Category: "Forum Hosting"

vBulletin VS. XenForo – Which One Is Better?

vBulletin VS. XenForo - Which One Is Better?

Starting a forum is no easy task. There are a lot of decisions to make. And, a lot of choices. The first one that you’ll likely spend some time on is choosing which forum software to use. Will you go with vBulletin? Perhaps XenForo? A free forum software? There are many options; some free, others paid. The choice you make is depends entirely on what requirements you have for your community, what your budget is, and the type of support you will need.

Let’s Start With The Top Contenders: vBulletin and XenForo

The two names that you will come across the most are vBulletin and XenForo. Both are leading forum software, and both require a paid license. What’s interesting about these two options is that the developers for XenForo we’re some of the original developers of vBulletin. And yes, they had their day in court over this.

That being said, both forum options have their advantages, so much of the choice you need to make boils down to your individual taste. Let’s dig in and see what’s under the hood.

vBulletin Forum Software

vBulletin 5 Connect is the latest release. Internet Brands, the new owners of vBulletin, have added a ew feature set that seems impressive at first glance:

  • Simplified site set up and customization
  • Dynamic tools for content discovery
  • Expanded photo and video
  • Sleek new UI features activity stream
  • Increased social engagement
  • Expanded photo and Video capabilities
  • Robust architecture (SEO and Performance Improvements)
  • Category-leading mobile optimization

However, in practice most users are more fond of earlier versions of vBulletin, specifically VB3 and early releases of VB4. You should do your own research to reach your own verdict. vBulletin has been the leading forum software for many years, but since the release of vB5 many users have either stuck with their earlier versions or moved to other forum software.

XenForo Forum Software

XenForo started off with the original developers from vBulletin. When vBulletin was purchased in 2009 from Jelsoft by Internet Brands, conflicts arose over the next release, version 4.0. Kier Darby, the lead developer envisioned the new release to be a complete revamp of the software. Internet Brands wanted to incrementally improve on the software and conflicts arose. Eventually, Darby left and formed XenForo. For three years a lawsuit ensued when IB (Internet Brands) decided to sue the developers of XenForo. The lawsuit was settled February 28, 2013.

Afterwards, XenForo worked on developing a software that many people have come to love and use. There are many features bundled in XenForo; including great styling, activity streams, and social integration.

Examples Of vBulletin Forums

Of course, the look is all important. You want your community to have a nice look to it as this will help with engagement. Here are two notable forums with large member bases using vBulletin:

WebHostingTalk

WebHostingTalk

WarriorForum

WarriorForum

And some XenForo examples:

Digital Point

Digital Point

IGN

IGN

Final Thoughts

As you can see the look and feel can change, but what it really comes down to is what will work best for your community. At URLjet, no matter your choice of forum software, we have competent staff able to handle everything from forum setup to customization services. Get in touch if you have any questions about starting a forum.

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Keep The Conversation On Your Website: Create A Space For Customers

Keep The Conversation On Your Website: Create A Space For Customers

As a website owner, it’s safe to say that you are concerned with your site metrics. You want more traffic. You want to increase the time your visitors stay on your site. And, of course, you want to make sure that pesky bounce rate is as low as it will go.

So, what to do?

The options are limitless: let’s not pretend that the internet is not chock full of ideas for improving your website. The reality is that there are so many options it’s hard to figure out which is the right one.

Of course, there’s social media. You can start blogging more. Let’s not forget networking and using forums to build traffic to your website. While you should be using all of these tactics, an often overlooked strategy is creating a forum for your customers (and visitors).

Creating A Forum For Your Website Is A Strategy That Works

Your customers will talk about your brand online. They may have questions, concerns, or are simply looking for an answer. Whether they have that conversation on another website or your own, is entirely up to you (in a lot of ways).

First, you have to have a platform for your customers and website visitors to engage in discussions and ask questions. There benefits are well worth it:

  • Increased time on site.
  • User generated content – (great for long-tail keywords).
  • You control the tone of the conversation.
  • A community around your brand.
  • Increased engagement.

Who’s Doing It

Dell

There are a number of brands doing it, and one in particular that has led the charge — Dell. Dell changed the marketing to reinforce connectivity and community with their brand. Not only did they create a responsive social media customer support team, they also backed it up with helpful blogs and community forums where Dell customers can go and ask questions.

This presentation highlights where Dell took their customer experience.

QuickSprout

Neil Patel is also someone who has embraced the value forums can bring. On QuickSprout, a blog many of you may be familiar with, they have added a forum where readers can now interact and start conversations. This increases the time people spend on the site and also builds more engagement.

A #forum gives your community a voice and increases #engagement and brand exposure. Tweet this.

Ready To Get Started?

Building a forum for your business may seem like a daunting task, but it is not as difficult as you may think. We can help you choose a platform, install your forum software, and add any plugins or mods you may need. Just get in touch or choose your forum hosting plan and we’ll take it from there.

 

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The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

So, you want to build a forum, eh? Well, it’s no easy feat. It takes a lot of work to get it right, and even more to create an engaging community. If you still want to do this, there are a few things you should do. I guess the simplest thing would be to start from the beginning, so that’s what we’ll do.

Step 1: Pick a domain

I would say that the first step would be to choose a niche, but considering you are already researching how to start your own forum, it’s probably safe to say that you already know your topic. The next natural direction is choosing a domain name.

Choosing the right domain can take a bit of soul searching. This will be your online identity. This is the name that people will come to know your site by. For this reason, it’s very important to pick one that is not only unique, but is a good fit for the atmosphere of your site.

There are typically two types of domains that people choose for a website: A branded domain name, or an EMD, better known as an exact match domain. Again, they both have their place, so this choice is entirely up to you. Here are the pros and cons:

Branded

Branded domains can be funny or clever, trendy or simple. The benefit of using a branded domain is that it is much more memorable. Think of names like Google, Facebook, or Nike.

While these names didn’t mean much on their own, through proper branding they were able to stand out in the market, rise above competitors, and become names synonymous with their respective industries. If you are in it for the long haul (as most forum owners are), I would encourage you to go with a branded domain.

EMD

An exact match domain is usually not pretty. It’s simply a string of keywords. So, using an EMD can give you benefits in the search engines. If the phrase you use in your domain is what people use to search for what you offer it can be a good choice. The problem however is differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Check out this Google search or look at the screenshot below. See how there are more than one person using this strategy? Unless you own all of the domains, you’ll have to deal with other people creating sites doing the same thing you are doing — which will make it even more difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Forum Search Results

Pro tip – Make sure you choose a name that has not been taken on popular social media channels. Social media is a great tool to drive traffic to your board, so you want to pick a name that allows you to own that name on sites like Facebook and Twitter. This will help you build a cohesive brand that is easily recognizable.

Step 2: Choosing a host for your forum

This is one of the most important decisions you will make as a forum owner. When you first start out, you can probably get by with a budget host, but often times that does not produce the best results.

Here’s why:

Forums have heavy bandwidth and disk space needs. Unlike a blog or regular website, a forum will have people connecting to the site for longer periods of time. Members will be posting in the community, and adding more content. This is a good thing. The problem is that if your host hasn’t configured the server to optimize for the software you are running, you’ll end up with a laggy site. No one likes a slow website. A slow forum can cause you to lose members, so this is something you’ll want to pay attention to from the beginning.

Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is backing up your files. With a forum, user generated content is churned out daily (hopefully!). People are posting most hours of the day, plus you’ll have new sign-ups coming in. Make sure you are backing up everything. Most large forums either keep real-time backups or back up every hour. In the beginning you can get away with backing up everyday, but once your forum gets more interaction, you’ll want to start backing up your files more regularly.

Most forum hosts understand how important this is. For example, we maintain hourly offsite backups for clients. This is important because we host some pretty large forums, like the official San Diego Chargers forum.

Bottom line: Choose a host that not only understands all of the forum software, but choose a host that can help you manage your backups.

Step 3: Deciding on what forum software to use

There is no right or wrong decision here. It really boils down to preference and what works for you. If you just want to get your feet wet as a forum owner, there are plenty of free forum software options out there. Some of the most notable are MyBB, phpBB, and SMF.

Keep in mind that free forum software is just that — free. You may save on cost, but you might find it more difficult to get the functionality you are looking for. There is also no guaranteed support, as most free software is ran with volunteers and donations.

Pro tip – Take a look at our forum software list to get an idea of what’s on the market.

Of course, there are paid options as well. The top contenders are vBulletin and XenForo. vBulletin was the original “top dog” of the forum game. XenForo came later and was developed by to of the original developers to vBulletin. So, you can say that there are a bit of animosity between the two companies.

XenForo seems to be making a bit of headway. It still boils down to preference, so do your own due diligence. If you want an example of a production site in action Digital Point uses XenForo, while Warrior Forum uses vBulletin.

Step 4: Choosing a design

Creating a custom design for your forum, usually comes down to two things:

  • Experience

  • Money

You either have the experience to do it yourself or you hire someone to do it for you. Fortunately, there are a few more options. If you do a quick search online you’ll come up with plenty of themes. You can even find free themes as well. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you settle on a design that captures that personality of your forum and will appeal to your members.

Step 5: Choosing the best mods and plugins

Most forum software is expandable via mods and plugins from other developers. It’s much like WordPress in that regard. You’ll be able to find both free and paid solutions that help add extra functionality to your forum. What it comes down to is how you want your members to engage in the community. You can add extra mods that allow voting on threads, or even build an advertising into your forums (which can work great for monetization).

Step 6: Defining topics and threads

This is important. Besides a good name and an appealing forum, you want substance. It’s important that you help direct the conversation to where it needs to go, and the best way to do that is by setting up clear topic threads that not only instruct new members as to what is allowed where, but gives anyone visiting the site an easy way to navigate to the conversation of their choice.

This is really a matter of preference. It depends upon your goals for the community and what you where you would like to see the discussion go. When you are first setting up your board, you should visit other popular forums and see how they have set up their threads. It doesn’t matter if you are not in the same niche, just have a look around and see what you think would work.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start with your forum theme/topic.

  2. Break this down into specific areas of interest. These become threads.

  3. Add a General thread.

  4. Add an Off-topic thread to allow members to talk about what they want.

  5. Consider adding a Marketplace or Advertising thread.

I’m quite sure you can come up with some more ideas (as you should), but those should give a general idea of how to structure your new forum.

Step 7: Creating guidelines and policies

This is quite possible the most important step out of the bunch. If you have no guidelines or concrete rules, you’ll struggle with keeping the community on topic — and there’s a good chance you’ll become a spammer’s paradise.

Here is some tips from GetSatisfaction.com:

  1. Know your special purpose

  2. Establish a social norm

  3. Set clear expectations

  4. Cast a wide net

  5. Create productive outcomes

  6. Make it personal

  7. Be a bridge

  8. Don’t feed the troll

  9. Measure the right things

  10. Assemble

Another thing you can do is just go look at what other forums are doing. Check out the community guidelines from popular forums, and see what works. This way you can adapt these to your own forum.

Step 8: Moderating the board

This is where you’ll have your work cut out for you. In the beginning, it won’t be as much of a job. Once your forum takes off however, you’ll want to enlist some help.

This is why you need to have clear, defined guidelines for the community. This will make the moderator’s job easier. The more concise the rules, the easier they are to enforce.

The main thing forum moderators deal with is spam. You can cut down on this through add-ons and mods, but you’ll still need a set of eyes monitoring the board. If you operate a marketplace as well, you’ll also want to vigilante with screening what people are selling. You do not want to open your community to scammers. If forum members are getting scammed on your forum, your site is the one that loses out the most. If trust is loss, you’ll have a hard time of attracting good members. You’ll also have a bad time monetizing your boards.

One way to combat this is to have people that post an advertising thread allow you to review the product, or offer “review copies” to other members.

Finding your mods

The best moderators are usually the most active members of your community — the people that consistently add value to the forum. You should reach out to these people and see if they would be willing to help.

Step 9: Driving traffic

Traffic is a big deal. If you have no traffic, you have no visitors, no new threads, no new members.

You have a dead forum.

This is something you’ll constantly want to be trying to improve. Here are a few tips to help you start driving traffic:

  • Use Twitter to tweet new threads as they are posted.

  • Visit other forums and see how they are driving traffic.

  • Run a contest or sweepstakes to attract people to your site.

  • Guest post on high traffic and high engagement sites related to your niche.

  • Experiment with highly targeted paid ads.

  • Reach out to other site owners in our niche and ask for a link.

  • Publish content your target market would find valuable.

Final Thoughts

Building a forum can be a lot of work, but in the end you can have a site that generates massive amounts of traffic. This can be especially beneficial if you sell products or services that your forum members use.

The really great thing about a forum is that it is fueled by user generated content — meaning the members of your forum are producing the content. When your community is tightly focused around a niche or topic this builds massive amounts of indexable content for the search engines. It also helps your site rank for a lot of long-tail keywords.

The most valuable thing about owning a forum is having a community around your brand. You create ambassadors and fans that know your business, love your business, and help it grow by engaging in your community.

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When Was Your Last Backup?

When Was Your Last Backup?

You spend time building your site, growing your community, and obsessing over every detail — why would backing up your data be an afterthought? Websites crash, hard drives become corrupted, sites get hacked: there are too many things that could go wrong to leave everything to chance.

The short version is this: make sure you are backing up your files regularly.

Why Forum Owners Need to Have Regular Backups

If you run a forum or community, chances are your site sees plenty of updates throughout the day: new topics, new conversations, new members. This is the heart of your site. For a forum owner, having a backup plan in place is a must.

Forums create a lot of content, much of it is user generated. This means that there are people spending time on your site sharing their ideas. Losing this data can be damaging to your brand. Just think about how you would feel if you spent your time building a profile, and then everything gets wiped away. Would you start all over? Maybe. Many people would probably just move on to the next forum.

What Criteria Should You Use For Managing Forum or Website Backups?

There are a lot of things to consider, but you can easily narrow everything down to the following:

  • Backup your data as often as possible.
  • Exclude temporary files and give higher priority to content and database backup.
  • Do NOT save your backup on the same server as your site.
  • Your backup should be easily retrievable.
  • Ideally, you should get notifications after every successful backup.
  • Backups should be compressed when possible to save disk space.

An important thing to consider when running a forum or website that publishes a lot of content is to have hourly backups of your data. At URLjet, we provide hourly backups through our File Guardian system. We take a snapshot of your system configuration — and we do this hourly — so we can restore your website to any point in time, in no time. All backups are kept off-site.

 

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Online Forum Etiquette: Simple Strategies To Grow Traffic

Online forums are tightly knit communities filled with participants who are either highly knowledgeable or highly interested in a particular topic. They are a place of discussion to share expertise with one and other. Due to the fact that forums are comprised of groups of people who share the same hobbies or interests it is obvious that being apart of these communities can help promote your website. However, do so with caution because there is a wrong way and right way to go about this.

How NOT to promote your website on forums

There is one thing I want to make abundantly clear in this article, when joining a forum, do not join with the intent of promoting. Instead, think of it as a place to network.
Online Forum Etiquette: Simple Strategies To Grow Traffic
People often make the mistake of thinking of forums in the same category as social media or another form of online marketing. This simply is not the case.

While each social media page is owned by one person, forums are more of a shared space. They may be owned by one individual or multiple individuals who moderate them, but they are generally moderated with the intent of the forum being used as a shared space for people to discuss topics of interest. Due to the fact that they are used for that intent, it is unwise to expect users of a forum to appreciate you blatantly promoting yourself, a brand, or your website.

So the number one biggest mistake anyone can possibly make is to create an entire topic about what you are trying to promote, or post on topics with the sole intent of promoting something.

Instead, it is a much wiser approach to simply become a part of the community and engage in meaningful discussions.

Forum etiquette, follow the rules and no one will get hurt

As stated before, forums are not your space, therefore you are not entitled to post whatever you want. The owner of the forum took great care, consideration, and has likely gathered trusted moderators to ensure that their message board encourages insightful discussion.

In order to maintain the desired atmosphere there are rules that must be followed and people to enforce those rules. This is why before posting anything, you should always read the forum’s rules first. Not doing so will damage your reputation with the community you are trying to gain publicity from.

If an idea for a topic or post falls into a grey area or you are just not sure if it would be appropriate it is perfectly acceptable to ask a moderator before posting. They would likely appreciate the fact that you asked before assuming it would be okay and you would avoid breaking any rules.

Strategies to grow traffic

If you are new to forums it is a good idea to read several threads and observe what top posters write. Get a good feel of what makes or inspires a good discussion. Post often, be friendly, and come back to the forum often, perhaps making it a daily routine. This will not only let you get to know others but get them acquainted with you as well.

After you have become well versed with the community and learned the types of topics that become popular then you can try creating some topics yourself.

If the forum allows users to include a link in their signature or bio, definitely do this. This quite honestly the only way to draw attention to you website on a forum. If the forum you are registering for does not allow you to place a link your signature you may not want to waste your time there.

By following these guidelines you should gain a fair amount of traffic on boards that you post to regularly. Just be sure that you are integrating yourself within the community and posting valuable information, engaging in intuitive conversations, being social and friendly, and definitely NOT advertising yourself. Your signature will do that part for you.

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Leading Forum Software

Leading Forum Scripts

One question many forum owners are asking these days is which forum software systems are considered to be the best in terms of user numbers, reputation and overall features. Although most current forum managers have used PhpBB or vBulletin successfully in the past, many may now be looking for something new that offers a bit more.

The most common basic requirements sought still remain public viewing with registration required to post, hosting compatible with MySQL, and the ability to customize the pages.   Although PhpBB and vBulletin have dominated the market, PhpBB is free and open source and vBulletin costs a few hundred bucks and is closed source. Another big player these days that has been used by many popular forums is BigBoards, and Jive; Lithium and LiveWorld all have done well too.

For forum software with a mobile interface, there’s a WAP plug-in for vBulletin available, and Vanilla Forum is a lightweight easily customizable forum that also works well on mobile devices. You could also use Tapatalk, an app that works with any phone and provides free read-only access to forums. Because there are no similar plug-ins for PhpBB users, many PhpBB people have simply used mobile themes to get around the issue.

There have been many new developments in the free forum software field and some have been more well-received than others. In terms of general popularity with users and forum managers in particular, the top fifteen free forum software systems currently available today are:

1.     MyBB – released 2011-11-25  

2.    BurningBoard – released 2011-08-26  

3.    PhpBB(3) – released 2012-01-02  

4.    Xenforo – released 2012-02-07  

5.    Vanilla Forums – released 2011-11-03  

6.    FUDForum – released 2011-07-17  

7.    Simple Machines – released 2011-12-22  

8.    Wikid Forum – released 2011-08-24  

9.    FluxBB – released 2011-09-13  

10.  UseBB – released 2011-11-04  

11.    bbPress – released 2009-07-28  

12.   PunBB – released 2011-12-01  

13.   Phorum released 2011-09-09  

14.   MiniBB – released 2010-10-05  

15.   IceBB – -released 2010-12-02

If you are in need of high performance vBulletin hosting or managed forum hosting, look no further than URLJet. Why go with “vanilla” hosting when you can get vBulletin optimized hosting that will run your forum faster than anyone- period.

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6 Different Types Of Free Forum Software You Can Use To Build A Forum

6 Different Types Of Free Forum Software You Can Use To Build A Forum

One of the first decisions you will make when starting a forum is deciding on what forum software to use. There are many options, both free and paid. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some great free forum software option available. There is a respectable list of great forum software options out there.

Here are six of them:

#1 PHPBB

phpBB Forum Software
phpBB is one of the top free forum software options available. It’s open-source, but what is unique is that they provide a unique and helpful database which contains all user created plugins. Everything is organized well and easy to find. Like MyBB, there are several plugins to choose from to customize however needed so the two are close competitors. Deciding which is better would be based solely on preference.

There are few things that give phpBB an edge from my experience. One notable feature would be their support section, which is well put together and extremely informative.

As far as actual features go phpBB seems to have better security from the start. They also provide anti-spam tools. Other than that many of the features you start with are similar to that of MyBB, except for the reputation system which is unique to MyBB. This is where it becomes a matter of preference. Due to the many plugins available with both of them, it’s always possible to customize to your needs, but it all depends on how much you want to customize.

Get phpBB Forum Software

#2 XMB Forums

XMB Forum Software
XMB is a good place to start if you’re new to forum hosting. They provide all the basic tools you need to get started. You can edit administration settings, templates, add/remove topics, and member settings. There are other tools available, but for the most part, nothing too complex, just your forum basics. Great for beginners.

Get XMB Forum Software

#3 UseBB

UseBB Forum Software
UseBB has the simplicity of XMB, but with a little more to offer in terms of security and anti-spam features.
There are also extra features for users to customize their profiles like remote avatars for example.

Get UseBB Forum Software

#4 FluxBB

FluxxBB Forum Software
Flux was born after forking from PunBB after it’s founder Rickard Andersson left the project in 2008. For a long time PunBB was widely used for many open-source and commercial product’s discussion boards, and several currently use FluxBB due to many of the ported over features.

Flux prides itself in it’s ease of use, fast speed enabled through their superb code, clean admin interface, flexible permission system, and powerful moderator tools that allow for easy user and consequence/reward management.

One drawback is that adding modifications might not be as easy of a task as other forum software on this list, because doing so requires manually editing source code. There are still a few plugins available, but not as many as you would expect. There are plenty of features already available for discussion boards. Unless you want serious in-depth customization there is not much more that would need to be downloaded.

Get FluxxBB Forum Software

#5 MyBB

MyBB Forum Software
What is great about MyBB is that it is both free and open-source. As a result there are hundreds of modifications and plugins at your disposal. Unlike FluxBB, MyBB will not require you to edit a single line of code. There is nothing for you to have to add anything. You get ease of access and amazing versatility. It truly is the ultimate sandbox for forum enthusiasts.

Features available by default will give you all the basics. Convenient administration, built in templates and theme editors, a reputation/warning system, a tasks system which helps with maintenance, easy moderation, private messaging, calendars and events, a mass mailing system, and fast performance. It even has MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite database support with replication/slave support built in. Any other features you would need can easily be added using modifications and plugins.

Get MyBB Forum Software

#6 PHP-Nuke

PHP Nuke Forum Module
Unlike all of the other software on this list PHP-Nuke is more of a content management system. It’s interface includes features that are specialized for online news sites, making it the perfect choice for any professional online publication.

For example, there is a WordPress like editing system so that authors can save pending posts which editors can edit before publishing. It also includes several features many news sites have such as a “Top Story” section to display the most popular stories at the top of the web page, surveys or polls to gather reader opinions on political events (or whatever poll you want to create), as well as archives to provide access to older articles. The features would also work wonderfully for guest contributor blogs as well.

PHP-Nuke can be more than just a news content management system. It’s a cake walk to add a discussion board, and as the name implies, it is PHP based. This forum software is based on bb2nuke which is a popular open-source ported version of PHP-Nuke revamped as a phpBB discussion board.

There are several add-ons and plugins available for the software which would enable users to customize their site to be able to do just about anything.

Get PHP-Nuke Forum Software

The Top Paid Forum Software Options

The last two forum software providers on this list are not free, but they are both well worth the costs. Just imagine forum software that incorporates everything we have talked about so far, but better. Let’s just say they should definitely be options you should look into, and here’s why.

vBulletin

vBulletin Forum Software
vBulletin is written in PHP, works on any operating system, and uses a MySQL database server.

vBulletin has two versions, one that is just their classic forum client, and another that is not just forum software. It also an article-based Content Management System and blogging software. This is what gives vBulletin a bit of an edge over all the others. They provide the most versatile all-in one solution for whatever you need. But, if all you need is the basic forum essentials they have you covered with the classic version, which still has easy to apply plugins.

Get vBulletin Forum Software

XenForo

XenForo Forum Software
XenForo has several influences from vBulletin because a few of the developers from vBulletin also worked on XenForo. It is written in PHP and works on pretty much any operating system. Due to it’s popularity there are several hosts that support XenForo as well, including us.

Interesting features include a “like” system a little bit like Facebook or Reddit, and it also has a feature that rewards users with trophies for reaching certain milestones of participation. User features like these encourage social engagement and participation in a way that other forum software solutions don’t explore. There are also several unique SEO features built in which has probably contributed to it’s popularity. They also do a great job with security and anti-spam.

Many of the default features will probably be enough for whatever you will need to do with your forum, but just in case, there is also a huge database of modifications and plugins at your disposal. Not only are add-ons simple to apply, but XenForo framework makes them simple to build as well.

Get XenForo Forum Software

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Start A Forum With A Small Budget (And Still Stand Out)

Learn how to create your first forum and go live for under fifty bucks – and do it today

What if I told you it’s possible to create your own forum today? Do I have your attention?

If you want a breathtakingly modern forum, built on a responsive design, you would think that it would cost quite a bit. A vBulletin or Xenforo license usually runs a couple hundred alone – and that’s leaving out the fact that you’ll also need a domain, web hosting, and design tweaks. Costs can add up. If you want to see what it takes to run a forum without a large investment, this tutorial will tell you everything you need to know.

Fortunately, there is free forum software available. One of the most popular free forum scripts is phpBB. It is an open-source script that will allow you to get up and running quickly. Cost = $0.

What you want to do now is get a domain. If you already have one, you’re one step ahead. If you don’t, registering a domain is extremely simple. You’ll now want to get your hosting account. If you host with us, we can walk you through all of these steps. We can also install the forum software for you. Plus, with our shared hosting package, you get a free domain as well. Cost so far = $24.95.

We’ve now only spent a little over $20. We have a new domain, web hosting, and our forum script installed. Now, if you want to improve the design of your forum, there are a number of styles for phpBB, but there was one I found in particular that stood out. The Metro Theme by PixelGoose has a modern, Windows 8 look to it. Plus, it’s only $15. So, for a grand total of $39.95 you have been able to get a domain name, hosting, and a professional, responsive design for your new forum.

Start A Forum With A Small Budget (And Still Stand Out)

Now you just have to get busy building it.

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Using vBulletin to Build Transparency and Community Around Your Brand

Using vBulletin to Build Transparency and Community Around Your Brand

Community is a buzzword that has become more than buzz. The businesses that “get it” are the ones focused on building a community around their brand. They understand that having evangelists and brand advocates is the trump card of real business promotion. Your customers will always be a voice that is listened to. Conversations will occur online. There will be conversations about your business. If you know these conversations are happening anyway, shouldn’t you control the dynamic?

Of course, you want to be at the center of the conversation. That goes without saying. Forums are an ideal solution for community building.  By far, the most popular solution is vBulletin. Not only are forums used to facilitate conversations around a certain topic, they can also be used for customer support, and as a knowledge base or wiki. To help outline the benefits of using vBulletin as a community building tool, we’ve outlined the key benefits of using vBulletin for your business.

1) Your website becomes the hub.

There will be conversations occurring online about your business. They can be both good and bad. You can benefit from having both occur on your website. Of course, you have to understand that creating a community means transparency. It means that, good or bad, what people post will be there for the world to see. The power in having this occur on your website versus somewhere else, is the fact that you can readily respond to negative comments. This creates transparency in the way you do business. 

2) Support issues handled online can be converted to a FAQ or Knowledge base.

If you offer a service or product, undoubtedly you will face issues that need to be resolved. Customers will have questions, people will need help. There is no point in answering the same question more than once. It wastes your time as a business owner, and the customer has to wait for a solution. You can save your time and create a valuable resource at the same time by having a support forum that allows customers to publicly post questions. Once answered, the solution is there for all to see. Plus, once you develop your community, your customers will end up helping each other with problems. You can even follow Dell’s example and create a recognition program for top contributors.

3) Having a forum comes with (SEO) benefits.

Content and engagement both play a major role in ranking. Adding a forum to your website will help you not only build a community, but you’ll also build up plenty of user-created content. This content gets indexed by the search engines the same way a blog post does. In this way, you can field the questions your customers are asking and offer solutions.

4) Crowd-sourcing at your fingertips.

Hosting your own forum also puts you at the forefront of your customers thoughts, gripes, interests, and more. If you have the ear of your customers, you can use your forum to crowd source information and find ways you can improve your product, or create something new.

 

 

 

 

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Forum Hosting Requirements

Forum Hosting Requirements
Hosting a message board or forum may not be prohibitively expensive, but the tasks of setting it up and appointing competent webmasters and moderators to maintain it could be moderately costly if you don’t shop around for the best deals on the types of services and features you need. There is also a need to allow sufficient time to build up a strong and loyal value-driven community for your site in order to reap the long-term benefits in the future. Every forum and message board community will also have issues with negative posters and negative feedback from time to time. When dealing with these negative elements it is important to realize that while the feedback posted by some of your existing clients may turn off some potential customers and put a damper on your sales abilities in the beginning, instead of getting discouraged, every challenge is a new opportunity to learn from your mistakes and do things better in the future.

Aside from setting up your site, appointing webmasters and selecting the appropriate web host to run it, there are certain other requirements of forum hosting too. A good message board with a strong community of like-minded users will also be a place where the rules are always enforced evenly and predictably. Without a good set of strong rules to ensure the whole operation runs smoothly and a clear set of steps and penalties to handle any violations that everyone can understand, there’s really no need to set up any rules at all.

Board moderation is another area of hosting requirements that can make or break a site. As a site owner, you’ll need to make sure that your moderators are handling their roles clearly and judiciously. All disputes need to be supervised and handled in the same manner for all users and the moderators should not exhibit partiality to any of the members.
When some members feel that they are less important than other users on a board, it can be a constant source of problems that need special handling. It is far better when everyone plays by, and is subject to, the same rules.

It is important to remember that the main point of hosting a forum or message board is to form a healthy community of genuinely interested and committed users that can all be considered as existing customers and of course, potential customers. A good forum with genuine users who are authorities and experts in their fields are the real strength of your endeavor. Other users will recognize this and come back to read and learn more when they trust and value the information provided by your most committed users. This requires maintaining even-handed discipline and
clearly understood rules. Even though a poster may appear to be helping to promote your products or services, when their real intention is posting messages only for the sake of link building or for other financially motivated intentions that are not genuine interaction, it can seriously impair and reduce both the vale and impact of your efforts. If you handle violations in a clear and even-handed manner according to rules that apply the same way to all users, the chances are quite good that you will have mastered the basic requirements of
successful forum hosting.

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