Forum Staff: A successful forum management team.
By: Shawn J. Gossman
In this day and age, forums need to have proper staff members who become proper assets to the community. A forum can easily be run without any staff members whatsoever but as it grows, the owner will need to contribute more and more time and energy to it. If the lone forum owner is devoting too much to the forum, running the forum could become a very overwhelming process. This article is my all-in-one guide to having staff, running a successful staff team and dealing with staff issues that will likely occur on your forum at one point or another. Please note that this article does not cover everything that you will experience when you have a staff team but it covers the jest of it all. Note that having a staff team will take a bit more attention to detail but in the long run, it is very much worth it rather than trying to do it all yourself especially when the forum starts to have an exceptionally larger growth.
When should you get staff?
I personally like to get staff right at the beginning. See, when I launch a forum, the first couple of months is about adding new content and getting things in full swing. Now I can be the lone staff member and even the lone member and add a bunch of new topics each day for a while. However, that is all I can do, add a bunch of new topics. If I had a staff member to help me out, I could add the topics and he or she could make replies giving more a chance to reply in return and developing great discussions. If you forum has two staff members but no members, that is perfectly fine as long as the two of you are working on making the forum active in its beginning days.
It is also a good idea to have another staff member for ideas about the forum. Two minds working together can be better than one mind in most cases. You may be stuck on what extra features or sections to add and the other staff member could help out by giving their suggestions. The other staff member can also help you get more members as well and promote the forum. However, I will give you a word of advice. Do not rely on your staff members to promote the forum and keep it active. It shouldn't be them doing it; it should be a team work effort meaning you too. It will take you and a big part of you to help make the forum into something nice and active. If you put it all on your staff team, they will likely become overwhelmed and bored and they won't be that much of an asset on for your forum anymore.
How do I go about hiring staff?
Hiring staff is one of the easier parts of running a forum because there are usually plenty of people who want to help out. You first need to figure out if you will be paying the staff members or if you want to hire volunteers. If you do hire staff to pay them, you need to create some kind of system that will put worth to actually paying them. This would be something like a quota of posts and activities like that so that you are not paying for inactive staff that simply just comes around for a paycheck. If you want to go the volunteer route, that is fine as well because that is how most message forums do it. You just need to try to offer your volunteers some kind of extra benefits such as premium membership after 90 days or something like that.
When hiring staff, it is okay to start out with 1 or 2 additional staff members when you first start because that could help get your forum going. However, the more staff you add, the less staff will have to do and then it could become boring to be staff on your forum. I recommend having one staff member per every 200 members. So if you have 800 members, I think having 4 staff members (including yourself) is a good number to have. You don't want too many staff members otherwise you will notice that your community is active because of staff only. Then once it goes inactive, you will be relying on your staff to get it active again. I have learned from this exact mistake a time or two in the past. The best thing to do when asking yourself if you should hire another staff member is to observe the forum environment around you. Does the forum need another staff member? Are you and the other staff members overwhelmed with activities and assignments that spark you to get another staff member on board? If everything is going smoothly, then there is no need to make changes in organization and team structure.
The best place to find new staff members is your forum. You should look at active members and see how friendly they are and if you think they would make great staff members for the forum. If everyone gets along with them and they are helpful to the members and the community, then they will likely make a great addition to the team. However, you should ask them first rather than make them staff without hearing what they have to say about it. If you do not have any members or there is no one on the community that wants to be a staff member, then you should go look outside the community for new staff team additions. You can use admin forums like TAZ to post in the help wanted section of these forum owner communities. You can also seek staff on the popular forum promotion community at ForumPromotion.net. There are always tons of people on those forums that are looking to help out as staff members on other forums.
What should I expect from my staff members?
This can always be the tricky part about running a forum staff team especially when dealing with volunteers. You cannot expect a volunteer staff member to do everything on your community simply because they are not getting paid and they are volunteering their time and energy to helping you with your forum. You should always think about each staff member as a person rather than think about the entire staff team as a group when it comes to tending to staff team needs. Each staff member you have will play a crucial role in the development of your community and you will need to make sure you recognize that before you go further. However, there are some activities and needs that you can and should expect from each member of your staff team.
You can always take my system as an example. I expect each of my staff team members to be active members and post when they can. If they just show up to the forum to do staff activities and there are none present, then they are really not helping the community grow at all, instead they are just lurking in the background. This isn't a good thing. You want to ensure that each member of the staff team is active, posts often and is friendly to the rest of the staff members and the community as a whole. You should also remember that most of the time, it will take you and your content building skills to motivate your staff team to be active so as I said before, do not expect the staff team to do all the work for you unless of course you are paying them actual money to do so. You are the leader and you need to lead by example so that staff members will follow by example.
How should my team act on the forum?
A professional staff team is important for the growth of your forum. You need to make sure that anyone representing you or your community is representing you or your community in a positive manner and professional role. It is advised that you do not hire staff members who people just do not tend to like because they may decide not to have anything to do with your forum and that could cause a lot of inactivity. You need to hire staff that is friendly and mature. You also need to ensure that those you hire want to play an active role in developing content and moving the forum forward. It's good to ask questions before you make them staff to see what they plan to do once they are staff on your forum. I ask a series on questions before I consider hiring staff including, how tough will you be on enforcing the rules? Are you laid back at all? How active do you plan to be on the forum? How do you handle stressful situations? These questions will help give you a feel for the potential staff member and to help aid in determining if the user would be good for the staff team.
Again, it is important that staff members play a leader role to members but are also very friendly and helpful to them. You want a community of members who can easily get along with your staff members. If staff members have ego trips or argue with other members, it will quickly turn your forum into a dead forum where no one wants to go. You need to instruct your staff members to have a good attitude, professional manner and kind helpful responsibility on the forum when dealing with other members of the community. If all your members turn against your staff member, a simple termination might not be enough since you hired them in the first place. Some members often decide that you make poor staff hiring choices and in return they think you run a forum poorly. In the forum world, your reputation is very important and you do not want to do things that jeopardize it.
5 Tips for Staff Member Success:
- Never put someone you don't know as a top level administrator because they could ruin your forum. Get to know them first and ensure they can be trusted.
- Try to hire good friends with forum experience as staff on your forum. This way you know how they act and how good of a staff member they will make.
- Intervene when staff starts to fight with other staff and try to get both parties to agree on one thing. You do not want the want a fighting staff team because eventually it will become public on the forum.
- Do not let staff members call forum members names because they are new or they don't have the same opinion as the staff member. This will quickly make a community toxic if it continues.
- Get to know staff members and become good friends with them. This will make management and personnel problems a whole lot easier to deal with when they happen.
I hope you all enjoyed my article on forum staff success. Please feel free to share it on your forum or websites but add a link back to the original article site to show support for my work. Please reply with your comments and why you liked this article. Feel free to add more tips and information on this subject and thank you for reading it!