Authorpektral of Talkpark.net
Hey guys, these are my tips for starting a new forum from scratch and without many resources (not everyone has access to hundreds of dollars to advertise).
Before starting anything or even conceptualizing an idea, you need to have had developed a following on a few different forums. Get some close friends on your MSN/AIM list and do whatever favors you can for other people. Your goal is to get people to remember who you are. For example, when I'm new to a forum and people reply to my posts, I'm sure to check out the links in their signatures, etc. Be as welcoming as you can. You'd be surprised how many people are out there looking for a cool community to join.
Think of an idea. What kind of forum will you own? Will it be connected to a website? Will it have a portal? Will you be a design forum? A debate forum? General forum? Think of a unique idea to bring people in. For example, at TalkPark.net, my forum, we have a webcomic and various contests to keep people coming back.
Find a co-owner. If you don't have the money to invest in a professional designer or programmer for your site, you should find a buddy to help you start things, preferably someone who is knowledgeable in designing/coding. Also, don't be afraid to start learning to design or code. For a webmaster, this is one of the most important things to know.
When the skin for your forum is complete and you have all the content set up, start hyping your forum by making "coming soon" signatures. Ask your friends to wear them as well. This will spark curiosity.
When your main theme is completely made, do NOT release your forum. Spent a little time having the forum be invite-only and fill it up with a good 500 pre-release posts. This will make all the current members feel special as well as not scare away potential new members (nobody likes making a forum go from no activity to a lot of activity so odds are if you have zero posts in some boards, nobody will bother to second think joining).
Release your forum! Post it on as many websites as you know, get everyone to tell their friends about it. Don't just open it to the public and expect members to pour in. That won't happen. You need to be constantly posting your website at other forums (within their rules, don't EVER spam your link, all it does is give you a bad name). And don't forget to keep posting on those sites even after your forum is open. Keep offering support and remember to have the link to your site in your signature at all times (which is basically like plugging your forum in every post you make).
Wait for part 2 of this guide, where we go into detail about how to effectively create new content and keep people coming back.
Hopefully this may help out some new members looking to start their first forum. I followed those exact steps, and the first day my place opened, I got 2,000 posts and 30+ members.