Building an active forum
When was the last time you wanted to participate in a dead forum? While some forum users may enjoy talking to themselves, the majority don't. Activity creates activity. In order to get active members, you need to already have an active forum. Here are some successful methods to jump-start activity on your forum:
Content is King
You never want an empty forum. In addition to a rules thread, you want to make sure that every forum you made has "starter threads." These starter threads contain relevant content about the topic of that forum. They can be outside sources (ie. current news) or created by yourself. Members like quality content so create as much as possible. Under no circumstance should you ever have empty forums, they can be a major turnoff for potential members.
There are thousands of other forum admins trying to get members. One way to gain members is to participate in "post exchanges" with other forum admins. As the name suggests, you post in their forum and they post in yours. This is a great way to network with other forum admins, share tips, and overall make your forum more active. You can find other admins in our Forum Promotion board, and send them a PM.
Fake it 'til you make it
While a somewhat controversial method, it's perhaps the easiest way to spark activity. The saying "fake it 'til you make it" can really apply to launching a forum. It's absolutely necessary to launch a forum with at least 20 active members. If you can't get friends and family to participate, you need to create fake users and post from those. Signup on your forum with other usernames, and hold discussions between your different usernames. Create as much content as possible, making your forum appear active. Once you start getting real members, you can fade out the fake users until you're left with just your main username.
Once you have around 20 active members and lots of quality content, it's time to go out and advertise your forum.
Overall members are attracted to two things: content and other members. Once you create quality, relevant content on your forum, you need to get active users either by asking people you know or by creating these users yourself. Creating an active forum isn't easy, but these steps will send you on your way to success. Just remember, Activity creates activity.