The Forum Lifecycle And Those Who Monitor Them
Online forums thrive on the idea of a free exchange of thought. If your business provides a forum you are making it possible for people around the globe to share their ideas and perspectives. Because a single perspective may be at odds with another divergent idea the employment of one or more moderators is vital. This does not mean that the business owner must moderate it, but they can either hire a freelance moderator or they can accept a volunteer moderator from their membership list. Forums can and occasionally do get heated with two or more individuals posting material that may be considered inflammatory or simply designed to ruffle feathers. This is where the moderator comes in.
Rules should be posted and pinned (stickied) to the top of your forum categories. These rules should be prominent with strong encouragement to read and abide by them. Failure to follow the guidelines could result in either the suspension or banning of a user in violation of the rules. Obviously this action is taken as a last resort, but sometimes it is very difficult to rein certain forum members in. The moderator should use both caution and wisdom in making a decision about the status of a forum member who violates the rules.
Posts that attack a person should be dealt with quickly and, in some cases, should be removed. Not everyone who signs up for your forum will stay indefinitely. You may even have some members who will sign up look around and never post. Other member can best be described as lurkers. These members are content to read other posts, but rarely provide their own feedback. This may be a matter of comfort or a simple desire to learn what they can without becoming overly involved in a community such as a forum. The third group of members will likely be the smallest percentage of participants. These members will be active and will spend a significant amount of time with the forum and will respond when others have a question or comment. It is typically from this small pool that you may find your volunteer moderators. You should also know there is a certain lifecycle to forums.
You may find a burst of participation from a core group of members that can last several months, but little by little these cyber veterans drop by less and less while new recruits take their place. An established forum will change dynamics multiple times over its existence. This is normal and is to be expected. You may also find there may be a need to replace your moderators from time to time especially if they are volunteer. Their interest may decrease over time or their circumstances might change – always make it easy for them to pursue a new life dynamic by leaving them in the driver’s seat when it comes to the length of their involvement. Don’t spend too much time lamenting the changing dynamic because it means you are gaining new interest in your forum and, by proxy, your products or services. Forums provide an excellent opportunity to reach out to consumers, but it’s always in a state of flux. Allow your forum to roll with the punches.
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