One of the most common questions I get asked by new affiliates is help with their forum. I’m planning a series of articles in regards to that where I suggest that you DON’T start a forum, as it can be a LOT of work making it profitable, and your time would be best spent elsewhere.
However for those who DO wish to use a VBulletin, I’ve compiled a list of just SOME of the VBulletin plugins I use on the 30+ forums I run, to make your life easier, and your forum better.
VBSEO – Fantastic VB SEO plugin. Costs $149.
Zoints SEO: If you don’t want to pay for VBSEO, Zoints does a solid job for free. Obviously not as good as vbSEO, but still a solid second choice.
For a CMS…
VB Adanced CMPS: I believe this is the most popular CMS and is free. It also has some paid options(Dynamics, Links Directory).
VBPortal is another option. I’ve never used it however.
I’m particularly fond however of WordPress/VBulletin Bridge which integrates the accounts on VBulletin with your WordPress site or vice versa. It also integrates articles, comments etc. One of the main features for example is that you can have your WordPress posts appear on your forum automatically as well(either in full, or excerpt format), and when people reply to the thread, they show up as comments on the WordPress page.
Forum Games Related:
Casino: Adds a casino to your site, with blackjack, Roulette etc.
IBProArcade: Adds an arcade to your site. This thing is AWESOME, and I find it is fantastic in regard to retention for members. They’ll become hooked on the games. If you’re looking for games, I have a bookmark for this site, but I must admit I never use those. I paid for a membership at IPBArcade Downloads and get all my games from there. They’ve got over 4500 games. Just don’t go crazy adding games and overwhelm everyone. I generally like to add 2 new games a week.
IPBProArcade has a bunch of addons – one I highly recommend is Make a new post on highscore. Keep it just to the one thread, and everytime a member beats someone elses high score it posts it there. Adds a lot of fun to the forums, and keeps people reminded of the highscore etc.
vBookie: Run your own sportsbook, where you or members can set events etc. Requires a tweak of coding(see the last few pages for that) to get it working, but I’ve found is very popular with sports fans.
If you get all of the above, I highly recommend you get…
VBCredits: The ultimate points system for VBulletin. You can also integrate ALL of the above into it, so that people will have just one “currency” to use all throiugh the forums. Sadly it doesn’t have a “store” where people can purchase custom titles for others etc(at this time – they’re planning on adding this), but I just appoint someone to handle things like that manually and be the “bank”.
XBox Live Leaderboard: If you have a lot of XBox 360 owning members this is a must. Basically they enter their gamertag in their profile, and it adds a leaderboard to the site based on achievement points(which many people love to show off). You can also add leaderboard standing, gamertac etc. to the post, and it makes it easy for people to connect off the forums(which builds a stronger community).
LiveTopic: It can be really good at adding interaction to topics. If you have a forum with “Gameday” threads and a lot of members, you’ll be loved by the members when this is installed.
AME 2.5 Embeds media to the forums, like Youtube videos etc. Has absolutely TONS of options and you can get the XML Media Definitions List too. Does a fantastic job at keeping people ON the forums rather than going to other sites.
VB Experience: Post Count is so 2001; measure e-penis size now by experience points! I’ve had mixed results with this – some forums I’ve ran they don’t care about it at all, others live by it.
Facebook Connect: Users can log in with their facebook account without having to register. I’m sure someone could use one of the facebook styles out there(like this one) and reap the rewards of Facebooks growing popularity.
Icons for User Control Panel: Just makes the forum look that much more slicker.
Track Guest Visits: Ability to see guests on your forum, what they browse etc. So if you see a lot of guests reading the NFL forum you have for example, you could make that forum members-only, and encourage the guests to register to continue reading.
Force Users to read a thread: You can use this for many things, like making members read the rules before signing up, or when you do a change etc to the forums that is important. Or if you are running a private poker tournament for your forum, make sure everyone reads the thread 🙂
Visitors in last X Hours: Shows how many people(members+guests) visited forum in last X hours.
Auto Birthday Greeter: Posts a thread wishing users a happy birthday if they entered their birthdate and allow it to be public(which is about 90% of the forums from what I’ve seen). This is always popular.
Advanced Forum Statistics: Just an awesome stats plugin, that can all be viewable on forum home. There are quite a few stats plugins(ie: psiStats but I’ve always been happy with AFS.
Photobucket Image Uploader: If you have a lot of members with Photobucket accounts who post images from there on the forums, use this to easily integrate it into the forums so they can upload an image to Photobucket without having to leave your site. There’s also an Image Shack & MegaUpload one, and most likely a few other alternatives.
Image Resizer: One of quite a few options, stop broken tables due to large images and have your images resized automatically if too big.
Ultimate Side Columns: Great for adding side columns to your forum, left, right or both.
Photopopup: Makes inserting images from vbalbums, PhotoPost etc very easy.
Notepad: Adds a notepad to peoples user control panel. If you have a strong community who basically have the forum set as their homepage, this goes down well.
MySmilies: One thing I got tired of was users asking me to add smilies/emoticons for them to use on forums. Thank god for MySmilies, which allows people to add all their own smilies.
Popup Private Messaging: Makes it that much easier to PM people with a little popup rather than taking them to separate page.
vbStopForumSpam: There’s LOTS of spam plugins out there. This one I love because it checks a users information against the list at StopForumSpam.com. It catches so many freaking spammers for me it’s unbelievable.
Limited Guest Viewing: Limits guest viewing. You can set it so guests can only read a few pages or whatever, before being forced to register.
Also there’s a bunch of Twitter related ones. vbTwitter integrates Twitter in the forums. There’s a template hack to have Twitter status in your signature too. I personally use vbStatus for a lot of sites, which is like Twitter/Facebook Status Display but for your forums.