The Admin Guide to Member Stereotypes
A person is a unique individual, however as you are an admin you will come across many similarities in personalities in your members that seem to fall in key categories. This guide is meant to aid community admins in learning how to spot common stereotypes and the best way to deal with them if a problem arises. All of these stereotypes are actively being used in staff training on my own forums and have been an excellent way of teaching my members people skills!
Remember, stereotypes are not the end all to personalities. People are different. Your “dumb n00b” can become the “valuable member” with guidance just as your elder members can become above the rules and reject reason. Always view a problem according to the situation and circumstance. The history of a member can play a big part in how they react to problems; the stereotype guide only provides an insight in to styles of behavior. Admin Tip: Use your brain and don’t be judgmental. Everyone deserves a certain amount of respect.
The Clueless Newbie
Always frustrating for the seasoned members, a clueless newbie completely neglected to read the rules, the faqs, the info or anything else that would be common sense to read. They immediately jump right in thinking they are smart enough to skip the required reading or that people will answer their million of questions without trouble. Patience is a virtue here as your clueless newbie can become a great active member or the dejected user depending on their first impression with your site. Encourage your members and staff to be helpful. Answer their questions, but strongly advise that they read the important information of the site before they start asking questions - explain that if they don’t they are disrespecting the community for not taking the time to read your policies. By having patience your newbie will feel welcomed in to the community, and in turn do the same thing for future newbies!
The 1337 Chat Speaker
Be it 1337, chat speak or just really horrible grammar this style of typing can turn a professional forum down the drain and a friendly community in to an unreadble mess. Where chat speak may be find in instant messages or mobile phones, it looks immature, uneducated, and the real killer: near impossible to understand. Online, where you can have individuals from all over the world residing in your community, being able to understand each other is important. Someone that uses chat speak will almost always defend their chose of typing style. “It shows my personality” or “It takes too long to type” - these are excuses by the lazy member. When asking them to desist the chat speak, make sure you are explaining to them the reasons why without being insulting. You are aspiring to have better quality forums and people may not take them seriously if they can’t be understood! Remember, sometimes you will come across users that really can’t use good grammar. They may use english as a second language or they are young and haven’t developed their skills. Be a teaching aid; provide them help with their typing without criticizing them. Following them around and pointing out every little mistake in detail is both disrespectful and can lead to resentment.
The Post Happy Spammer
Often when you have a new member, they are just so excited to have found such a great site that they want to post everywhere and do everything at once! This happy poster replies to every single open thread they can find, starts a dozen new topics and posts a hundred times in the span of an hour. Having an active member is always welcome, but seeing this member’s name in reply to threads as every other post can make other members feel they are being flooded out. This gets annoying and your hyperactive member gets dubbed the forum spammer. Welcome them with open arms, yet explain that they have plenty of time to post everywhere. Their over abundance of activity is flooding the forums and not giving the other members a chance to reply, start topics, or get involved in conversations.
On any forum you will come across those members that always seem to have something snotty in reply to threads. It doesn’t matter the topic, if they see an opening they will throw out some sort of criticism, insult, or other comment that really doesn’t related or add to the conversation. They are usually very intelligent, a member that has been a part of the community and knows how to speak their mind. Dealing with these members can be tricky. It’s imperative to be as professional as possible, giving them details and examples where their behavior has been inappropriate, and letting them know how they can improve. Often, despite your best efforts they will come back insisting that people deserved it, that it is their personality, or you are over reacting. A reasonable member will amend their behavior, but a pesky few will actually act worse to test your bounds. Keep your wits and deal out a suspension if you have to, but always remain impartial and professional. Don’t forget to explain in detail - vague accusations can be disputed easily and manipulated to look like an abuse in power.
The Role Player
Like the friendly gaming, this member is playing a part - a character that is not really them. They are perfectly congenial normal members, however they have some sort of secret or agenda. Usually they have multiple accounts; one that is public or “good” persona while the other is used for backdoor politics, forum trolling, or plain and simple stirring up trouble. Sometimes their agenda is unclear, you don’t know why they chose to lie about themselves it is just discovered in the midst of some drama they created. “I am User’s friend and they wanted me to tell you they are in the hospital!” Yet, it is that same member using a second account and they are just fine. Alternatively, you’ll eventually find a scorned or previously banned member returning under a different name. Sneaking under your radar, they get assimilated in to the community to create discord against you via private messages or subtle upstarts on the forums. Rarely they are there because they want a second chance. After all if they really wanted a chance, why would they sneak in past the system instead of apologizing and asking directly? When it comes to your multiple account role players, this should not be acceptable. It causes unneeded drama for the members, as well as mistrust. For an innocent incident a warning will fix the problem, but for your returned fugitives you may have to repeat the banning until they finally get the hint.
The Elitist Regular
Once your forums have been around for some time, members get settled and comfortable in your community. You will have different eras in your forum life and members that were around for those special times. Sometimes a member will become too comfortable in their position in your forum society. They’ve been around for it all, seem to be a respected member, or even may have staff controls. The member begins to feel that because they’ve been around the block a few times, they are better than the other younger members and most especially the newbies. Instead of being helpful, they chide people for not instantly knowing their way around. The rules become something they enforce on other users, but they believe they are above themselves. This can become stressful for an admin, it’s hard to know what to do with a long-time regular that suddenly has a case of ego. You don’t want them to feel unappreciated, but the bad behavior has to stop. Subtly comes in handy here - post a community announcement about behaviors overall on the forum. Let people become aware of what is happening on the forums but don’t single anyone out. If this doesn’t register, have a private one on one conversation with them. How they’ve been acting may not be apparent to them. Know that your skills may be tested - sometimes they simply don’t care. You may have to choose between upholding your policies and a cranky regular.
The Line Skirter
Possibly the most frustrating member to date, the line skirter knows your policies down to the finest details and how to just barely skirt the lines of decency without technically breaking your rules. This becomes a disaster as the member will make subtle insults to others, disrupt the forums, yet they seem to be immune to punishments. When you do try to enforce your policies, they point out in grand detail how what they are doing doesn’t break the policies at all and you are just trying to abuse your power as an admin. Worse yet they will do this all in public in an effort to make you look bad in front of your forums members! Having it out with this member is inevitable - their behavior is almost always deliberate. Keep to your resolve and never let their nitpicking sway you from your policies. Allow no leniency where they are causing serious problems, especially if there have been multiple complaints. In the end if you are forced to give a ban, make sure you are clear and exact about why it was necessary and point out all the incidents that led up to that point. Banning a line skirter without full detailed explanations leaves them ample room to create their own case against you!
These seven stereotypes are not the only ones you will come across in your years of being a community admin. After all, you have your normal members, the lurkers, and your community leaders as production citizens followed by other random problems like the over-zealous flirt, the freedom of speech fighter and the popular troller. Like your members, there are many stereotypes, each having their own quirks and ways to handle. As a community admin make sure you are aware of people’s personalities; public relations is an important part of running a forum! It is not just about awesome scripts and content building - keeping your members safe and happy will help your community flourish!