Before I go into anything further, let me go ahead and state that @Teg (Apart of the Review Team) has requested that I make a guide/helpful post explaining what I did, and how you could get good statistics such as my site.
Another thing, I'm very visual, so I will have lots of pictures.
If you notice from my join date, the forum has only been up since October of 2015. This makes the site around 3 months old. Within the three months, I've gotten Discussions:2,016; Messages:18,967; Members:2,813
As well as having on an average of 15-20 registered members on at a time.
As for how I did this, I'll explain as well as I can. It has been a mixture of advertising on correct places, incorrect places, messaging/asking, partnerships, SEO, and a lot of luck. Each section I'll go through and break down and explain a little of what I mean.
Advertising on correct and incorrect places: When I first opened up the forums, I went through every site I could find that had my forums absolute niche involved. This doesn't mean the general genre. For example, if you ran an indie gaming forum. You would look up other websites dedicated to Indie Gaming, and focus on some specific games you'd talk about more in your current forum. For me, it was a game making program. I found other website related to said program, and I advertised on these sites. Some of them were blogs, so I'd make a generic blog post "Excellent blog post, this was very informative, and it's a program I actually just got. I've been researching the program which is how I got to this amazing blog post. I've also found some cool resources for the program LINK HERE. This blog and the resources make this program the best." This would work on a few blogs, but there were more than enough to instantly decline it as it had a link. At this point, I'd focus more on the back links and keep everything but the final part mentioning the link, and simply adding the link to the link section for a backlink. Regardless of which one get's accepted you will either have a straight up advertisement on a blog, or a very good back link. I've also advertised on several forums, both making topics about it, as well as posting it in your notifications area (News feed). Note, these were not direct advertisements, they were more inconspicuous than anything. Things like a forum post marked "Favorite Resource for x program" which I would ask the community what their favorite was, and link one that was hosted by my site. This way it's a helpful topic, and would get traffic flowing to my website. However, I have still been banned from sites by doing this, even if it's not blatant, it is still against the rules on most forums. Doing this could have negative and positive results on your site. Mine however, was positive. I ended up getting most members that way to be honest. I ended up getting a really well known member who sent a lot of other users over, and got a little too carried away and ended up advertising a lot on two websites inparticular. By doing so, I have been perm banned from them. The reason I'm telling you this is so you do not make the same mistake. Keep in mind, having one or two topics link back to your forum is fine as long as it's in a professional, and well mannered type of way. Going overboard will have a HUGE effect on both you and your forum if you do this too much. Limit this type of advertisement to a minimum. It can be the most effective method for a quick boost in activity, members, etc. but it can also be the quickest way to the downfall to your forums. I've broken two major ties to the genre world that I would otherwise have right now if I didn't do these things. I could have focused on partnering with them, and creating a bond with them, however now, I'm looked at as a spammer, and banned from their sites. These are the two main methods I personally used for my forum.
Messaging/Asking: This is something a lot of people don't think about doing, and if they do, they do it in a terrible way. This is the second thing I did when starting up my forum. I went on youtube, twitch, and everything else social media related, and typed in my specific genre (the game making program) for the same example used above, you would type in "x indie gameplay" or something along those lines for an indie gaming forum. I went through and messaged anyone with over 100 active subscribers, followers, etc. I know, 100 subscribers doesn't sound like a lot, but people with around 100-2,000 are more than likely to message you than someone with 10,000+. However, do NOT refrain from sending these people messages as well. When sending a message to people, do not spam your forum/website in an advertisement sort of way. Take the time to great them, and go in-depth with your forum/site, what your goals are for it, and ask them if they would like to join, or help out and share the site with their fan base.
Here is an exact message I sent people:
"Hey PERSONS NAME I was wondering if you'd be willing to either join or give us a shoutout. WEBSITE LINK is a new SPECIFIC GENRE community forum that will host lots of resources, games, etc. As well as allow people to sell their resources, and games to people. We're here to help out the RPG Maker MV community, and provide RM users with some amazing stuff
This message I copied was sent to a user with over 15k subscribers on youtube. After receiving this message he made a video talking about, and sharing the community to all of his followers. Many others did the same thing, ranging from 100 subscribers to a few thousand. Off of this one shout out I gained around 100 members within a day or two. I was not expecting this at all seeing as he had a lot of subscribers, but it goes to show you, do NOT hesitate to send the bigger people messages too. I've sent them from people with millions of subs, to a few hundred subs. The chances are slim the more popular they get, but the chance of them recognizing you, and your website is still there nonetheless.
Partnerships: Partnerships is something websites have been doing for ages, and can easily be done improperly. A lot of people do link for link partnerships, and stuff like this. These can actually have a negative effect on your SEO and is something you should not do. Another thing a lot of people do is try partnering with another website that is the same as them. For example, a forum trying to partner with another forum of the same niche. In all reality, this is quite pointless in my opinion. Here you have members who are comfortable with the community they are currently at, and you're trying to get those members to pretty much leave that forum for yours. Why would they join yours when they are both comfortable as well as somewhat known, and already have a foundation set a place on that forum. What I did personally, was find a blog in my niche and message them. I discussed my site, and how I wanted to form a partnership with them. We began to talk about our websites, and our goals for the forums. I mentioned that I wanted to form a partnership with the blog, and they asked me how. Seeing as I had resources (Plugins, addons, etc.) I would provide him with the links and descriptions for the resources and he could either edit them or simply post it up as a weekly post. This way he get's traffic for talking about new and amazing resources, and I got the actual final traffic from the members. At this point they'd join both of our sites. My site of ALL of the resources, and his site for the highlights of the resources. It's a win, win situation. The bigger they got, the more traffic/bigger you got.
SEO: Everyone should know about SEO, what it stands for, and what it does. If you do not, simply google it for an explanation. I spend my time either working in my real world job, and the rest updating and managing the actual forum. This means I do not have any time for SEO, however, that doesn't mean that I do not do it. I simply go and hire people for simi-cheap to get my SEO up (SEOClerks). for about $30-60 a month I get some amazing SEO. I'm ranked anywhere between 1-5 on about 20 different combinations, all of which are EXTREMELY high use rate for my specific niche. Notice, how I don't ever say niche, and I state specific niche. As stated, NEVER get SEO or anything for your niche. If you're an indie gaming forum, don't just have SEO keywords for "Gaming" "Gaming Forum" "Indie Game" "Indie Gaming Forum" go outside of the box (THough Indie Gaming Forum wouldn't be too bad). Focus your keywords on what makes your forums unique. If you do lots of giveaways have it "Indie Game Giveaway site" "Indie Game Giveaway forum" beleive it or not, a lot of people search this type of stuff. For me, I have it for the specific game program's specific version with Forums:resources:wiki:blog, after it. For example of the indie forum (Terraria 1.6 resources) the more specific you are, the easier it is to get SEO, as well as the higher member per click, and stay ratio you will have when people click on your link.
A lot of luck: When I was advertising, messaging people, etc. I had lots of 'celebs' A.K.A. super popular people in the genre join, give me shoutouts, talk about the site, websites posting about me, etc. All because of the above listed. Everything I did, happened to get noticed really quick, and it's not from skill, or anything like that. What I have listed above is stuff a lot of people probably do, but combined, and not giving up allowed me to luck out and get some highly known people to start talking about my forum, and getting my name out there.
All of the above is how you get traffic to come in, people to register, etc. How you get them to stay, keep active, etc. is all up to how you manage your site. This can be tricky as you will need something that distinguishes your forum from all others. Going away form indie forums as the example and moving into promotion forums. You have ForumPromotion.net the home, and main forum promotion on the net. Every other FP is competing against them without them having to compete at all. They are known, and what they do is the average. You will have to bring new things to the field. For a while there ForumHour (idk if it's still up) hosted by Panda got pretty big. They were just another average forum promotion forum, but they brought something different to the field. The member that posted the most for that hour had their forum banner displayed for a WHOLE hour on top of their forum for ALL to see. This was new, unique, and something a lot of people liked. It was different, and brought something new, and better to the playing field FPN didn't have. Which is what got it so popular. In order to keep people staying in your forum, and not going over to the bigger forum, the one everyone is on, is creativity, and what you bring to the table that's different and better than the top competition.
On top of bringing new things to the table, you also need incentive for the members to join and stay active. For ForumHour it was the fact that you had to be the top post for that whole hour in order to get your website featured. This made members post like crazy all the time to get that top slot. You had to out post members, and if you did, the rewards was a huge banner displaying your website on all pages. It's incentive to keep people active and posting. Other members use trophies, badges, etc. However, you will still need some sort of reward for them, which is what a lot of webmasters/forum owners forget. Rewards, rewards, rewards. Members are on there for countless reasons, help, conversation, etc. However, they all have something in common. They all want some sort of reward/recognition for their activity. Give them a reason to post, if you have to limit some non-essential feature until the hit a certain post. I'm not saying remove them from being able to see the chatroom, however, make them only able to discuss in the chatroom at 100 posts. This way they have a reason to post 100 times. Which brings me to my second thing, you need to have rewards that will keep members posting. After 100 posts and they're able to post on the chatroom, now what? Why post when they have a chatroom to post on. There isn't anything else worth getting afterall. Adding 500 posts allows you to get to use emoticons on the chatroom. I may be focusing on a chatroom, but it can be applied to anything. For me, I have a level system in place. Once they get to level 10 they get the ability to change their name once a month, custom profile background, and the ability to change their nametag (From Member, to something they want). Getting from 1-10 requires them to get loads of points from countless things such as Posting, Likes received, participating in events, answering questions, posting on the blog, posting on the wiki, etc. They have to do ALL of that in order to get to level 10. This way they have to participate in a lot of stuff around the forum to get the content they now want. Telling them what they want is another thing that shows to work. Members may not know they want a custom background, but when they see you, and your staff have custom backgrounds, they start to ask how they can get it. Once they find out how, they instantly want it, they didn't want it prior, but seeing how cool it is on your page makes them want it now. If you have a feature on your forum that's unique, or get's people to post, make sure you broadcast it. Make it known to members, do not tell them to view it directly, instead have them find it themselves. Have you seen, or experienced something when let's say your friend goes over to sit in a chair, and you say "You better sit in that chair" more than not, that person will then refrain from sitting in said chair. This is because people like knowing they have their own free will to do things. If you tell a members to post for a background, they will overlook it. However, if you do not tell them, and instead have something so they go to your profile (Such as a status update) and then they see your cool background, and you explain how to get it, at this point they discovered it on their own, and realized for themselves that they want that.
I know this is a long brick of text, but this is all exactly what I have done, and is what I'm attempting to explain to you. I started this at 21:40 It's currently 00:06 so, I was trying to get through the whole thing before I went to sleep. I tried my best to explain how to do everything, and give examples of how to do it. I hope this helps, if it did please feel free to +rep me, and post something below. Discussions, critiques, and other suggestions are more than welcomed. This is for everyone, so if your way worked more than mine, feel free to share it so others know. We're all learning how to do things all the time, and sometimes the ways that worked for us do not work for others.
In the time it took me to make this post, I gained 7 members and 29 posts:
Here is this months statistics for everyone to view.
Just to show you, that if done right, your site can completely boom with activity and gain members quite often.