Nothing promotes a business online better than staying in touch with prospects. The more interactive continued contact, more of a relationship that is built with a potential client.
This business principle of continued contact and business relationship building has given rise to popularity of online business forums, and of course, "theme-related" online forums. Online forums quickly establish empathy, set forum owners up as "experts" in eyes of visitors, and serve as a promotional vehicle for other products and services that forum owners seek to sell.
While online forums are popular and perfect method of relationship building, starting a forum and maintaining one can be challenging, especially in beginning when members can be "few" and "far between". The challenge for most new forum owners is to get beyond initial start up phase and move onto a phase where forum members themselves promote forum simply by posting.
Although each forum is individual and personal, a few general guidelines should be followed or at least kept in mind when starting and maintaining an online forum. These are as follows:
1. Take care when choosing type of forum and forum script or software that will be used. The forum should be easy to access, easy to use, and come with "visitor- friendly" features. All visitors should be made to feel welcomed and find navigability of forum, user friendly. Forum scripts and software, especially "free" varieties, may be overburdened with ads from parent company and lead to a poor experience for visitors.
2. The forum should have a good number of interesting and focused topics. The content should reflect interests of target audience, and every care should be made to have well-written and informative content that is updated regularly. This not only helps attract new members, it keeps older members from losing interest and defecting to other forums.
3. The forum should be Search Engine friendly. High activity forums, like popular blogs, provide a great reason for Search Engines to visit them frequently as they are brimming with fresh content all while. Dynamic urls, session ids, etc. used by most forum software can be very detrimental to forum health from Search Engine point of view.
When selecting a forum software, check if they are Search Engine friendly. Open source software like phpbb, have mods (modifications) developed by third party sources, to enhance forum in many ways.