If you are thinking of starting a forum, you want a platform that offers easy navigation, an attractive design, and great performance. Like most people, you also want to pick one that’s free. There are tons of open source software to choose from, so how do you know which one is best for your needs?
The first step is to determine the type of forum you want to create. Do you want a bulletin board style where users can post relevant content, or do you want to create a discussion forum to engage with others on topics of interest? Discussion boards are the most popular forums because they invite users to engage with each other. For a more detailed guide on how to make a forum site, click on the link.
The best platform for a discussion forum
Simple Machines Forum (SMF) is free, professional, and easy-to-use forum software designed to help users build an online community. You have full control over the design and layout of the bulletin board, and members of your forum can communicate with each other freely. The software is written in PHP, which is a general purpose scripting language and is the heart of WordPress.
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SMF features include:
- Advanced user management options
- Can support multiple languages ââsimultaneously
- Track new and old unread topics
- Optimized for SEO
- Mods can be automatically installed and uninstalled
- Actions are IP locked, preventing “hammering”. Pounding occurs when a user attempts to connect to an unavailable FTP server without delay between attempts. Most sites have anti-hammering policies, requiring a specific interval between each login effort.
- The ability to deactivate member registration at any time
- Place the card in maintenance mode which only allows administrators to connect
- Require email authentication by sending a authentication link
- Tracking that includes traffic, new members, topics and visits per day
- Communication by e-mail or SMTP
- Ban members who violate the Terms of Service by email, username, or IP address
- An “insert a quote” function allowing users to quickly quote previous answers
Why add a discussion forum to your website
Adding a discussion board to your website can be a powerful tool in helping you build a stronger connection with your audience. In an interactive forum, you provide a space for users to communicate with each other and, in doing so, you discover your target audience. This is a great way to determine what interests your audience and identify products or content that are not relevant.
You can also passively learn important marketing information such as:
- The type of content or merchandise that attracts the most
- What time of day are your site users most active?
- The gender and age of your average user
A forum is a powerful tool for content marketing. Presenting anything from a blog post to a new product through your website’s forum gives you invaluable insight into what your audience is thinking. A forum gives you a deeper insight into what matters to your audience and allows you to create personalized content or products according to their needs.
A forum also allows you to build a real relationship with your customers, which builds customer loyalty. A forum allows you to give a feeling of reciprocity to your audience, who like to feel that they matter to the person, company or brand that they have taken the time to visit. Taking the time to create and run a forum on your website is a small reward for visitors and will keep them coming back again and again.
This gives you the opportunity to speak openly about your brand and the person (s) behind it in a personalized way. No matter how great your marketing is, there is little that can compare to talking directly to your customers. A forum has the potential to become a powerful voice on your brand. Two-way interaction is a unique experience for consumers, and a well-run forum allows you to create a space where your audience feels like they are heard.
A forum is also a great place to share information on topics that are important to you. If you have a parenting blog but also love to cook, you can create a recipe board on your forum that encourages readers to interact and share their favorite recipes. If your website is about your construction business, but you’re also passionate about the environment, you can create space in your forum to discuss environmental concerns.
Using your forum for multiple purposes can have the added benefit of driving traffic to your site from unexpected sources. You may also find that when someone needs a new roof, they visit the construction website where they spent time talking about their concerns about global warming.
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