Featured Forum – Zelda Universe Forums

Today we’re interviewing Jason Rappaport of Zelda Universe Forums.  Zelda Universe (ZU) is running on vBulletin 3.8.0, with a number of modifications including a Search Engine Optimization mod, vBSEO.  (One of the features we offer here at lefora, is automatic search optimization for all your forum’s topics, optimizing the keywords on your page, ensuring that google and other search engines crawl your forum a few times a week.)

Zelda Universe Stats:
* Threads: 79,964
* Posts: 2,461,402
* Members: 52,570

How did Zelda Universe Forums start?
The founder is a very good friend of mine named Lars Christian-Simonsen. Initially, Zelda Universe was an offshoot of his personal site, and his little guides garnered so much praise that he split it off and formed a standalone site around it. Naturally, there’s a huge community of Zelda fans out there who want to gather and discuss the series, so it was a no-brainer to have a discussion forum to go along with the main site.

What have been some goals with the forum?
The common goal of the forum has pretty much always been to bring Zelda fans together in the most convenient and interactive way possible. I can’t tell you how many friendships and bonds have been formed as a result of the incredible community that has gathered on Zelda Universe – recently, two of our members married each other! When the forum first began, no doubt it was meant to be a hub for Zelda discussion, but it has grown into its own little metropolis. I’d like to see the forum more integrated into the main site to bring that community effort over to the content-side of things, but for the most part I just want to see the forum continue to grow and spawn projects of its own. The next step is complete crowdsourcing – taking the Zelda community’s projects developed on the boards and turning them into serious endeavors that we can share with everyone on the internet.

How did you go about first promoting your forum?
Google is always a huge help, but most of our members were longtime visitors before they decided to join up! It’s not uncommon for members to pop in, make their welcome thread, and say that they’ve been visiting the site for several years and only just decided to join the forums. Obviously it wasn’t just search engine traffic that brought us up – friends bring friends, word of mouth helps things out, and I know for a fact that Lars would run around showing off his latest projects and updates to the site on other forums. The culmination of all this “press”, if you will, drove a good deal of traffic to ZU and the forums. Not to mention our Zelda information was (and is) pretty in-depth.

Do you still need to promote your forum, or does it grow on it’s own?
Nowadays it grows on its own, though I still promote it as much as I can. But at this point we’re nearly eight years old (turning on Feb. 21st!) and we’ve got a reputation as the largest Zelda community online, so people do end up gathering at ZU one way or another, it seems, even if they go to other Zelda sites. I’ve done a lot of work to make ZU more visible – both in search engines and through word-of-mouth – and I hope it’s paid off as even more Zelda fans discover our great community. I know there are still millions of Zelda fans out there, so there’s always reason to promote!

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

  1. Encourage your active members, and don’t be discouraged by the number of “inactive” members. Many people register just to get a glimpse at the site – the number of active participants on ZU at any given time is far less than the total number of registered members. A good rule to stand by is that 90% of your members will be inactive, 9% will be moderately active, and 1% will probably post more than you do. As long as you make sure the members posting are enjoying their time in the community, more people will come. Your boards will grow.
  2. Encourage your community to create their own projects, or suggest projects for you to create. By far one of our most active boards on ZU is the Feedback, Suggestions and Questions board, where people not only ask for help but also suggest new features to add to the site – and I daresay most of our new features are user-generated ideas. Now our members use these features daily, post in subforums that they wanted to be created, etc. It’s a community – build it together with your members.
  3. Encourage users to go off-topic. Don’t keep your boards to a single subject – we may be Zelda Universe, but our members discuss everything from Zelda to XBox to football to anime, and every so often I make a thread that’s just for laughs (usually in the Feedback section), and everyone spams it up and has a good time until we all decide it’s gotten out and hand and lock it up. But never limit your members – they’ll thank you for letting them have any kind of discussion they want to have. Freedom is the freedom to express oneself; never forget that.

And for all the Zelda fans out there, classic and new, which is your favorite Zelda?
My first Zelda game was Link’s Awakening, but by far my most favorite is The Wind Waker. The Wind Waker really brought me into Zelda and solidified my Zelda “fandom”, if you’d call it that and not an obsession! The Wind Waker, I believe, had a certain magic none of the other Zeldas had. Perhaps it was the art style that truly drew me in, because the storyline is pretty samey for a Zelda game. Whatever the case, many people are shocked to find that I found Ocarina of Time quite boring and never finished it, but loved The Wind Waker and have played it many times over. I don’t think that makes me any less of a Zelda fan; in fact, I’m proud not to be the generic Ocarina-of-Time-loving Zelda geek! The Wind Waker totally doesn’t get enough love.

Is there anything you would like to add?
If you’re board is just starting out, you’ve got to keep at it and really make a serious effort to grow the community. Just letting it sit there won’t help – like I said, Lars went out and made a fuss about ZU all over the internet, and if you really think your board has potential, you should be doing that, too! Once you get the ball rolling, it’ll pick up momentum and eventually become an unstoppable force. But only if you put in the effort, and only if you really believe it can go somewhere. If you don’t believe in your own project, well, who else is going to? Nobody, that’s who! So build up your community and make it great, because that’s the only thing it can become.

Author’s Comments: Jason provided some great knowledge here.  Some points of his I think everybody should take away from this:

  • “It’s not uncommon for members to pop in, make their welcome thread, and say that they’ve been visiting the site for several years and only just decided to join the forum.”
  • “A good rule to stand by is that 90% of your members will be inactive, 9% will be moderately active, and 1% will probably post more than you do.
  • Word-of-mouth is very helpful, one way to do this, is an admin, go to other forums and show-off your latest projects
  • “Encourage users to go off-topic” – after all, you’re creating a community of people that share interests, it’s very likely they’ll have fun talking about other topics on your forum.

RateItAll Badge for Lefora
January 2009
« Dec   Feb »

A Lefora Free Forum Production


%d bloggers like this: