Forum Administration

Administrating a Forum: Be Polite, Enthusiastic, and Rational

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The most important figure in a newly founded forum its its administrator. A forum can succeed or fail solely based on how the administrator conducts himself. A polite administrator can encourage members to stay active through his personality but an out of touch, robotic, or rude administrator can very quickly destroy a forum.

There are three qualities which a good administrator has: politeness, enthusiasm, and rationality. These qualities need to manifest into not only every post the administrator makes on his or her forum, but also the forum’s rules, structure, and policy.

Being a Polite Administrator

When a forum is new every single post made on it by someone other than its founder is like a miracle. Without new posts a forum can quickly starve to death. Posts are like breathing; if air is deprived from a person for only about a minute that person will die and cease to exist forever. Similarly, forums are kept alive by new posts. If the forum becomes inactive, the inactivity will continue, and build upon itself, until the forum is a graveyard.

What does this have to do with politeness? Everything.

People like being complimented. One reason why people post on forums and websites, or talk at all, is for self-confirmation. So that they can know that whatever they are doing is a good thing. If someone posts a link to their website and wants feedback then that means they want to be told not only how to make their website better but they also want to be told that their website is good and valuable; even if it is lousy. If someone posts on a topic in an anime forum saying that One Piece is a great anime, then deep down, they want to be told that they are spot-on, and that they did not waste their time in watching it.

What I am suggesting that administrators do is this: when someone posts a message on your forum encourage them to post more messages through positive reinforcement. Not only will it make members feel good about themselves but also about the forum they are posting on. It will also make users happy so that they do not create controversy on your forum.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • When someone posts a suggestion ALWAYS say that you are considering it and that it is a good suggestion even if it is terrible. Of course you can point out problems with it but also lace those logical points  with different compliments.
  • When someone posts a link to their own website always say that the website is good, regardless of whether it is or not, then proceed to point out whatever issue make it less than good, without outright saying that it isn’t any good.
  • When someone breaks the rules give them the benefit of the doubt. Send warning/reminder messages to them exclusively via private message and not via the public forums. Do not talk about the status of someone’s account (warnings, etc) in public and if someone does ask just find a very polite way to say “no comment.”
  • When someone says they are interested in something do not say that whatever they are interested in is no good. You don’t have to compliment it but if you really don’t like itsimply don’t post on it at all; unless whatever they mentioned is against the rules.
  • Write rules & announcements as simply and informally as possible.
  • Do not publicly discuss things like “bans”, and do not mention specific consequences in your rules. You can mention those in private guidelines for your moderators.

Being an Enthusiastic Administrator

A good administrator needs to post frequently, be involved in the community at every level, and be interested if not in every discussion, then a lot of them. Not only is enthusiasm about post count but also about appearances. An administrator must present an image of success to members and staff alike so that people feel that the forum is doing well. If the forum doesn’t appear to be doing well, it won’t do well. Below are a number of ways an administrator can show enthusiasm.

  • Your forum is succeeding. That is the image you need to present. And even if the forum is not active right now, you need to present the image that your forum has intrinsic value, either in the idea or in its content, and that it’s making a comeback.
  • Your members’ posts and websites are interesting. As mentioned in the section above; every post on a new forum is a godsend. You need to show interest and make a reply if you can think of a good reply to make.
  • Your forum is a great idea. If anyone is going to believe in your forum then it firstly has to be you. If you are bored by the idea of your foru then you need to shift your forum’s focus to something else. When you find an idea you are interested in, make sure that the people around you know how interested you are in that idea, and that you believe the website will succeed.

Being a Rational Administrator

An administrator needs to take an analytical approach to running a forum. That means quantifying the progress which has been made with the forum, analyzing which marketing methods have been most efficient, and working with designers to create branding which is calculated to engage users who are interested in the forum’s subject matter. There are many things which a rational forum administrator will do. Below is a rough list.

  • A rational administrator must be patient. That means accepting that it will take time for a forum to gain attention and giving staff members plenty of time to turn around their activity.
  • Metrics are very important when administrating a forum. By that I mean monitoring the post count and registrations as well as monitoring what causes the post count to increase (such as bumping a promotion topic on a particular forum, or buying an ad). This also combines well with patience because if an administrator can engineer their forum such that the post count increases at a steady rate the forum will be successful. It just may take time.
  • A good administrator must be able to understand, or figure out, what people want whether it is in a suggestion thread or whether considering what to offer guests who have not yet registered.

Conclusion

There are three qualities which are crucial to the successful management of a new forum: politeness, enthusiasm, and rationality. If you do not possess one of these qualities, however, then there is still hope. You can always find an administrator for your website who has one of those qualities, so long as you treat him or her with respect.

I hope you have found this article to be informative. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

G
Well , I enjoyed reading this, and think it is good advice, I appreciate someone taking the time it took to write it, it is well written too.
J
Well written article, Matt. Thanks
M
That is terrific information. An ideal all administrators should be yet some are definitely not. However, I know which kind I want to be and that is a good start...Thanks for this article.
T
  • T
    tinfoilhatter
  • January 28, 2015
great article! My motto has always been to be polite, firm, but friendly, and always helpful.
New members really appreciate the guidance when signing up.
T

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