Forum Administration

Fatal Mistakes That Staff Members Can Make

Many problems that forums both new and old can face is mismanagement. Mismanagement is something that can destroy even an extremely successful forum in a matter of days. The decisions that staff members make can easily alienate an entire base of members. This article will outline some of the things staff members can do to easily alienate their entire base of members.

Sweeping Changes
Imagine that you have a forum that has been up for a few years as a gaming forum, and you’ve got a pretty large base of members. One day, you wake up and decide that you’re going to change your forum to a place for remote control car enthusiasts. You post an announcement stating your intentions in the announcement forum, and to your surprise, very few people are as enthusiastic about this idea as you are! In fact, many of them say that they will leave if this happens! You think that people are just being dramatic, and you go through with the change. The next day, your forum is a ghost town.

This scenario shows that making huge changes without taking what the members want into account is a very bad idea. If your forum has been one way for a long time, members get used to having it the way it is. If you want to make a drastic change (i.e. converting to a light theme when your forum has had a dark theme for years), you should probably consult the community first. Get their opinions. Make sure that most members are okay with the change. If you make sweeping changes without even thinking about the opinions of the members, then the results can be disastrous.

Unknown Staff Members
Many people use the hiring service on FP to hire staff members for already established forums. Usually, these new staff members for the established forums will register as a new member to become staff.

This, in my opinion, is a really bad idea. You should never hire people you don’t know to help staff your already established forum. A lot of your active members who weren’t even considered for the job might feel cheated. In fact, I would say that you should only hire people as new staff members if they have been in your community for a long time or if you have known the person for some time. Make sure the person is honest, respectful, and committed to the job. Remember that when you make someone a staff member, you are giving them a lot of power over your forum. This power could be used to delete all the topics on the forum (even though you probably have backups), ban members just for fun, edit members’ posts left and right and make them say insulting things, or even delete your forum. These things can easily take your forum from thousands of active members to zero in a heartbeat.

Choosing staff members is a huge responsibility, and you should treat it as such.

Inactivity
Especially on newer forums, the staff members have the responsibility to create new content to keep users around. Unless your forum is very large, there usually aren’t enough members to continue generating content for each other. That being said, if the staff members become inactive all at once, it can easily kill a forum. It’s also not all that attractive to see inactive staff members, and inactivity among the staff could easily stall your forum’s growth as well.

If you (the administrator) are going to be absent or extremely inactive for a period of time, make sure that you leave plenty of people who are willing to create content and moderate the forum in your absence.

Aggression
Often, if it becomes too stressful to run a forum, administrators and moderators will become extremely aggressive. They will start excessively handing out warnings, bans, etc. They will overmoderate and make the members feel oppressed. If you give out warnings or bans for every little thing, your members won’t be able to have fun on your forum; they’ll be too worried about getting in trouble. At that point, they will probably find somewhere else to go where they can actually enjoy themselves.

If running the forum becomes too stressful for you as an administrator, then you probably need to staff up to decrease the load on yourself. If you decrease the amount of moderating, coding, etc. that you have to do, then you won’t be as stressed; you’ll be able to enjoy yourself and the community again. If one of your staff members is being too aggressive due to stress, then you need to have a talk with that staff member. See what you can do to lighten his/her load. If this staff member continues being too aggressive, then it’s probably time to let him/her go. Some people can’t handle being staff of a forum that isn’t small and intimate.

Cheating
You decide that you want to make your forum look more active than it is, so you copy some topics in your trash forum. Nobody will see it, and it will make members more likely to join and post, right? Well, that’s not exactly true. Members will join expecting a lot more posts than they find, and they will probably just leave when they realize that your forum isn’t as active as it appeared. It is also not hard for members to add up the amount of posts in each forum and realize that a few hundred thousand posts are missing. Once that happens, it’s all over. You’ll be humiliated, and many of your members will probably be very upset that you deceived them. People aren’t stupid, and they don’t appreciate it when others act as though they are.

Status Quo
If you think that your forum is doing very well and decide that you don’t need to create anything new, then you have a problem. While some members will be content with the same old things on your forum, some will want new features and things to do on your forum. It can easily get stale when the same old thing is happening for so long. Be sure to always update your forum. A forum is never “finished.” Your forum needs to always be under construction with improvements and updates being made constantly.

Put the Members First
Now that I’ve gone through some fatal mistakes that staff members can make, I’d like to remind all administrators that the members need to be your first priority. If you keep getting the opinions of your members and following their advice, then you generally can’t go wrong. Make sure that your members feel like your staff members serve them; they should never feel like the staff members don’t care about members and their opinions.

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