Forum Administration - Part #1
By: Shawn Joseph Gossman

I have decided to write some Forum Administration articles. This will be the first article in this series. These articles will be basic principles, tips and strategies on creating, managing and promoting a message forum in a professional and successful manner while having a good time. Please show your support by leaving a comment or two on my articles and sharing them in social bookmarking, with friends, family and others whom you think would be interested in reading.

Step 1 - Planning

Don't jump the gun and rush into creating your forum. Start planning first! Think of a niche or topic that you want to base a forum off of. Make sure it will be a popular niche and something you will stay into because you don't want to waste a good forum due to losing interest in it, I have done this and it is no fun. Decide a good name for it! You don't need a slogan just yet, that can be all in the name. For example if you want to start a webmaster forum, don't just call it "Webmaster Forum", be unique and plan it and give it a good and catchy name.

You also want to decide on how your going to host it. You can start out on a free forum hosting service but chances are the domain name will be long and your forum will have advertisements all over it. Consider going with shared hosting! You can almost get it free these days with all the coupons and offers out there. Plus with shared hosting, you can get your own domain name. If you do get a domain name, I suggest sticking with a .com top level domain (TLD) because it is easier to remember and the most common used. You should also stay away from hyphens and numbers in your domain and keep it as short as possible. There are all sorts of domain suggestion tools that you can find on Google to help you choose the right domain.

If you go with hosting, next you want to decide which forum software to use. You can go all out and get vBulletin or IP.Board if you want a good premium software but be prepared to pay over $100.00 for good forum software. You can also find good free software such as MyBBoard and ImperialBB. Free software is a good platform to start out on because it provides most of the same features as paid software and anytime you wish to upgrade to a paid software, you can most likely do it using merging tools.

Step 2 - Install and Manage

Step two will be installing your forum (or creating one if your using a free host) and managing its settings and features. You will want to start by adjusting the setting features within your software/hosting Admin Control Panel (ACP) so that it fits your needs. Add the categories, forums and sub-forums that you want to add and consider hiring another staff member or two to help get you started. Working alone can be done but trust me its lonely and hard at times. I have worked alone and worked with another admin and I got to say, working with another makes the first few months go by a lot faster and smoother.

Once you have your basic forum structure set up, start putting in topics that are needed like important information, rules, guidelines for specific forums and premium information if you provide that feature. Make important topics either announcements or sticky threads so that they stay at the top and are where all members can see them. Then focus on putting 3 or 4 new topics a day in each forum for about two weeks to establish some content. Have your staff members reply in them and get some decent conversations going.

Step 3 - Logos, Addons and Themes

Next you need to enhance your community with its very own logo. There are many free logo generator services on the web which you can use to get a decent forum logo for being free and all. Or you can request ones be made at places like AdminExtra. You can also request for paid logos to be made. Prices may vary on how exactly you want your logo to look and feel. For now, all you need is one logo. Focus the logo colors on your theme which we will discuss below. Ensure that it is more than simple but not too fabulous. Consider putting an image of something to do with your forum within the logo so that it is more unique to your forum's niche.

Themes are important. Don't stick with the boring dull looking default theme and get a better looking one. Make sure the colors are easy on the eyes and fits your forum's niche. There are many free themes out there and its not a bad idea to use them. You can also find cheaper pre-made themes but if you want your own custom theme, expect to pay quite a bit. But look around as some are cheaper than others.

Install all the desired plugins and modifications you want. Don't install too many at first though so that is is not so overwhelming to your new community and its first few members. You can add more as you grow and more features are requested.

Well that's it for this first article. The next one in this series will focus on launching and basic promotion. Thank you for reading and I look forward to your replies! You can also show support for my articles by joining my Weather Forum at The Weather BB Community - Weather & Climate Discussion Forum.