Perception is defined as “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression”. Basically speaking how you proceed to design and act on your community sets the tone for how successful your forum will be. Perception is a basic psychological need and that goes beyond on the internet where people judge things based on gimmicks such as design, activity, and even the software you use to power your community with. Lately I have seen far too many webmasters attempt to fool themselves and discount the power of perception. How you perceive a community and how your guests perceive a community may be two entirely different things. Basic psychology in web administration simply suggests to play to your strengths. In this article we are going to explain some concepts of perception, and use some examples that are deeply rooted in administrator debate in order to make you think – the goal is not to cater to your personal beliefs but to imagine how a guest may think. These examples are real examples from real forums; they are my experiences of forum communities I have joined with so much potential but have abandoned because of perception.
How Does Perception Feel?
Perception is a topic that can make or break you. It is literally how guests interpret your website and decide how to proceed. Simple things can sway the thinking of a guest and that slight shift in perception can be the breaking point between registering, passing, or becoming a lurker. Take this example and consider it:
- User JohnSmith registers on a forum that looks semi-active and makes an introduction. He waits to see how friendly the board is and after 4 days receives no replies to his introduction. Furthermore he takes a closer look and realizes no one is welcomed to the board. He notes the same few users are making posts while the majority have not stayed.
What is the perception here? An introduction board is meant for a user to introduce themselves to the community and is considered a common courtesy, but the responses in the introduction board enable to user to find friends and feel welcomed and comfortable in their new digital environment. If you have a introduction board then users have the perception that they will be welcomed, and if they are not it gives a feeling of coldness or non-caring. It makes them investigate further and look for reasons to stay when otherwise they would have gladly joined your community.
By being receptive and friendly you give off a feeling of respect, interest, and comfort to your new users. They will feel someone cares for the community and will be there to ensure the forum remains on the correct pathway. This goes beyond introductions however and can be deeply rooted to staff and owner activity on the boards they run as well. A forum with no or all staff posting gives off bad vibes.
How Does Perception Come Off Visually?
Perception is a visual aspect as well. How you design your forum community and the software you run on it does matter. The URL itself is a factor in perception and goes beyond SEO. How your forum community operates and looks directly gives your guests and users alike a perception on what to expect. Take this example and consider it:
- Webmaster RumBeard owns a forum on pirates. In order to cut costs he uses free software from a provider such as Zetaboards and a subdomain. He then advertises his forum as the best.
The topic of software is deeply rooted in debate on many webmaster forums but it does matter. How much effort one puts into a community is directly the amount of success one should expect. Personally, a free provider and subdomain to this writer says “lazy” in a one perceptive word. It shows me that the webmaster is not engaged and didn’t care enough to even buy a $12 domain, some cheap $5 shared hosting, and an interest in an open source software like MyBB or phpBB. Perception of minor characteristics of your community may sometimes be more apparent than your efforts as a webmaster. A forum community must always put its best foot forward because we forum webmasters are a dying breed in a form of communication that peaked in 2005.
By investing and doing the bare minimum, a webmaster can show his guests and users alike his motivation, effort, and his interest. It shows that a forum can compete in a world with many competitors, and even more competing technologies. Taking the extra step is not trivial, because the perception is more than a webmaster can gamble with.
How Does Perception Operate?
Perception is how you as a webmaster and your staff members operate, function, work together, and take interest in the community. A forum with one active administrator, and no one else active is just a fool speaking to himself visually. A guest looks at many aspects and staff activity is one. How does the staff view themselves? Does the staff relate to the guest, or do they have a God complex? Take the following example and consider it:
- Webmaster Caesar sells his community on Rome to Webmaster Brutus who promises to keep it in order and to continue it. Webmaster Caesar ends up becoming the only active user and the only staff member trying to give the forum some activity.
What is the perception here? A lone staff member cannot lead a forum. This is precisely why communities like Forum Promotion exist in the first place. At some point, there were a genius who realized that forum administrators needed help too; they needed a place to network and gain allies and posters to start them off. A community with one or two staff members or no staff members gives off the perception of death, and makes a user think a forum is either dead or dying. It also gives off the perception of a community that is desperate, and is trying to remain alive or in power – it is precisely a reason for users to find a community that is competing with you (and winning) and join there instead.
Concluding Our Perceptive Article
I find that most of forum administration can be rooted from basic psychology, such as perception. Perception is a topic we cannot avoid. We do not often talk about it but while we ignore it, it does not ignore you. It guides your forum and can make or break a community. Mastering perception amongst other psychological ideals, can put you ahead and can even lead you to great success. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Rome didn’t look like a city of shacks either. Rome was grand, great, full of prosperity, and powerful . It’s perception said it was a force to be reckoned with, and that’s where people wanted to be. Make your community Rome. Understand perception and use it to your advantage.