What are their functions, what value do they bring to your campaigns, projects, initiatives or priorities? How should they be used, administered, managed or coordinated …?
I decided to write this piece, as I was recently kicked off an important forum (well to me!), by someone who acted in the capacity of an administrator/moderator in charge of the group. The mandate of the forum was geared towards an aspirant’s political campaign, one that I had tremendous passion and belief in, luckily for me my demise was spotted by the forum creator who promptly added me back on.
I reflected on my emotive responses and realised that I went through quite a few of them in the whole hour or so that I was removed from the forum.
I was already angry at moderators administering and coordinating the forum as a post had been allowed on the thread giving credence to an opposition party member. This would be a common response to such a post by any member of this type of forum – I guess?
Frustrated and angered that the administrators didn’t clock this post and subsequently remove it. I became even more frustrated and enraged at their response when it was raised with them, apparently their solution was to remove or suspend me from the group if I did not offer up an apology!
An ‘irrational’ (not fit-for-purpose) fear of being excluded from the forum crept in when I was given 5 minutes to apologise.
I almost had an anxiety attack in trying to decipher how to respond to the rather unreasonable request to apologise for something that they should have been taken care off and hadn’t been? In my mind I could see the clock ticking away and started to look for a way to prevent this from happening, however before, I could say Jack Robinson …. Boom! Like Keyser Soze … I was GONE!!!
Then my pride kicked in, my arrogance and pomposity followed based on the fact that I had a lot to offer and being ejected unceremoniously informed negatively on the value I had placed on myself within the forum, uh oh… No way am I having that!! ….hence my rage just kept escalating. Not that this had any effect on the forum anyway as I had already been kicked off and my rage was just for my own benefit really …I could have burst a blood vessel and it wouldn’t have made a difference!
The relief I felt when I was finally added back infuriated me! And in those few hours that the dialogue went on for, it impressed on me as to how stressed I was, how stressed the administrators must have been and how stressed the forum owner might have been, who had to circumnavigate the moderators to overturn their decision to remove members from the group.
As a professional forum and committee manager myself, it made me reflect on how I conduct my own forums at work and how I must ensure that I, my forum, committee and sub-committee members must never have to go through these range of emotions to keep their position in the group. Needless to say though, our forum and committee members are the main source of our revenue and income so we have more or less a customer service approach when we are dealing with our members to enable us deliver first class support when they embark on projects and initiatives that feed into our operational plan as an organisation.
It is because of this that I have decided to research what exactly a forum is and how to keep everyone happy while engaging with forums …..
What exactly counts as being a ‘forum’?
The dictionary definition of a forum is ‘a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged. This is however a very broad definition as most forums have specific characteristics that govern them to enable them perform or engage with specific priorities dedicated to a specific cause.
During the Roman Empire era a forum meant a public place at the centre of a market or community where political, judicial and economic issues were deliberated upon.
There are more types of forums nowadays thankfully than in the past, such as:
- Online Forums – e.g. Twitter, What’s App, FB etc.
- Community Forums – Where people publically come together physically and meet up as a group – a lot of community forums are now using online platforms too.
- Public Medium Forums – such as Newspaper columns and articles used for debates where anyone can participate.
How do you control communications on a ‘forum’?
Whichever the type of forum or whatever format it is presented in – it is imperative to come up with a set of rules to moderate behaviour on your site so as to limit the number of conflicts that arise due to differences of opinions. Forum member retention is also another reason why it is smart to take some time out to set these out. Most forums have rules that inform on the following areas:
- Discriminatory Comments
- The use of Foul and/or Disrespectful Language
- Posts that incite Negative Emotions
- The dissemination of Spam or Self-promotion
- Use of External Links
While this is not mandatory it is good practice to do so, to enable order and promote good culture while engaging on the forum.
The alternative to this would be to ‘remove’ or dismiss your forum members – while this is relevant in some extreme circumstances. It could also be a myopic decision that might not be in your favour as you might potentially remove someone that has value to the cause the forum represents. It would also go a long way to ensure we don’t all have to go through the many emotions I described above at the beginning of this blog.
What are the responsibilities of the forum moderator/administrator?
The most effective and efficient people for you to invite or administrate your forum are those that have a detailed understanding of the cause of the forum. They could be people who are already involved with your campaign, are active on your other blogs or people that actively engage with you in relevant discussions.
Ensure you ask your contacts first if they would be willing to take up this task, you may want to offer some compensation depending on how important this is to you.
It is also good practice to detail the responsibilities and direct the conduct of your moderators:
- Moderators would be responsible for ensuring posts adhere to the rules of engagement set above
- Moderators would be responsible for approving posts and accepting/adding new members
- Moderators are responsible for starting new conversations
- Moderators are responsible for responding to questions and enquiries
- Moderators are responsible for keeping the conversation going in line with the forum initiatives
- Moderators are responsible for banning abusive members this is in most cases subject to approval by the forum owner.
Once you have set all of these parameters in place! Happy Sailing – You are now good to go!
Remember …. YOUR forum members can be assets to your cause … treat them with respect!
Watch out for my upcoming Blog on Committees & How to engage with them …