Back in April, I wrote about how to use forum ranks to make members feel valued. In the article, I detailed how you can strengthen your community and give your site personal appeal through the use of custom forum title ranks.
In this article, I want to talk about the potential dangers of forum ranks and why you should keep their use personalised and customised in order to get back the maximum benefit from this forum feature.
What are forum rank titles?
In this screenshot I have placed a box around the rank title of a user. All the popular forum software programs include the option of assigning forum ranks to users – you can automate the process, or keep it completely customised.
Forum ranks are just another way you can encourage visitor interaction and strengthen the sense of community in your forum.
Common ways of utilising the forum rank facility
Many forum administrators will setup forum ranks and have them appear automatically once a user makes a certain number of posts.
In the screenshot of the phpBB rank administration section above, you can see the header column entitled ‘Minimum Posts’ – this is where you can determine the number of posts a user needs to make before they are assigned a specific forum rank.
The disadvantage of standardisation
Although the use of forum ranks can encourage interaction and an increased number of posts as users strive to reach the higher ranks, you need to consider the value these posts will hold.
I feel that the idea of standardised forum rank titles can be flawed in many of the same ways that forum competitions are a bad idea. You are basically encouraging post counts rather than post quality – this can be a mistake.
Many users will want to attain the prestige associated with the higher forum rank titles. Consequently they may end up posting comments with just smileys or ‘lols’ – such useless content can damage the quality of your community, but still reward the poster with an extra notch on their post count.
The benefits of customisation
By customising forum rank titles, you will still be engaging with your members and personalising your community. By doing this manually, you will avoid the potential for low quality posts as users will know they are recognised and rewarded based on their overall contribution to the community rather than their post count.
Those with the highest post counts are not necessarily the most valuable members of your community. The ones you should value the most are the ones that add the highest amount of value.
Custom forum ranks reward the users that you feel deserve to be rewarded. When other members see the potential for being awarded a rank title for their contributions, you will often see them strive to achieve similar recognition.
If your community members know they are likely to be rewarded for specific contributions (such as most welcoming member, most helpful member, etc) others will follow these traits, benefiting your entire community.
Have you used forum tank titles? Do you stick with the standard ‘rank based on minimum posts’ or do you employ a customised approach? Do you feel forum rank titles benefit and strengthen a community? Whatever your thoughts, share them by leaving a comment below.