Online forums have been around for some time on the internet and often free and easy to setup. Forums are basically online discussion web sites where people share information and chat grouped around a set of topics. One example might be a local photography club. You could setup topics around types of cameras, locations for shooting, local events and meetings, printing tips, etc. Often there are administrators and moderators that help to keep the discussion orderly and on topic.
Some items to consider when starting an online forum include…
Cost – Often you can find them for free. There will probably be some advertising on the site, but don’t most sites now a days?
Features – Does the forum support avatars, private messages, user levels, themes, etc.
Security – Is it possible to create forums that only register users can post in? Helps to avoid those spammers.
I cannot stress the last one enough. You should be completely able to control who is in your forums. One bad apple spoils the bunch. On that same note, it is common for a forums to have moderators. These are people that help enforce the rules in the forum. Make sure your choose your help wisely. When it comes to administrators, there should only ever be one. Administrators have the keys to the city and can set your forum ablaze.
Finally to make a forum a success you need to attract people to it to join. Obviously if it is for a church or some other established group, this is relatively easy. Tell your friends, family, club members. If you are starting from scratch, do the same. Tell people, show people, invite people. Check to see if your forum site is listed in search engines like google. Once you get past that initial setup and recruitment your will soon be on your way to having a forum that you and your friends can enjoy.