Community: Making New Members Feel Welcome
When starting a new community the hardest part has always been gaining new users. Once you have them, though, how do you keep them? Making sure your newbie members feel welcomed is imperative to building your member base. It does a webmaster no good to get hundreds of registrations when no one ever posts! These following members are just a few tips on how you can welcome your newbies in to your community, hopefully building a happy and friendly forum society.
A Customized Welcome Email/Private Message
A forum hopping person comes to expect the default messages when they register. However, by customizing your messages, you are showing you have spent time in making your forums unique! In your message, welcome them by their username. Make sure that it mentions any important information you need your new members to know. For example, the forum rules, where they should post first, and who they need to contact if they have any questions or comments! Describe what your forums are and their purpose just in case the member forgot why they register there in the first place.
Make Use of an Introductions Forum
New places can be intimidating, whether it is well established or still in its beginning stages. An introductions forum is the perfect place for your new members to post their hellos and be greeted by the community. Have a sticky thread with the same sort of information as your welcome email, letting the new member know key info about the site. Add some extra suggestions, like what the person can post in their introduction about themselves! Noting interests, reasons why they joined, or even a small survey they can copy and paste will give them something to say, as well as showing you care about getting to know your new members.
Encourage a Welcome Committee
If you make use of an introductions forum, encourage your members to greet the newbies. New members are the future of your forums, but they can get scared away quick by a newbie-resistant community. Getting the current members involved in meeting new people helps prevent them from feeling they are being replaced, plus giving a nice sense of responsibility in aiding the growth of your forum. Be careful of newbie “claiming”, however. Sometimes members get competitive in claiming the newbies before anyone else, rather than welcoming new people. Make a special note about how new members should be greeted, to remind your users. Have them recommend forum sections they think the newbie would enjoy, or volunteer to help the newbie when they might have trouble. New members always feel special to know that they’ve made several new friends already!
A Newbies Guide to the Forums
Even with use of the welcome email and the introductions forums, it’s impossible to answer all questions right away. Especially if you have a large community! Write up a forum guide for your newbies explaining all those important or sometimes confusing things that might boggle a new member. Instruct them where the FAQs are located, where they might find the rules, or help sections on the forums. Explain some of the forum sections where they can chat with other members, or special features you may have such as games or galleries. Little things are also important; where to fix their avatar or signature, how to send a private message, the differences between user groups. Things like this may seem like common sense for the savvy forum user, but remember that not all new members may be as well associated with your forum program or even the internet in general! A newbies guide will be an excellent place to point new members if they have a ton of questions.
Mentor or Adoption Programs
After having a forum community for awhile, and you find that the place seems to be flooded with an abnormal amount of inexperienced newbies more than established members, it may be time to start a mentoring program. Similar to the welcoming committee, but instead of all members greeting the newbies you’ll have one or two users adopting a new member and being their mentor for a time. The mentor takes up the responsibility of guiding the new member, helping them mistakes or questions, getting them involved in forum activities and being a friend. Where in the welcoming committee members greet and disperse, a mentor will always be there to guide until that newbie feels comfortable and established as a regular member in their own right! A system like this can be simple, an unspoken agreement with members when they greet and adopt a newbie, or more complex using staff, official volunteers and user groups. Either way, this is an excellent way to form friendships and promote good relationships between members in your community.
Remember, new members are the future of your forums. As older members lose interest, disappear or become lurkers its your newer members that will replenish your member base! Its always good to make sure they get well acquainted with your community right from the start to build a good foundation for your forums.