Dealing With Forum Cliques
What is a forum clique?
Everybody will have their own definition of a clique, but the general concept is an exclusive group of members in your forums who are slow to welcome new members.
Why should I be concerned?
All visitors will read posts by these cliques, and this will in turn discourage many guests from ever registering and even discourage new members from saying hello. Sometimes when a new member will try to say hello, the veterans are quick to either ignore them or tell them they don't know what they're talking about. This is a nasty recipe for non-expansion.
What can I do?
Truthfully, this is one of the toughest problems you will ever face as a forum administrator. Disciplining these cliques is not easy because the members of the cliques are often close friends of staff. If you are too hard on the clique members, you risk losing them all together, which could be a serious hit for any community if the clique was at the root of the member base.
? Allow introductions
It is important that your new members can "break the ice" with ease. Create a section for introductions in which members can introduce themselves to the community and get to know the current members. The first post is often the hardest for many members, but if you make it easy for new registrants, this will not be the case.
? Staff friendliness (set an example)
Make it a point to all your administrators and moderators to welcome all new members and be very willing to fulfill any requests. Never let a post from a new member go unanswered. Your staff represents your forums; if your staff is not welcoming, do not expect your members to be.
? Employ non-clique members
Find a regular member in the forums who is well respected, but not a part of the clique. Ask this person to inadvertantly "break up" any clique-like discussions. Odds are, the members of the clique will respect this person, ultimately ending these personal discussions.
Each week, pick a random new member and interview him or her with interesting questions. Once finished, post this interview in public as to expose your clique members to your new members. Often times, your clique members will become interested in these new members and will want to find out more about them.
? Personal contact
Contact each member of the clique one by one and explain the problem. Explain to them how it is harming the community, and ask that they please refrain from doing so. You might be surprised to find that your members never even realized what they were doing.
? Keep clique discussions in private
Some owners will create a forum dedicated to these clique-like discussions, as to hide them from the public. Unfortunately this will often prove to not solve the problem completely, as your veterans will still find time to slip in their inside jokes to the public eye.
If worse comes to worst, you might be forced to suspend members of the clique. Be very careful doing this, as you do not want to risk losing them in the long run.
? Privacy is important
Try your hardest to keep this clique controversy out of public eye, as it leaves a bad impression on new members if they see your veterans are not even enjoying themselves. If you must make your point in public, do so once in a very short manner. Leave the rest to private and instant messengers.
Does anything good come of cliques?
Subtle cliques here and there are definitely good and encouraged in many communities. You want your potential members to see that your veterans enjoy themselves in your community, but you also need your potential members to feel welcome to join in. Do not encourage clique discussion at the expense of new members. Find an appropriate balance where your members can both have fun while welcoming new members to do the same.
Remember, your role as an admin is like that of a host to a party. Your job is to keep everyone happy and provide help when needed. If only part of your community is happy, you are not doing your job somewhere. Ask your members (both old and new) what you can do to make their stay more enjoyable - and act on this! Finally, remember that you are a community. All communities will naturally have individual groups, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Do not, however, allow these groups to become noninviting and exclusive.
About the Author: Owner and administrator of AdminFusion.com, Ryan Royal has been in the forum business since 2002, and as such, has much experience under his belt. AdminFusion a community dedicated to the helping, assisting, and sharing of ideeas between forum administrators and moderators.