How to welcome new users to your community
Wait, what is this? A new user has joined. What's more, no one seems
to know him (or her)! How should you welcome this new user? How will you
get to know him?
This is a situation all forum regulars, veterans, and admins know too well.
A great place to start, in my humble opinion, is by respecting them as a
person and fellow human being.
When two people respect each other, they assume the other isn't making
mistakes intentionally. They have a vested interest in the well being of
the other. They will take to heart any criticisms and not feel attacked
by each other. I think we can all agree that users respecting each other
is a good thing.
So... how do we make it easier to respect new users and veterans alike?
How do we make respect the backbone of your community's culture? While
these are both difficult goals, there are a few strategies you can
employ to make mutual respect the default in your forum.
New users need to know what is expected of them. Announce a discussion
that outlines posting guidelines. Be sure to be specific to your
community. Does every topic get a single megathread? Should similar
topics be split on the slightest divergence? How do you feel about
posting on old threads? What is considered an old thread? Use the answers to these questions as the basis for your posting guidelines. Also add basic
forum etiquette and you have a great touching off point for new users.
On the flip side, old users need to be reminded of what is expected of
them. This is usually done in-thread with gentle prodding as needed.
The key word is gentle. Remind them which rule they are bending and
what might be a better course of action. The non-obvious benefit is your
moderation team will gain respect from new users for keeping everyone
in line. It also gives new visibility for your community rules, so all
users can see how they are applied.
A great technique that I personally love is to welcome every user the
first time you see them. This doesn't mean you need to stalk your forums
and post on every thread by a new user. Just preface a regular post with
"Hi, haven't seen you around here!" when applicable to put users at ease
knowing they are conversing with an actual human. It is a very subtle
way to set the stage for building mutual respect.
I seem to be rambling at this point, so I will end with some specific
suggestions for vanillaforums.org.
As a new user: read the awesome forum ettikett thread put together by the
regulars. Help the regulars help you by answering questions they have.
Click the react buttons when you feel they are being awesome, insightful
or funny. Remember that the regulars here love Vanilla and want to
spread the love by donating their time and expertise to help random
As a veteran, remember that new users are people. They aren't being
ignorant on purpose. Think of each user as an opportunity to help define
the ideal forum regular. Be patient. Reward users that do follow
etiquette by reacting properly. Keep being awesome!
TL;DR: First impressions are really important in cultivating a positive
community. Remember that you are talking to real live people on your forums!
Click on insightful, awesome, and funny reactions to thank community volunteers for their valuable posts.