I’ve made use of forums, both as a member and a moderator, for almost as long as the internet has been in existence.
Forums are the untamed country of the internet, and you’re better off not trying to tame them completely.
If you’re a business, you want to provide your customers with ways to reach out to you and to each other. Forums are often a wonderful way to do that. Having a forum allows users with problems to get those problems seen right away by plenty of people who might know the answer. The problem is, forums also tend to see a lot of duplication of topics due to all the unrelated noise.
Unlike website commenting systems, which are generally tied to a topic a site moderator sets up, forum topics are created by users. This means there are far more topics to check on any given day. It can be difficult to handle this without some organization…and the more time you spend curating your forum, the less time you’re spending on your other priorities. If you’re not careful, forums can be a huge time-suck.
A best practice for forum moderation, therefore, would be to set up a “sticky” forum topic (a topic that stays at the top) that outlines the following for your users:
- Rules of the forum
- What users need to do to get your attention if they need you
- How soon users can expect a response
- Alternate contact methods
It’s also best to set up several different categories in your forum to make it easier for you to find the topics you need to look at. Just make sure to point out in your FAQ that users need to post their topics to the correct area.
You might also consider promoting some of your regular forum users to moderator status. You can then allow them to handle recurring problems such as topics posted to the wrong area and questions that have already been answered.