Think back to elementary school when a new kid was introduced to the class. Imagine how that kid felt, standing in front of a group that knows one another, has inside jokes, and can share stories of the past. When a new member joins your forum it is the same type of situation. To help guide new members in the right direction to becoming long-term posters, forum owners should consider how they welcome and treat new members.
Many forums have a small, active group of core members that know each other very well. They are the members that stay on year in and year out while all the “temporary” members come and go. It’s no wonder why new members need to gain the respect of this group before they are accepted into it. But this group is often intimidating to new members.
It all starts with a welcome message or post. I always have an introductions forum where new members can post details about themselves. This helps break the ice and gives other members and opportunity to find common interests. But before they post in the intro forum they always have a new private message in their inbox from me. I keep it short and sweet, just something like “Hello, my name is Bob. Welcome to the forum! Take a minute and post an introduction here, and then take a look over our rules and guidelines”. I have successfully guided the user down the path to becoming a well rounded member of the community. I invited the member to post, as well as gave them a link to the rules. Remember, you need to light the way for people as much as you can without being annoying.
I also watch how the older members treat new members. Often the old members like to post things like “use the search button!” or “I know you are new here, but…” I try and keep these kinds of responses down to a minimum because it can scare off new members quickly. They want people to help them, not harass them. However, this doesn’t mean I let rules slip. I keep the peace, not try and bully old members.
There are lots of things you can do to make sure your new members feel like they are part of your community the moment they register. If you don’t start off on the right foot, new members could leave quickly and never come back. Never allow your forum to become a place only the veterans post and interact. After all, all members were new at some time, and it is important to treat everyone like they could be a veteran.