Is my free forum hosting service a feasible business?

Discussion in 'Growing and Managing a Business' started by cyberpedz, May 12, 2010.

  1. cyberpedz

    cyberpedz
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    I have hosted forums before and made a little but at the time i had to sell due to family reasons, i am now back in the forum hosting business but wanted to know if this could be a feasible business?

    I am a full time care worker and have unsociable hours, i am married and have two children and desperately want to go self employed so i can spend some more time with them.

    I have had a few ideas but now sure which is best for a long term profitable business or cheapest to start out.

    My forum hosting service
    Window cleaning service
    Vehicle sign and sticker making company

    Any advice and information welcome
     
  2. Fergal

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    The fact that there are some large forum hosting businesses that have been around for quite some time would strongly suggest that the business can be profitable. The fact that you are working means that you are in employment is a great advantage and allows you to work on the business in your spare time. This will allow you to test the business concept and feasibility before making a full time commitment to it.

    Doing a basic business plan for your business would be a good way of evaluating its feasibility. A business plan does not have to be a frightening or overly complex document. Just do a brief plan for your own eyes only and keep it as realistic as possible. You should find the business plan templates in our Useful Business Resources / Links thread helpful. Also please feel free to post any questions you have, regarding your business plan and we will do our best to help you.

    Your site looks very professional which is great for inspiring confidence in your service. The next step is to build up a base of initial clients that will add sites to your board directory and posts to your support forum - this will help further boost the confidence of your potential users, as they see other people using your service. If you would like any help with promoting your service please post your questions in our Online Marketing, Advertising & SEO forum.

    I notice that you offer people the opportunity to have their forum on their own domain name. That is a big advantage for your service and perhaps it is something you could give more prominence to on the home page of your site.

    Good luck with it and I will post back if I think of anything else that might be helpful to you.
     
  3. cyberpedz

    cyberpedz
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    Thanks for the reply and good suggestion on the use your own domain feature we also allow user to use there own ads which many hosts dont so may also make this more prominent
     
  4. cyberpedz

    cyberpedz
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    I have now made the domain and use your own ads feature more prominent what do you think?

    Also anyone here want to set up a free forum and post questions in the support forum please do this will help me alot in making the forum and site seem more active
     
  5. Fergal

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    It looks great cyberpedz, those benefits are now really highlighted and obvious to any visitors. I also like the way you have used the "Create Your Free Forum Now" as a call to action button.
     
  6. houstonVijai

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    As Fergal said, there is always way to make the old business model profitable if you know how to market and sell it. You can always find customers in this internet world because there are millions of them.

    I think offering free forum with real flexible tools would really attract members but you gotta keep marketing and sell it. I like the Vehicle sticker idea too. You can do a lot in that as well. You can help people to create stickers of their own, designing and getting it printed. Vistaprint.com does it really cheap and I like their service. May be you can do similar service in your city or area. THink about it.

    Vijai
     
  7. Kay

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    I was loading your hosting site in another tab while I was halfway through reading the thread and the first thing I clicked on was the Use Your Own Ads section, so yes that catches the eye! :) And that was before I'd got to the part where it was mentioned in this thread.

    In the part underneath Create Your Free Forum Now! - will you be making the Manage, Security and Support sections link to other pages explaining more about each of them? I read down the page and would have expected something in each section of that column to be clickable. Your Support info is already at the top, true, but I did what I think most would do and tried to click the Support section heading that I was reading.

    I like your color scheme and layout too.

    What would be a great addition would be samples of the forum board styles we get to choose from. For example Fading Mist name appeals to me and suggests greys but I've no idea what it would look like. If you had a page dedicated to those, and you could add a couple in your sidebar too to give an idea of what's available, I think that would be a great help.

    Does it say anywhere if you can change your theme if you don't like it? That would be why I'd want to see samples. I'd be scared I'd pick one I didn't like just by the name and then hate it. You could probably just give the admins the permissions to do so if you didn't want to have to change them all individually yourself. Depends on how much control you're willing to give them over their subdomain.

    What forum platform are you using btw? I've tried and tested several free ones over the years and always went back to SMF. That's my favorite. :)
     
  8. cyberpedz

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    Thanks for the suggestions those are geat and will most likely get to work on that soon. I am runninf forums on phpbb and users can swap and change themes as much as they like.
     
  9. Fergal

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    It might be an idea to add a Testimonials or Featured Forums section. This would help to build trust amongst potential users, as it shows them forums and testimonials belonging to other users.

    A small contest might also help, e.g. offer a prize to the first forum using your service to reach x posts or x members. The prize needn't cost you money - it could be free promotion on your homepage or a free upgrade.

    Some international users might prefer not to use a .co.uk domain for their forum. Maybe you could also offer sub-domains on a .com domain.
     
  10. cyberpedz

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    Thanks again guys some fantastic ideas. I have spent most of today sorting out screens of the 141 styles we have, although the quality is lost a little by shrinking the screens i think it gives you a good idea. When i get another day i will try to get better images http://www.bbhosts.co.uk/styles.html
     
  11. Fergal

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    Looks great cyberpedz, you really do provide a huge range of themes for your users. I saw another forum host's website today and they had a page for top forums. It contained a list of links to the forums with the most posts, on their service. Something like that might also work for your site.
     
  12. cyberpedz

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    Thanks, i have just updated the styles images so they are much more clear. I will upload them in a mo so give it 5 to view them again

    In regard to top forums etc this will be added latter when we have some more forums and more active ones putting it up now would just make the site look inactive. ;)
     
  13. cyberpedz

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    Just to let you know i have now added more info pages to each feature and added latest forums, what do you think?
     
  14. Fergal

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    I like both of those additions cyberpedz. The latest forums listings will help to generate some traffic for your newest members and to keep your site interesting.
     
  15. Fowler

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    There is alot of forums hosts around but if you speak with the people they host, Alot are normally not entirely happy with them for various reasons. They can range from slowness (freeforums.org comes to mind for that one, being tied in and not being able to move (forumotion comes to mind with that one) and a lack of features and a lack of updates and lack of support.

    If you solve all of them they you certainly have a great chance of being successful. Regular updates, custom features, allowing people to move their forum to your host and away from you (may sound bad but if they feel they can leave, they are more likely to start a forum and may end up staying for life anyway), active support members which are knowledgeable and a well thought out plan of how you deal with growth. That is something freeeforums.org didn't have. When they started and were small they were good. As they took of, they struggled to expand and still years on they still are slow and sometimes can't cope with overload errors.
     
  16. Kay

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    I love being able to see all the color options! Much, much better. And a pat on the back to you for all that hard work. Btw, a great place to target would be the Ning free forum sites. Ning announced a month ago they would be closing down all the free services. The official date was May 4 but forums have 10 weeks to get their act together and make up their mind on whether to take the premium service or not.

    Now would be a great time to encourage them to come to you. I am sure there will be many sites that feel like feedthefire and I don't blame them. It's the MSN Groups closure all over again. There has to be ones out there that would rather move elsewhere than lose everything. From what I've read, some are transferring all their posts simply by copy/pasting their threads across to new places and getting members to volunteer to help before the deadline.

    You can see from a posting at this Ning site how one free forum company has approached it. You could add something to your page along a similar vein saying you welcome Ning users looking for a new home and will help them best you can to make the transition a smooth one.

    They've been very smart offering live chat support. There's a thread here on BAF where we chatted at length about a live chat support system I liked that's open source, Crafty Syntax. Just something to consider. :)

    I digress. :) Why not approach some of those Ning admins? Just Google something like "Ning closing network" and you'll find some. That's how I found feedthefire and this one, Theologica, which also links to a Techcrunch article about it. A well placed non-spammy comment in that TC thread might do some good as well. :)

    Hint: go back to that announcement thread too I mentioned at the start. I bet you'll find plenty of disgruntled commenters there you could contact.


    I've never figured out if there's a Ning directory of forums. If there is, I've never found it so don't ask me. Maybe someone else knows. :) That struck me as strange.
     
    #16 Kay, May 19, 2010
    Last edited: May 19, 2010
  17. cyberpedz

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    Thanks for the reply, i will most defiantly look into ning closure but i think ning forums run on a totally different software so users would not be able to just move there whole forum over unless they just copied and pasted posts.

    By the way the main site is back up again now, has been down for a few hours.
     

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