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How to Build Forum Traffic: Calling All Internet Citizens

The Roman forum was literally a marketplace. Amidst pillars of marble and houses painted in rich purple and red, there were stalls selling fish and vegetables, huts with repairmen in them, cages filled with pets or slaves, and the occasional Roman centurion walking about for security. There were also ad hoc politicians in the form of retired statesmen or street philosophers, all of whom declared their thoughts to the world without fear of being slaughtered for their beliefs.

Today, the Roman forum survives best on the Internet, where people can post their thoughts on a topic online, follow the thought “thread,” and even get to meet friends or colleagues with the same interests as they. And, like the Roman forum, an Internet forum can be filled with noise and frolic, and should be guarded, secured, and moderated.
A forum, moreover, can serve a variety of purposes. A forum can be used to gather people of the same interests who might be interested in certain products and services, thus making the forum a literal marketplace. A forum can also be used to meet new people, and to even match them. A forum can be the place to learn new things, find out about up and coming events, or even fix glitches in your computer’s operating system.
With the thousands of forums now in existence, can your forum still earn users and give you traffic? There are many techniques to generate forum traffic and to increase it, but they can be summarized in a few words: if you build it right, they will come.
Many forums on the Internet generate large amounts of traffic because their topics cover a wide range of interest. On the other hand, many forums also generate large amounts of traffic because their topics are highly specific and require specialized knowledge to understand. In either case, the forums are extremely well organized, with postings placed under the topics in which they are supposed to be in.
Organization is clearly the key to getting more forum users. No matter what your topic is, your forum must be arranged in clearly delineated topics. Mold your forum after a beneficial conversation: an organized discussion yields the best results offline, so an organized discussion can certainly yield the best results online.
Make your forums easy to use. Avoid employing heavy graphics or animation, as these can tax on your users’ bandwidth, keeping them from returning more often. Make your pages easy to read, understand, and use, so that your users will not spend half their time at your forum struggling to see how to make a single post. 
Cut off your posts at about twenty to thirty per page. A page with less than twenty posts will make it harder for your users to navigate through the thread; a page with more will make your page take longer to load. In either case, be careful not to stretch your users’ patience too thin.
Employ moderators, with at least two people per major forum topic. Moderators are not only the Roman centurions of your online forum. They are also the street philosophers who can start discussions and carry them on. Be sure to pick moderators who are not confrontational, and who have bright ideas for forum topics. As long as your topics are interesting, and as long as your forums maintain their decency – or required maturity level of forum content – you will have more users in the future.
Organize get-togethers offline, or chat parties every once in a while. A chat party does away with the rather unwieldy posting that one has to do in a forum, so that discussions are more free flowing. An offline get-together can also be exciting, as your users put faces and online nicknames together. These activities can keep your users closer to each other, and perhaps even to you. Be sure to attend such activities when you can, and never forget to have your moderators on hand so that the fun never stops.
Have welcome and goodbye letters ready for forum members. A welcome letter can make new forum members feel special and less inhibited, since novices will often hesitate to talk about themselves or share their thoughts. A goodbye letter can make former forum members remember you and your forum in a good light, no matter what the circumstances of leaving are. The key to maintaining a good forum is to not only make sure that conversations are great, but that each member is also properly acknowledged and recognized.
Forums can serve a variety of purposes, and, once used and built well, can generate traffic. Your forum members will not only enjoy their stay in your forum, but they can avail of all the benefits that a forum can offer, thanks to your know-how and skills in generating forum traffic.
Allen Daniels
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