How To Start A Forum Or Online Community

I've been running online communities for around 8 years now, and people ask me questions about it all the time.

One of the biggest questions I get is how to start a forum. I also get asked how to run a forum, best ways to manage your community, what to do when this or that happens...

Every single time, I recommend the exact same thing: a book by Patrick O'Keefe- Managing Online Forums.
It is THE book on starting & managing a successful online community.

I first read MOF more than 2 years ago (closer to 3, I believe) and have since had the opportunity to meet Patrick O'Keefe in person. He's not just an author, but the owner of several large (and very successful) niche discussion forums.

I was in the process of a complete overhaul with my 5-year-old discussion forum when I first picked it up. I thought I might get some good ideas to use, and learn ways to manage the incredible growth spurt it was experiencing.

I did not expect it to be a fun read. Or very engaging at all, for that matter. I simply expected it to be a dry learning experience, and hopefully pick up a few things I could implement to improve my already successful forum.

I was dead wrong...

I took FIVE full pages of notes in Chapter ONE alone!

Yes, it's that good. It's the one book that I recommend to everyone interested in learning how to start a forum for traffic or profit, or how to start & manage an online community of any kind.

Obviously I'm not alone in absolutely loving this book. On Amazon, 47 out of 50 readers gave it a FIVE star review:

Managing Online Forums: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Run Successful Community Discussion Boards

That link will take you to the paperwork version, which is what I have. They now also offer the Kindle version. MOF is a must-have whether you already run a thriving online community, or you're interested in learning how to create a successful forum or community. While it is specifically about "managing online forums", much of the information can be applied to running any type of community.

Resource Guide

It contains 10 specific sections outlined in the table of contents, with detailed subtitles for the things covered in each section, making it useful as a resource guide you can refer back to over and over.

Need to keep members engaged?
Study Chapter 8.

Need to develop communication guidelines? Flip to Page 62 in Chapter 3.

Looking for advice on banning users?
Flip to Page 207 in Chapter 6.

Want to make money with your forum?
Chapter 9 details a variety of options.

I LOVE the way this book is laid out!

My opinion? Managing Online Forums is required reading for anyone managing or starting an online community. You can get it on Amazon for just $24.00 (and is worth 100x time for anyone applying the goods). Or the Kindle version is only $4.49.

Honestly, you couldn't ask for better training - and for under 25 bucks even. Like I said, I got TONS out of this book and I had been successfully running a discussion forum for more than five years when I first read it. I've referred to it constantly over the last couple of years, and highly recommend it to everyone I run into.


p.s. A good read is Michel Fortin's post titled How I Used My Forum As A Marketing Tool. There are many ways that forums and communities can be incredibly beneficial to your online business - and Michel does a good job of outlining how he has used his.

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...moreยป


  1. I purchased this at your suggestion! Looking forward to it.

  2. Hey Lynn,

    Wow, thanks so much for the review. It has made my day! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I really appreciate it and all of the kind words. It means so much to me to hear that the book has been so helpful to you.

    Thank you, as well, for continually recommending it to your friends and for being a supporter of the work over the last couple of years. I am very appreciative.

    Thanks again,


  3. Hi Lynn

    I also got this at your suggestion - I lent it someone last year and had to literally beg for its return. Not a good look at the best of times lol!

    But earlier today I was talking to someone about it as we're working on a project where a forum could provide a very good fit with our target market.

    Now I'm feeling compelled to get on with it ... ๐Ÿ™‚ ...

    • Thanks for picking it up! I appreciate it.

      • Truth be told I'm a little afraid of the magnitude of what might be involved ... even though I know its THE one to read ๐Ÿ™‚ ...

        • To do with managing an online community? It can definitely be a complex, challenging role. It depends on what you want to do. It's not always a good idea. ๐Ÿ™‚



          • Looking at how well Lynn does it is thought provoking because I don't like giving anything less than my best to a project and maybe its something I should hold back on until I see if there's a natural demand ... I have to say I was thinking it might be a good method to simultaneously research my market ...

            Thanks for your comments ... very helpful. Now I've got to have a read ๐Ÿ™‚ ...

  4. I purchased this some time ago, at Lynn's recommendation, and have really enjoyed it. Got some very good information. It is very thorough and practical.

  5. Having your own online community is a great marketing strategy, though managing it is the hardest part. Now I wonder how the book help in making this task easier ๐Ÿ™‚ Will do check the paperback version.

    By the way, thanks for the follow on twitter Lynn ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. I could now imagine how many pages you would have of notes if you read all the chapters of the book! I'm curious like everyone else about this book.

  7. Starting and managing a membership site is a lot easier than you would expect. Patrick O'Keefe is about the best teacher there is about this topic. He and Ryan Deiss pretty much dominate that niche.

    And for the price of the book, it's real no brainer. Even if you are only THINKING about putting together a membership site, this is really a must read.

    I'm thinking about it for my niche, so I'll have to run over to Lynn's link again and pick a copy up for myself.

    Enjoy your day.



  8. Is there any copy of this as en ebook? I love to know more about this book because I heard good reviews about it. Thanks!

  9. Thank you so much for the info. I am just opening up my Forum today and I am very grateful fo this.

  10. Trish Lindemood says

    Do you have any recommendations re: how established your main site or blog should be (in terms of traffic, etc...) before exploring this option?

    It seems like you would want to have some type of solid foundation first before launching into something like this.

    • It can really vary. I manage communities that are the main site. That's what they are, the community. But, if you're looking to launch a community off of your blog or some other site, it doesn't hurt to develop some traffic and ask your current visitors if they would be interested in something like this.

      If they say yes, maybe hold them to it by asking them to be a part of a pre-launch group of people who receives private, pre-launch access to your site to help get some activity going before it starts.

      I hope that this helps.



  11. Thanks for the recommendation Lynn. I've purchased the Kindle version and am into the second chapter already. Looks like something I need to move my own communities forward. Thanks a bunch! Pam

  12. Just bought it. Thanks Lynn!


    • Thanks Mr. Frey! I really appreciate you picking it up and would love to hear your thoughts when you have had a chance to read it.


  13. I'm thinking the same thing as Trish, what was your traffic on your site doing the Tips etc. before you went full forum???

    • You would be surprised at how small my list was and how low my traffic numbers were when I first set up a forum. It was actually the forum that initiated the growth. I will say that my readers were very responsive, so that helped. I also started engaging discussions (didn't just let it sit bare). It didn't take long for it to grow into an active forum.

    • Hey Mr. Storzieri,

      I just responded to Ms. Lindemood with some thoughts. Basically, though, there is no specific answer or requirement.



  14. Chris Warburton says

    Hi Lynn, thanks for a great post. My partner is the very early stages of setting up her vegetarian blog. I think at the moment she has about 5 - 10 readers per day - nopt a lot I know. What numbers would she be needing to think about starting an online forum? Thanks

  15. Thanks for this resource! I've played around with the idea of starting my own forum. I did start one a few years ago but never really did much with it. It seems to me though that a lot of the successful people I see around me started with some sort of public 'forum' be it an actual forum or a podcast or a popular blog.

    Getting that message out to a lot of people and building that audience really is so important.

  16. Thanks for another great review Lynn. I need to build a forum (my first) for a client site and am thinking about adding one to one of my niche sites so this is very timely for me. I've bought the Kindle version of this book and have already started reading it.

    Thanks again.

  17. Sounds great. I'm going to pick up a copy when I get back to my laptop tonight.

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