How to Manage an Online Forum Effectively


 10/07/2014 12:00 AM

At first glance, most popular forums seem completely autonomous; active users regularly generate new content and discussions while the community usually finds ways to regulate itself. However, almost all forums require some form of regular moderation to ensure that users stay active and true to the intended purpose of the forum. While forum moderation isn’t always an easy job, it can be greatly rewarding with the right team and a solid protocol.

1. Build a moderation team

The first step in managing any forum is to establish a moderation team. While smaller forums can usually get by with a single administrator, increased activity will warrant a larger team of moderators. Moderators typically have the power to enforce forum rules and even control user privileges, but they usually don’t have the same degree of power as an administrator. Of course, this can usually be configured depending on your chosen forum software.

Some of the best moderators come from within the community itself. Look for users who are especially passionate about the forum and already take an active role in helping users. These people are often the best candidates for maintaining the forum since they already love being an active member of the community. If you’re a business offering support for your products, considering giving moderator privileges to select employees.

2. Establish forum rules and encourage quality posts

Forum rules don’t need to be too complicated nor should they be too lengthy. Most forums have the same basic set of rules, usually requiring that users stay polite and on-topic. These rules can be posted on a bulletin board at the top of each forum for everyone to see. By establishing and enforcing these rules, they’ll typically go unbroken, and the community will swiftly deal with violators.

3. Keep out the spam

Spam can come in two forms: off-topic and nonsensical posts by users or, most commonly, advertisements from automated user accounts. While the former is easily dealt with, stopping malicious advertising programs from taking over your forum can be a difficult endeavor. Most forum software has an option where all new user accounts must be approved by an administrator before being given posting privileges. This can be a very effective way of keeping out spam, but it can often take a great deal of time away from more important moderation activities. Regardless of how you choose to prevent “spambots,” make sure to ban their accounts and delete their posts as soon as they pop up.

4. Stay active and involved in the community

Staying active and involved on your message board builds goodwill among users and helps set an example for others to follow. Administrators and moderators also hold the power and clout to drive new discussions.

5. Monitor forum traffic

While having too much traffic isn’t necessarily a bad problem, it can adversely affect forum performance if left unchecked. Keep a close eye on traffic and purchase more powerful hosting plans if necessary. While hosting fees are often expensive, the rewards from maintaining an active and popular forum will greatly outweigh the costs.

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