Advertising your forum in the online community is a dirty trick that must be played very well in order to succeed. Where is the best place to find members for your forums? You are going to steal them from other forums that revolve around the same content area as your forum. Now, understand that no one likes a forum administrator that goes to other forums and steals members. It is highly frowned upon in the community and unless you are extremely smart about it, it will only take one day for you to be banned from these other forums.
Before we discuss what you should do to advertise, let’s talk about what you should not do. While running my own forum the one thing I could not stand is when a new member joined and sent private messages or emails to my members asking them to join their forum. This practice will get you banned just as quick as you signed up for the forum. The reason it is so annoying is that the members do not like it. They will turn you in to the administrator of the forum you are advertising on.
Do not private message or email members of other forum’s invitations. Every forum has a system of sending members private messages. Despite what you may believe this system was not set in place for you to spam their mailboxes. It annoys the members and could result in getting you banned. If you are banned from the site there is no way for you to get members from that site.
Do not make threads announcing your new forum unless you know for sure that it is allowed. Search the list of boards for one labeled ‘links’ or something similar to that. Usually under a Links board you will find an area for advertising your personal web site. If there is no such board for this, do not start a thread about your forum in a random board like general discussion. If they did not provide a specific place for you to advertise then most likely they do not want you to do it. If you are not sure it is always best to contact one of the administrators of the site and ask what you should do.
So, you now know the first set of rules that should keep you from being banned on most forums. Now, how do you go about advertising your forum?
Read the forum rules first. This will prevent you from being banned before you can do your sneaky work of getting a few members to come to your own forum. The tips that I am going to share with you only work if you are not breaking any of the forum rules.
Always post more on your forum than others. As a forum administrator it is okay to post at other forums, but it will only work if you post more at your own forum. If you make five posts on one forum, make at least ten posts on yours. Make sure your posts at the other forum are always informational and helpful to the members there. Spamming or posting just to post will not make them want to see what is going on at your forum. If they see you are helpful and then they see you are even more active at your own forum, they will be more likely to go there.
Before you even start posting on these other forums, make sure your profile is filled out correctly. On most member profiles there is a place where you can list your web site. Putting your website in that spot is a great way of advertising. Any member who views your profile will see your site. If they were interested enough in you to click on your profile, then they will probably want to see what your web site is about.
Your number one goal when visiting other forums is to make friends there. As I said before, all of your posts should be helpful. Also keep in mind that you want to be friendly. If someone starts talking to you through private messaging, ask if they would like to talk to you on an instant messenger like MSN. Once the conversation has moved off the forum you can ask them to join your forum without fear of breaking a forum rule. If you have them on your instant messenger list you can start building a relationship with them.
The next tip I am going to give you is one of the things that will only work depending on the rules of the forum you are visiting. Most forums have a system in place that allows you to enter a custom picture or just words into your signature. Every time you post members will see this signature and it can be a great way of advertising. If the rules allow it, make a banner that advertises your forum and hyperlink that image back to your forum.
If the rules clearly state that you cannot advertise other forums, all is not lost. This is where you get sneaky and advertise your forum, without advertising on their site. There are many photo sharing sites on the internet. One example is Flickr. These sites allow you to post your images so that friends, family, and strangers can view them. Start a Flickr account and fill it with custom images that describe what your forum is all about. Every time you start a new contest, make a graphic and post it in that account. Now, instead of posting a link to your forum in your signature, post a link to your Flickr account. Most likely, this isn’t against the rules, but you still need to read and find out. When members click on the link for your Flickr account they are going to be bombarded with information about your amazing forum. Don’t forget that every time you post a new image, also post a link to your forum in the photo notes. This form of advertising will not work unless you do so. Members won’t be able to find your forum.
Overall, the best way to pull members from other forums, to your forum is building relationships. This will make it easier for you to convince them that they should join your forum. Always keep in mind that your activity on your forum is important. If they see you are always posting on another forum, but not your own, why would they sign up? Get them to follow you over!