It’s a daunting task to get visitors to register accounts on a forum. But that is nothing compared to turning those members into active, valuable members. Have you seen forums that have 50,000 members but only about 10 are online at one time? Some forums show the number of members and the number of active members. Why is the number of active members only a fraction of the total number of members? That is the challenge of forums that have overcome the initial hurdle of getting members. Now they need to figure out how to get them to post.
The article How to Welcome New Members to Your Forum explained how important it is to give attention to every new member in a personal way. Some of those tips apply here. Sending a welcome private message to every new member is vital. There are plenty of plugins for every type of forum that can automatically send a pre-written welcome message to new members. It can be as simple as, “Hello! Welcome to [Your Forum]! Why don’t you take a minute and introduce yourself in the introductions forum?!” That simple message should be enough to convince a new member to post at least once. Chances are your other members will welcome the new member in their thread and then the snowball starts to roll.
A welcome message is not enough to keep new members active and interested in your forum. They obviously thought they could find value in your community if they took time to register. Make sure you are giving them the value that they are looking for. I mentioned the “offer” in a previous article, First Impressions Matter. Your category structure should allow easy searching of topics, and access to the most valuable resources your community offers. For example, if your forum contains many Photoshop tutorials you want to make sure a new user can easily find them. You and your older members know the forum. They know the layout. But you need to forget what you know and look at your forum from a new perspective. Can you easily find what you “offer” visitors?
Finally, it is important to keep your community clean and drama-free. The last thing a new member wants to see is threads going way off topic, spam, and cursing. If you are a new member of a scuba diving forum, searching for the best gear for beginners, what would you want to see in topics? Would you want to see topics get way off course, talking about cats instead of scuba gear? Would you want threads to be filled with arguments and cursing between members? As an administrator or moderator it is vital that you keep topics and posts clean and tidy to aid new members in finding value in your content.
Following the simple tips outlined above will help you keep your new members active. Welcoming every new member, offering value to new members, and keeping your topics and posts clean are essential steps every forum administrator needs to take. Hopefully your new members will become valuable veterans in your community in no time.