MyBB Forum Owner Interview #1 – Sharree

We recently contacted Sharree with an invitation to be featured as our first Big Board Owner (BBO) Interview. After seeing the results he has achieved with his MyBB forums, we were eager to hear his response. Fortunately for us, Sharree agreed to sit down and have a conversation with the MyBB Team.

storymunch

First of all, he has Sharree.com which is his first MyBB site, recently joined by a board which some of you may have recently seen in the Showcase section on the Community Forums — StoryMunch. The result of the advanced customization is amazing! Here are Sharree’s responses to our questions below.

What inspired you to create your sites?

Sharree is a site for small YouTubers to share and promote their videos. Being someone whose tried YouTube in the past, I know how disheartening it is to put a lot of time into a video and have little reaction or viewership. That is why I’ve aimed to create a platform that’ll ease the struggle for small beginner YouTube channels and bring more attention to them.

There were two MyBB powered forums back in 2013 that got me interested in the software. The first was LeeFish’s BlackCanvas project which was an image gallery for sharing abstract art, the other was brad-t’s Harajuju, a Japanese fashion community. Both sites were heavily customized using the XThreads system, prior to these two I had only seen traditional forums so I was absolutely amazed at MyBB’s capabilities and what could be achieved through the MyBB software. I was inspired by them both and in 2015 it lead to me selecting MyBB to power my site Sharree.com.

Do you have any exclusive plans for your sites?

Currently Sharree is a YouTube sharing platform that allows YouTubers to share and promote their content with other YouTubers. It has been a little over a year since the site’s launch and I feel it’s time for change. I’ve decided to expand the site further by allowing other sharing options including Twitch streams, SoundCloud tracks, Graphics, and Websites. I feel the site should have more leeway for content creators, not just catering to YouTubers. There is so much talent out there that deserves to be discovered, so I hope to make Sharree the hub for all content creators to share their talent whether it be entertainers, musicians, artists, or any other craft. I am seeking more forum growth with these changes. Along with this expansion I am developing a new flat theme inspired by Dribbble, Flarum, and Shade’s MyBBoost. I have been working on these changes and I’m looking to have them implemented by early March 2017.

What do you like about the MyBB software that allows you to create your sites as you desire?

I love the flexibility of the software and the freedom in customization. To be able to develop themes, modify templates and have extensive plugin choices has allowed me to create my site as I desire. If it wasn’t for MyBB’s freedom, I would have likely selected another software. Being someone who had minimal CSS, HTML, PHP, and SQL knowledge prior to Sharree, my coding knowledge is completely self-taught through the flexibility of the MyBB software. Being a complete beginner, the ease of use of the software was a bonus. Navigating the Administration panels becomes increasingly easy over time and once you’ve adapted to the software it becomes your playground for creating anything.

What would you recommend to people looking to start a forum?

With giant platforms like Google+, Reddit, and Facebook groups, social communities for any topic have become readily available and can be created by anyone with ease. I’ve heard people say “There’s a Reddit for everything” or “There’s a Reddit for that”, the fact is giant platforms like Reddit have made it increasingly difficult for starting forums to gain traction. I feel because of these giant platforms, forums have become less popular and relevant compared to the 2000’s. Despite this added difficulty for new forum owners, getting a new forum on its feet is not impossible. Creating and launching a forum is the easiest part, I feel less thought goes into pre-development planning and having a marketing plan for post-development. Have everything thought out and thoroughly consider if your forum concept is something that the internet needs and is worth creating. After development, marketing becomes the bedrock of your forum, without it your forum will have no activity. This was the area where my focus was lacking in past projects and it is where I see most new forum owners lacking as well. Posting your forum in Showcase sections of web-development boards, begging users to join, and shutting down after a couple of months is not a marketing plan. Invest your time into your project, do your research, if you believe in your project then don’t shy away from spending some capital, and don’t jump ship when things don’t go as expected. This is what led to me becoming a Big Board Owner.

What method(s) did you use to gain activity on your forums?

After launching my site I began contacting YouTubers individually, telling them about my site and what it offers. I’ve created a website for those struggling and talented YouTubers who deserve to be brought to the forefront. The site’s concept is something that YouTuber’s really needed and it had many of the people I contacted rushing to join the site. The growth at the beginning was quite slow but seeing many of the positive comments from the YouTubers I contacted, I became more and more confident with the site. The method that brought the most activity to my forum is influencer marketing, in May 2016 I began contacting larger YouTubers who’d recommend my site to their subscribers. I was hesitant about the cost but the turnout was amazing as the forum surged with activity. The sudden influx of users had me upgrading my webhosting plan three times in one day. With the increased activity I began offering users an incentive for creating videos about Sharree where their YouTube channels would be featured in the header of the home page. As of February 2017 there are over 6,000 video results for Sharree.com, all helping bring further activity to the forum.

What do you like most about the MyBB software?

What I like most about MyBB is the freedom in the software. Being able to play around with templates allows me to mold the software into something unique that stands out from ordinary traditional forum layouts. Plugins like XThreads and Template Conditionals by ZiNgA BuRgA are examples of the extensibility that the MyBB software offers, I don’t think turning a forum into a complete video, music, or image gallery would be possible with any other forum software.

What is one thing that you regret most during your development time?

One thing I regret is when my forum began getting a lot more activity, I panicked. Initially I was running the forum on my own with my friend Bobby helping with moderation. With the amount of reports we were getting we really needed more staff members, and we needed them fast. Instead of having applicants and selecting users best suited for the position, I chose the first users who volunteered. It was a disaster. To new forum owners, this should be obvious but I recommend you think thoroughly before giving users moderator privileges.

How much time and effort do you put into maintaining the boards?

On average about 20-30 hours a week are spent maintaining the board, sometimes more if big changes are being made or site updates are being implemented. Although most of the site’s development is done by me, I have to thank my staff team Jennifer, Shayne, and Ryan who help generate new ideas for the forum and ease the workload by voluntarily moderating the site on a daily basis. I’d also like to thank Sharree’s Mentor Team who voluntarily assist users by offering advice as well as their guidance.

Can you share on your forums’ profits?

I do not wish to reveal the exact amount I’m making through the forum, however to give you some idea of my forums’ profits: After one year of running the forum I felt secure enough to leave my part-time job and focus on my forum full-time. I am very grateful for my users as I am currently able to pay for my schooling without taking any student loans.

What are you hoping 2.0 will bring to a site like yours?

I am unsure if I will be upgrading Sharree to MyBB 2.0, it may be difficult to transition to the new version. Plugins that are essential for my forum’s functionality may need to be modified or completely rewritten although that cannot be answered until MyBB 2.0 is released. Based on the screenshots, videos, and demos I am very excited for its release. I will definitely download and experiment with MyBB 2.0 when it’s released, possibly using it in a future project.

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