your content
A vibrant bulletin board community can provide you with lots of lovely content, so capitalise on it!
Flag up lively current debates on your site's homepage, and consider adding a set of links to your top ten hottest threads.
Make the most of archive material by putting edited versions on your static site and peppering it with links back to the bulletin boards, inviting further comment.
6. Mailing lists
Most bulletin board software offers the facility to send an email 'newsletter' to your users who are registered on the bulletin board.
This is a great way of telling users about updates to the site and flagging up busy threads, but don't overdo the newsletters or people will simply ignore them.
Not everyone will have used bulletin board software before, so include a posting FAQ, along with links to help files, your privacy statement and an admin contact.